Television entertainment shows keep pushing a myth by gun control advocates that gun licensing and registration is an effective way to solve crime. Their reasoning is straightforward: If a criminal leaves a gun (or for this show a bullet casing) at a crime scene, they will be able to link the crime gun back to the criminal.
This episode from Hawaii 5-0 claims that they tried to trace the spent casing back to the gun, but they couldn’t do that because the gun wasn’t licensed (Season 9, Episode 22, April 26, 2019).
Adam Noshimuri (played by Ian Anthony Dale): “We managed to retrieve the casing, but it traced back to an unlicensed weapon.”
The terminology used in this episode is not clear. Presumably, the show meant that the gun wasn’t registered. While an individual is licensed, a gun is registered. Trace a casing to a gun would require that the gun be registered. But even if the gun was registered, a casing like this help them determine who owned the gun. As an example, Maryland and New York both tried maintaining a ballistic fingerprint database for over a decade and spending tens of millions of dollars were never able to use the system to solve a single crime. Both states recorded the markings created by a new gun on a casing when it is fired.
But gun-control advocates ignored physics. When a bullet travels through the gun barrel, the friction creates markings on the bullet. If the gun is new, imperfections in the way the barrel is drilled can produce different markings on the bullet; such imperfections are most noticeable in inexpensive guns. In older guns, the bullet’s friction through the barrel can cause more noticeable wear marks that help differentiate between guns. Many other factors influence the particular markings left on the bullets — for instance, how often the gun is cleaned and what brand of cartridge is used.
Unlike human fingerprints and DNA, a gun’s ballistic fingerprint changes over time because of wear. A child’s fingerprint can still be used much later in life. A ballistic fingerprint, on the other hand, is more like the tread on a car tire. New tires of the same brand and model, with minor exceptions, are essentially identical. Over time, though, friction causes the tread on tires to wear. The more the car is driven after the crime, the harder it is to match the tire tracks left at the scene to the tires when they are eventually found.
The same is true for guns. . . .
Presumably tracing a gun back to its owner would be easier, but that has never worked either. Crime guns are very rarely left at the crime scene. The few that are have been unregistered — criminals are not stupid enough to leave behind a gun that’s registered to them. When a criminal leaves a gun at the scene, it is usually because the criminal has been seriously injured or killed. These crimes would have been solved even without registration.
During testimony before the Hawaii State Senate in 2000, the Honolulu chief of police stated that he couldn’t find any crimes that had been solved due to registration and licensing. The chief also said that his officers devoted about 50,000 hours each year to registering and licensing guns. Registration and licensing divert police from traditional, time-tested law enforcement activities.
Licensing and registration also haven’t worked in Pennsylvania or other places. During a 2001 lawsuit, the Pennsylvania state police could not identify a specific crime solved by the registration system from 1901 to 2001, though they did claim that it had “assisted” in a total of four cases, they could provide no details.
During a 2013 deposition, the Washington, D.C., police chief said that she could not “recall any specific instance where registration records were used to determine who committed a crime.”
Canada and other parts of the U.S. haven’t had any better luck. From 2003 to 2009, 1,314 out of 4,257 Canadian homicides were committed with firearms. Data provided by the Library of Parliament reveal that only a third of homicides involved firearms. Of the identified weapons, about three-quarters were not registered. Among registered weapons, the person the gun was registered to was someone other than the person accused of the homicide. In just 62 cases — only 4.7 percent of all firearm homicides — was the gun registered to the accused. As most homicides in Canada are not committed with a gun, these 62 cases correspond to only about 1 percent of all homicides.
For other examples of media bias against guns, see here.
(Season 9, Episode 22, April 26, 2019)