When Massachusetts this month became the first state to install an electronic instant-check system with a fingerprint scanner for gun licenses and gun purchases, the impact was apparent, says the New York Times. Last Wednesday, moments after a court placed a woman’s husband under a restraining order, a notice about the order popped up on a new computer terminal at a police station. The Woburn police went to the man’s house and confiscated his guns, all 13 of them. The computer allows the police and gun stores to learn right away if a person can legally own or buy a firearm. The system provides instant updates on arrest warrants, restraining orders, and convictions. It links fingerprint scanners and computers at gun stores and police departments with a central database.
Police Chief Philip Mahoney of Woburn, a city of 38,000 north of Boston, said the new system was valuable because “we get notified in real time about any new restraining orders, warrants and arrests.” Under the old system, based on paper records maintained at individual police stations and gun shops, Mahoney said, “we might not be notified at all if someone was put under a restraining order.” In last week’s case, Mahoney said: “We were able to go to the individual’s house immediately after the restraining order was issued, which is the most dangerous time for a batterer. It’s a time when the victim is probably moving out, and the risk of violence is highest.”