Coded bullet (photo: KOMO-TV, Seattle)
Legislation to trace ammunition is pending in several states, and many gun owners are concerned that it is just another attempt by anti-gun groups to violate citizens’ Second Amendment rights.
An organization known as Ammunition Accountability is pushing to make coding technology mandatory across the nation. Its website claims it is a group of “gun crime victims, industry representatives, law enforcement, public officials, public policy experts, and more” who are “saving lives one bullet at a time.”
If states pass the legislation, manufacturers will be required to laser etch a serial number into the back of each bullet and the inside of cartridge casings, a patented process developed by Seattle, Wash., resident Russ Ford and his business partners, Steve Mace and John Knickerbocker.
According to Seattle Weekly, the men couldn’t find an ammunition manufacturer to agree to stamp bullets, so they hired a lobbyist to push for state legislation to require the laser coding. They launched the Ammunition Accountability website and successfully introduced bills in the following 18 states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington.
Many of the proposals have died or stalled in committee; however the group is still urging lawmakers across the country to introduce the same kind of legislation in other states.
Ammunition Accountability explains its system would require states to establish databases to track coded ammunition for handguns and assault rifles. The databases would be funded by a surcharge of up to five cents per bullet.
According to its sample legislation, manufacturers would be forced to code all ammunition sold in the state. Private citizens and retail outlets would be required to dispose of all non-coded ammunition no later than Jan. 1, 2011.
Each vendor would record the following information about customers who buy the ammunition: Date, name, driver’s license or ID number, date of birth and ammunition identifier. The businesses would maintain records for three years from the date of purchase.
“[W]hen a potential criminal purchases a box of 9mm cartridges, the box of ammunition and the bullets’ coding numbers would be connected to the purchaser in a statewide database,” Ammunition Accountability explains. “When a bullet is found at a crime scene, the code on the bullet can be read with a simple magnifying glass and then be run through a statewide database to determine who purchased the ammunition and where, providing a valuable investigative lead.”
However, critics claim the system is severely flawed.
The National Rifle Association warns encoding ammunition would result in forfeiture of currently owned ammunition, separate registration for every box of ammo, outrageously expensive costs for police and private citizens and wasted taxpayer money that could be spent on traditional police programs.
The NRA also suggests private citizens could be required to keep records on anyone who uses or buys their ammunition – even family members and friends. Furthermore, it said lawbreakers could find ways to prevent their bullets from being traced.
“Criminals could beat the system,” the NRA claims. “A large percentage of criminals’ ammunition (and guns) is stolen. Criminals could also collect ammunition cases from shooting ranges, and reload them with molten lead bullets made without serial numbers.”
Some bloggers suggested criminals could simply modify their own rounds by removing the coding before firing them.