Topic: Firearms & Toolmarks
Resource: Internet Articles
Record Upload Date: May 12, 2006
Author: The Smallest Minority
Title: Why Ballistic Fingerprinting Doesn't (and Won't) Work ...aside from the fact that calling it "gun DNA" doesn't make it so
Date: 01/14/2005
Notes Comments:

This article goes step-by-step to explain why gun fingerprinting will not work. It begins with stating that some organizations that support ballistic fingerprinting, such as Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign have no rebuttal for the “failed” experiment (ballistic fingerprinting). But did use people’s fears, citing the 2002 Washington DC shootings and the as the reason for supporting the technology.

The article goes on to explain how the first feasibility study in California admits to the possibility that the “unique” markings made by the gun on the cartridge or bullet can change over time. There are even problems with the repeatable character marks that are made on the cartridge. The firing pin, breech and ejector marks are generally the markings that are logged in the databases. Even these exhibit problems. Chamber pressure, dirt or lead build up can effect the breech impressions.

There are even differences in the way the

markings made by the firing pin look based on the type of ammunition used. The same gun can be used to fire different ammunition and the firing pin markings would look totally different.

The conclusion is that this program may work if only new handguns are logged and used during a crime; The handguns must be very clean The system is limited to two cartridges per handgun Only semi-automatic handguns can be used because revolvers do not leave cartridges at the scene. The type of ammunition dramatically effects the markings on the bullet.

The markings can be altered very simply. This shows that at best, this system is very limited and even it everything works perfectly, there are still variables that make the system unreliable.