City seeks safeguards on sale of bullets
Tracking technology is among possibilities
By Suzanne Smalley, Globe Staff | February 13, 2006
With firearm violence in Boston continuing to surge, police and city officials are looking for new anticrime tools, potentially including limiting ammunition sales, recording who buys ammunition, and using a new technology that transfers a gun's serial number onto a bullet's shell casing any time the gun is fired, said two officials who know about the plans.
Police Department and city officials offered few details publicly, but in his weekly column on the city's website, Mayor Thomas M. Menino discusses his plans, saying his recently formed strategic crime council is ''examining everything from ammunition sales regulation and bullet micro-stamping to stricter sentencing for illegal possession and trafficking."
''We want to tighten up how people can get ammunition," Police Superintendent Robert Dunford said. ''We're seeing loose rounds, a mix of ammunition. That might be a point of attack for us. . . . When you get the gun with ammunition and you fire it off, then you need to resupply. . . . That can be tough."
Dunford said Menino's office is working on proposed legislation to regulate ammunition. A spokesman for Menino declined to comment on the specifics of any legislation, saying only, ''Mayor Menino has made the message clear. He has a tremendous sense of urgency around devising both policy alternatives and new legislation that could make Boston a safer city."
The officials with knowledge of the plans, who declined to be named because the City Hall review is just beginning, said the city will focus on tightening the law.
Currently, vendors are not required to record who buys ammunition, and buyers can purchase as much as they want, said Sergeant Detective Ray Mosher, who supervises the Boston Police Licensing unit, which regulates ammunition sales in the city. Mosher also said the current law allows buyers with a license for one type of gun to buy ammunition for any type of gun.
The number of shootings in which people were wounded or killed rose 28 percent last year over 2004. Police rolled out several programs to try to reverse that spike in gun violence, but after two shooting deaths Friday, there were six this year, compared with four at the same time last year. There have been 36 nonfatal shootings this year compared with 17 this time last year.
Police and city officials acknowledge that criminals could buy ammunition on the black market and out of state, but they say they have noticed an apparent shortage of ammunition on the streets. They also say that youths, who are both suspects and victims in many shootings, might be deterred if ammunition is more difficult to get.
The officials said Menino's interest in the new bullet-tracking technology, known as microstamping, is exploratory.
Still, the city is interested in the technology's ability to allow investigators to tie shell casings to gun owners. Under current ballistics technology, detectives must recover a weapon to link an owner to a crime scene or must compare markings on shell casings with bullets fired from guns recovered later.
''Microstamping is the most elegant solution to this problem," said Joshua Horwitz, the executive director of the nonprofit gun control advocacy group Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence.
Horwitz said two members of Congress are preparing legislation that would require gun manufacturers to begin outfitting weapons with microstamping technology.
One of the most interesting features of microstamping technology is the ability it gives police to tap easily into existing databases, Horwitz said. In Massachusetts, buyers must list their name and the serial number of the weapon they're purchasing.
''It's using what's set up now," said Horwitz, who spoke at a US Conference of Mayors anticrime meeting attended by Menino last month. ''There's no extra administrative responsibilities."
Horwitz said microstamping legislation recently passed one house of the California Legislature.
Griffin Dix, whose 15-year-old son was killed in an unintentional shooting and who now runs the California chapters of the Million Mom March, a group that fights for tougher gun laws, said he is hopeful the California Legislature will pass the microstamping bill, which he said would require the technology for all semi-automatic handguns sold there by 2009.
About 30 police chiefs have also lobbied legislators in support of the bill, Dix said. Handguns are used in about 60 percent of the average of 2,400 annual homicides in California, and no arrest is made in 45 percent of them because police don't have enough evidence, Dix said.
''If people realize that they are likely to be found out, who bought that gun, then they're less likely to commit a crime," Dix said. ''Also, this will have an effect on reducing gun trafficking. . . . With straw purchasers knowing that this gun can be traced right back to them . . . they're less likely to buy these guns and give them to traffickers."
But Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, a gun rights advocacy group, said criminals will always find ways around systems such as microstamping.
''Schemes such as this do not work for a very simple reason: Criminals by definition don't follow the law," Arulanandam said. ''Therefore, the only universe of people who are affected by this are law-abiding. A criminal intent on committing a heinous crime is not going to be deterred by such laws."
But Menino appears to be listening to groups on the other side of the issue.
Peter Hamm, communications director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said Menino's office asked the gun control advocacy organization in November for advice on how to combat firearm violence. He said the Brady Campaign advised City Hall not only on the availability of microstamping technology, but also on the importance of partnering with other urban mayors, as Menino has recently done with New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
''If there are ideas on the table that could increase closure rate of gun crime investigations by 10 or 15 or 20 percent, they're worth doing because there are real victims here," Hamm said.
''We felt like the city's interest in this and the mayor's interest in this is strikingly real because of the outreach they've made to us."
Suzanne Smalley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
SHesh, it never ends.
If they already have an existing "database" of MA gun purchasers then why is crime continuing to rise?
Nope, this stuff never seems to go away, and the pro-gunners have to politically pro-active to head these type laws off at that the pass, but many gunners are just satisfied to sit back and let other people and organizations do the work. Here in Calif, we have many gunners but not enough of them are politically active.
Behold the land of Kennedy and Kerry....2008 will be an interesting year.
Why? Because of "catch and release" liberalism in their legal system.
More criminals on the street means:
More cops needed
More judges needed
More jails needed
More jail workers needed
More lawyers needed
More bounty hunters needed
More bribes to all of the above and more promotions,fees,payraises and MOST important...More anti-gun laws that "SHOW" the voters....."Politicans really do care about stopping crime."
Makes me want to break down and cry I am so glad I dont live in assachewsits.
And, have they cross-indexed that with arrested criminals? Might prove instructive, though no one is so ignorant as one who will not learn (or even pay attention).
Hahahaha! The ammunition manufacturers told them to go pound sand in CA, so Boston is trying to force gun manufactureres to develop microstamping.
RESPONSE TO ATTORNEY GENERAL LOCKYER'S PRESS CONFERENCE
AND TESTIMONY IN SUPPORT OF SB 357 (SEN. DUNN) BULLET SERIALIZATION
Question: Was Attorney General Lockyer correct when he claimed today that it would only cost manufacturers "one quarter of one cent" in additional cost in order to laser engrave a serial number on the base and side of a bullet of "handgun ammunition", as required by SB 357?
Was the Attorney General's office accurate when it stated other costs (i.e. handling) would bring the increase to approximately one half of one cent.
Was the bill sponsor, Sen. Dunn, correct when he claimed that the "cost is negligible" and that it was "easy to implement" bullet serialization into the ammunition manufacturing process?
Answer: No. The Attorney General and Senator Dunn's cost estimates are seriously WRONG and without any basis in fact. Unfortunately, the Attorney General's office and Sen. Dunn are willfully uninformed about modern ammunition manufacturing processes.
Had the Attorney General's office, Sen. Dunn or the sole-sourced, skateboard company with this technology, Ravensforge, bothered to contact the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute, Inc. (SAAMI), the technical trade association of the nation's leading manufacturers of sporting firearms and ammunition, or any of the major ammunition manufacturers, they would have learned that it would cost each ammunition manufacturer tens of millions of dollars to manufacture serialized ammunition. In order to comply, ammunition manufacturers would need to build a new factory.
The cost of ammunition would increase from pennies now to several dollars per cartridge. It is sheer, uninformed fantasy to suggest that costs would only increase by half a cent.
