Fear and freedom

Fear has once again gripped the Washington, D.C. suburbs as a sniper has terrorized neighborhoods through a series of random killings that remain unsolved. The randomness of the violence interrupts our daily lives with uncertainty when carrying out a task as simple as pumping gas or grocery shopping. Public fear often results in the public quest to “get back to normal” to feel safe, again.

Too often, the remedies for fear come in the form of well-meaning but ill-advised proposals that result in the erosion of personal freedoms. Mass fear is the reason we have thousands of cameras taping our every move when out in public. Fear results in government snooping into our local library records. Fear can also result in racial profiling. Fear, whether initiated by high crime rates, terrorism, a serial sniper or all three, too often results in attempts to control future anxiety through limitations of our liberty.

The latest reaction to fear deals with the recent push by gun control advocates to gain support for federal ballistic “fingerprinting” of firearms. This latest swipe at the Second Amendment aims to solve all gun crimes by maintaining a data base of each individual “fingerprints” left by guns. This plan assumes that since very gun leaves a unique mark on shells and bullets, gun use can be monitored through a national data base.

Seeking the use of greater technology and innovation to investigate and prevent crime is always welcome. But high tech solutions are no reason to take away the liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Ballistic fingerprinting should in no way be viewed as a technical achievement in crime investigation equal to the use of finger prints or DNA evidence, which has been used to put many criminals behind bars.

Ballistic fingerprinting and the general concept of registering firearms is nothing more than an attempt to control and even harass law abiding Americans. Fingerprinting new and existing guns in itself is a mammoth task. For this method to even have a chance at working, gun owners nationwide would be required to take their firearms to labs to be fired for ballistic fingerprint documentation. Authorities would have to hope that guns are not altered through repairs, barrel changes or replacement of the firing pin. Barrel characteristics can be changed through normal use or intentionally by criminals who by the way never register their guns.

As with other gun registration schemes, the concept of ballistic fingerprinting runs the risk of criminalizing law abiding gun owners. Yes, we all want to feel safe. But when facing violence carried out by guns, we must still concentrate on the person rather than the weapon.

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