Donald Trump has said that if Chicago can’t reduce the violence going on within that city, he will “send in the Feds!” What exactly that might mean—beyond his usual bluster—isn’t clear. But gun control advocates have jumped in to demand their own favorite solutions to what they perceive as the causes.
As reported on in The Trace, the Police Foundation and Major Cities Chiefs Association have put out a report that includes a survey that found the most support for ballistic imaging and gun tracing as the most likely means of controlling violence.
Predictably, there are several problems with these proposals. For one thing, the idea that recording the rifling and firing pin characteristics of guns will provide any useful information to law enforcement is easily disproved. The State of Maryland, a state that is far from friendly to gun owners, had a database that cost five million dollars over fifteen years to keep ballistic imaging from every gun sold there. How many crimes did this database solve? Zero.
More than that, gun control advocates don’t seem to understand how tools work. Anyone who’s spent time around the most common semiautomatic handguns, for example, knows that the barrels are easy to swap out or dispose of if needed. Microstamps on the firing pin or extractor can be filed down, and those parts are also replaceable. And each time a bullet goes down the bore, small changes are being made to the rifling. And if that doesn’t work quickly enough, a 5/16 inch diameter rasp is available for $24.54 on-line at the time of writing.
The suggestion of tracing brings up yet another problem. While pouring funding into the ATF to hire agents and making sure that the agency is able to delve into sales records at will might fill in a step or two along the history of any particular firearm, once again, anyone who spends time in the gun community understands that guns last a long time and change hands throughout their existence. How many guns are available for all this moving about? The standard answer has been 300 million, though it’s likely that the number is a good deal higher. That’s a large stockpile of firearms that exist prior to any proposed nationwide tracing and ballistic imaging scheme.
What is behind these tracing ideas is a national registry. Without making a record of every gun, writing down its characteristics and owner, tracing isn’t going to work in most cases. And considering how low compliance with registries has been, even in states like New York, the idea that American gun owners across the country will dutifully show up to hand over details about every gun in their possession sounds more like fantasy than working policy.
So why did the chiefs of police in our largest cities name ballistic imaging and gun tracing as solutions with a good potential for reducing violence? One possible answer is given by Massad Ayoob in his writing. His explanation is that since chiefs of police are political appointees, they have a motivation to preserve the approval of the mayors or city councils who have authority over their livelihoods. Or it could simply be that as is often the case with advocates of gun control, the understandable desire to reduce the number of people killed has led to accepting emotion in place of reason.
But good policy requires facts and logic, and the solutions discussed here are lacking in both.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.