The ammunition industry is a high-volume, low-profit margin business. The three largest ammunition manufacturers (Federal Cartridge, Winchester and Remington Arms) produce more than 15 million cartridges a day! Even if it took just a fraction of a second to laser engrave a bullet with a serial number, ammunition production would be slowed down dramatically. SAAMI estimates that it would take as much as three weeks to make what is now manufactured in a single day! No manufacturer can withstand such a massive slow-done in production. They would cease to be profitable. Instead manufacturers would have no alternative but to abandon the California market. This is because the tens of millions of dollars needed to comply with SB 357 far exceeds the reasonable profit a manufacturer could ever hope to make selling ammunition in the California market. The cost to comply would bankrupt any manufacturer that tried. Even abandoning the California market comes at a cost. Manufacturers will suffer lost sales and profits; but the lesser of two evils remains to abandon the market.
SAAMI offered to take members of the Legislature, including Sen. Dunn, and the Attorney General's office, on a tour of an ammunition manufacturing plant. Regrettably, neither Sen. Dunn, nor the Attorney General's office availed themselves of this opportunity to learn first-hand why this proposal is infeasible.
Question: Is it accurate, as the Attorney General's office argued today, that putting serial numbers on bullets is no different than what other product manufacturers, like drug companies, do in putting a serial number on the product packaging?
Answer: No. Drug companies, for example, may put a lot number or other identifying code on their product packaging, but they do not put a unique serial number on individual aspirin tablets. Placing lot numbers on product packaging is not done to identify and record in a government-run database the identity of law-abiding consumers. Major ammunition manufacturers, like other product manufacturers, already put lot numbers on their product packaging to identify when the product was made. Imagine what would happen to the price of a bottle of aspirin if drug companies had to place a unique serial number on each aspirin tablet?
Question: Was it accurate when the Attorney General's office said "industry" test fired bullets to determine whether the technology worked?
Answer: No. The Attorney General's office was misleading if it was trying to suggest that any major ammunition or firearm manufacturer assisted in conducting any testing of this technology. Certainly the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute, Inc. was never contacted by the California Department of Justice or the sole-source vendor of this technology, Ravensforge, which primarily manufactures products to protect property from skateboards.
SAAMI remains concerned that there has been insufficient objective, independent testing of this technology on the hundreds of different types of ammunition that exist. We have significant questions about whether a micro-laser engraved serial number placed on the side of a bullet (projectile) would still be readable after the bullet has traveled down the rifled-surface length of a barrel at a very high velocity (1,200 feet per second) while at the same time rotating at a high RPM rate. The Legislature should require more testing than the extremely limited, non-scientific testing done by the sole-sourced vendor, Ravensforge.
SAAMI, as it has in the past with other technologies like "ballistic imaging," supports further independent, objective, peer-reviewed testing of this technology.
Question: Was the Attorney General's office accurate when it said this bill would not impact rifles?
Answer: No. The bill applies to so-called "handgun ammunition," which the bill fails to define. The bill would apply, for example, to .22 caliber rimfire ammunition because there are handguns chambered in that caliber. However, there are tens of millions of rifles that are also chambered in .22 caliber, which is the single must common caliber ammunition for target shooting.
There are many, many other examples of rifles that are chambered in calibers that are also common for handguns. This has become increasingly common as Cowboy Action Shooting has become very popular, including in California.
Question: Was the Attorney Generals office correct in stating that this bill would not impact non-serialized ammunition owned by consumers after the effective date of the bill.
Answer: No. In fact, this bill, when coupled with the certain abandonment of the California market place by ammunition manufacturers, becomes a de facto ammunition ban and confiscation. Consumers may possess non-serialized ammunition in their home, but the moment they walk outside their house to drive to their local shooting range for an afternoon of target shooting they become a criminal. The only realistic option for consumers is to turn over to local enforcement any non-serialized ammunition in their possession. We agree with the Attorney General's office that hundreds of millions of rounds of ammunition are purchased each year by consumers in California. A conservative estimate would be that law enforcement would confiscate at least 500 million rounds of non-serialized ammunition from law-abiding Californians, but not a single cartridge from a criminal.
Question: Was Senator Dunn's comparison of bullet serialization to a DNA database valid?
