Saturday, January 15, 2005

Ballistic Fingerprinting Bunked

Why ballistic fingerprinting doesn't, and won't, work.

Kevin over at The Smallest Minority has written a rather revealing exposition on the limitations of ballistic fingerprinting, the science of identifying a firearm used in a crime by the marks left on the projectile and casing.

First, let's see what the gun confiscation, er, control, um, SAFETY groups have to say. The Brady Campaign has a web page on the promises of ballistic fingerprinting. I won't quote the whole thing, but they do state the following:

"When a gun is fired, identifying marks are made on the bullets and cartridge casings. Those marks, called ballistic fingerprints, are as unique as human fingerprints - no two firearms leave the same marks. The marks are also reproducible - every time a gun is fired it leaves identical marks. The uniqueness and reproducible qualities of ballistic fingerprints can provide a critical tool to law enforcement for solving gun crimes by rapidly identifying the specific weapon that was used in a crime."

Here's the problem, though. What they say (and this is overwhelmingly true for these groups) is only partly (in this case, minimally) true. There's a whole lot of information they neglect, gloss over, bury, and avoid.

Go read his whole article; it's quite well done...