And it isn’t the only state to give up on the idea.
The state of Maryland has decided to scrap its 15-year effort to store and catalog the “fingerprints” of thousands of handguns after acknowledging that the program was a failure, The Baltimore Sun reported on Saturday.
The program, which was first set up in 2000, required that gun manufacturers fire every handgun intended to be sold in the Old Line State and send that spent bullet casing to the authorities.
The government then hoped to create a database of “ballistic fingerprints” that would help state and local officials solve future crimes.
The system was plagued with technological problems, however, and was never used to solve a single case.
Former Maryland Governor Parris N. Glendening, whose administration made the initial push for the program, told the Sun that he was “disappointed” to learn that it was being scrapped, adding:
“It’s a little unfortunate, in that logic and common sense suggest that it would be a good crime-fighting tool.”
The casings have been stored beneath the Maryland State Police headquarters in Pikesville, where there are currently more than 300,000 casings in storage. Each of the casings, the paper reported, was:
- Meticulously stamped with a bar code;
- Sealed in its own envelope; and
- Filed in boxes stacked from floor to ceiling.
The system, which forensic scientists hoped would identify the owner of a gun fired at a crime scene, cost an estimated $5 million in taxpayer dollars to set up and operate. It officially became null and void on October 1st, when the ballistic fingerprinting law that required the fingerprinting expired.
Image Credit: Getty – T.J. Kirkpatrick
Because the computerized system designed to sort and match the casing images never worked, however, the state stopped photographing the casings in 2007. The Sun notes that the police have since been authorized to sell off its inventory for scrap.
Arguably one of the biggest problems with the system’s implementation had nothing to do with its operation.
According to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, most firearms used in crimes were purchased nearly 15 years prior.
As a result, guns matching the oldest ballistic fingerprints in the state’s collection are just now reaching the age in which they might be used in a crime.