Answer: No. California does not fingerprint or take DNA samples of every person residing or visiting California, although it is technically feasible to do so and many more crimes would be solved. This is because the vast, overwhelming majority of citizens are not committing crimes. Similarly, the vast, overwhelming majority of gun owners are, as even the Attorney General's office acknowledged today, law-abiding. Collecting the identity of law-abiding consumers when they legally purchase ammunition for lawful purposes will not, SAAMI believes, materially assist law enforcement. This is because criminals do not and will not walk into a firearm dealer and provide identification when they purchase ammunition. They acquire ammunition the same place they obtain firearms; they steal them or they get them on the illegal black market. This bill will simply create overnight an illegal black market for non-serialized ammunition.
Question: Is it accurate that this bill will not impact law enforcement?
Answer: No. This bill will have a substantial adverse impact on law enforcement and municipal budgets.
The bill does not exempt law enforcement from its requirements. Therefore, state and local law enforcement will not be able to purchase non-serialized ammunition from manufacturers. As explained above, manufacturers cannot incur the massive costs to make serialized ammunition. Therefore, it remains unclear from whom law enforcement will purchase ammunition for training and use in the field. If they are able to secure serialized ammunition, the price of such ammunition will be substantially higher than current prices. This will likely lead to deleterious consequences, like a marked decline in law enforcement training to improve and retain officers' marksmanship because a municipality or the state will not be able to afford the price of training ammunition. As always, for more information, please contact me at 203-426-1320 or visit www.saami.org.
More bounty hunters.... he,he,he,he....
Liberalism is the key here
Jail isn't hard and some Prisons aren't hard either
I've got some guys that heave been coming back and forth since '79
If Jail was so bad why make a career out of it ?
It would be easy for ammunition manufacturers to stamp a small symbol on the base of their factory ammunition projectiles. But this solution is simple, cost effective, and does not allow government to invade the privacy of individual gun owners, so they aren't interested in it.
US .58 caliber star base - very distinct star in base - bullets sometimes called Washington Arsenal bullets - dug Chancelorsville, Virginia
Because all the good little boys and girls who want the
Criminals being armed and acting freely, feeds the notion that something "needs to be done" about gun violence.
In short, violent feeds their agenda.
They don't give a shit what the criminals do - total disarmament is their goal, they can deal with the criminals later.
Liberalism, it screws things up. Then the liberals come along and try to fix their screw ups with more liberalism.
So what would there be to stop a potential killer from going to some range and picking up a bunch of other "stamped" brass from different firearms and then tossing it all out when he does the shooting?
"Ahh...Mr. Smith, your brass was found at the scene of a double homicide..."
Why does this scheme remind me of the bogus FBI 'bullet identification'. Such "evidence" was propped up w/o scientific merit & used to put people away for years until its dubiousness was revealed & the FBI had to backtrack & pull it from use. Wonder how much taxpayer $$$ have been consumed re-examining all those cases based on it, or how many innocent people were incarcerated?
Real world to MA: Don't let the facts get in the way of an agenda. Full speed ahead, you corrupt asshats. "Hi - My friends in the Senate call me Ted. But you can call me Teddy."
How much business would ammo makers lose if they wrote off MA - private & gov't sales - altogether? Considering how restrictive everything is, I doubt much.
I've said it before: I liked Menino better when he died in that car accident a few years ago.
The California microstamping bill required a unique serial number on each bullet. It also called for the firing pin to stamp a serial number on the primer. Ammunition purchases would be registered to your name. It would also make posession of non-stamped ammunition or components a crime eventually.
Quite the self perpetuating industry to keep 'average Jane and Joe' feeling safe isn't it. Politicians create the situation and then ask for more money to 'fix' it.
Somebuddy splain to me why you couldn't buy ammo in the next city and use it in Bahston?
People will just drive to RI or NH and buy it there. It's all BS, and Mumbles Menino knows it, as do his dullish henchmen. Just another cynical ploy for fearful liberal and minority votes....