The Self Made Pundit
Wednesday, October 16, 2002
BALLISTIC PROFILE IN COURAGE: The Bush Administration is displaying its usual courage to take principled -- yet unpopular -- stands on domestic issues. Unfortunately, the principle is that Bush should be free to pander to right-wing interests while pretending to be undecided.
This particular profile in courage played out yesterday when presidential press secretary Ari Fleischer indicated that Bush – following the lead of the NRA – was dismissive of the idea of creating a national database of ballistic fingerprints. Officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have previously voiced support of creating such a database as an effective crime-fighting tool. As The New York Times explains:
Proponents of national ballistic fingerprinting say it would be a more effective method of curtailing crime. Under such a system, manufacturers would have to test-fire new guns before they were sold. The spent bullet and shell casing would be sent to law enforcement authorities, who would record the pattern of nicks and scratches on them that is unique to each gun.
The markings would then be entered into a national computer database. In ideal circumstances, if investigators found a bullet or shell casing at a crime scene, as they have with the Washington sniper, they would be able to feed the characteristics into the database. This could tell them of a match with a gun, which could then be traced to its buyer.
When pressed about whether such a database could have helped police track down the Washington, D.C. area sniper, Fleischer once again showed that he is paid to spout nonsense when asked questions embarrassing to Bush:
“These are acts of a depraved killer who has broken and will continue to break laws. And so the question is not new laws; the question is the actions here represent values in our society.”
Perhaps realizing that voters would prefer their elected leaders to be a bit more proactive about catching serial killers, the White House reversed course by the end of the day and announced that it was really undecided and had asked federal law enforcement experts to study whether creating such a computerized database would be an effective crime-fighting tool.
The Times article does not make clear whether the main purpose of the study will be to determine whether police investigating a murder would find it helpful to know the name of the person that owns the murder weapon or to determine whether the NRA would mind terribly if the Bush administration took this small step to protect the America people.