Results Meager, But NY Police Defend Handgun Ballistics Database


New York’s seven-year-old database of handgun “fingerprints” has yet to lead to a criminal prosecution, and questions linger about its effectiveness. Still, state police remain committed to the tool, saying that more time and a long-awaited link to a federal ballistics database could bring success, reports the Associated Press. Since March 2001, identifying information about more than 200,000 new revolvers and semiautomatic pistols sold in New York have been entered into the Combined Ballistic Identification System database maintained by state police. New York and Maryland are the only states that maintain statewide databases.

New guns are test-fired, and the minute markings the weapons make on the shell casings are recorded and entered into the digital database. Proponents say the markings are as unique as fingerprints and can be compared against shell casings found at crime scenes. The results as of August: 209,239 casings entered into New York’s database, 7,124 inquiries and two hits. Both hits were several years ago and involve separate crimes in Rochester — a drive-by shooting that resulted in an injury and an incident involving shots fired — and neither resulted in a prosecution, according to state and local police. Gun advocates, who have opposed the database, claim the lack of results is evidence of failure of the $1 million-a-year system.


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