Wednesday, February 27, 2008



By Larry Pratt

February 27, 2008

The latest back-door gun control scheme has come to a number of state legislatures, and California has already enacted it.

The latest way to solve crime, and thus make criminals shake in their boots before they commit another crime, is to put unique serial codes on bullets and the cases in which they sit. The theory goes that even if a case is not recovered at the scene of the crime, the bullet will have the unique marking that will enable it to be traced back to the perpetrator.

Assuming that any manufacturer can afford to manufacture such ammunition at a price that individuals are willing to pay (a big assumption), here are the other problems with ammunition encoding.

Bullets that are best for self defense (or harming victims) are quite likely to be so deformed or disintegrated that they will offer no possibility of identifying a unique marking on the bullet.

Cases can be caught by brass catchers on a pistol or semiautomatic rifle. These are already available for those who reload their ammunition and reuse the cases. Would case catchers be outlawed, too? In any event, the likelihood that the police would have anything useable to trace back to a criminal is rather unlikely. Revolvers, of course, do not eject their cases, so there is zero chance of using cases for tracing those guns.

Coding cannot likely be put on shotgun pellets, nor would they likely remain intact if the pellets were coded. Moreover, it is common to pick up spent cases for reuse.

For those who reload their ammunition as an economy move, would they be required to code the bullets they make?

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All of these obstacles pale into minor speed bumps compared to the huge obstacle of government itself. Currently, there are a few scores of thousands of machine guns registered to private owners. The registry is "maintained" (if I may use that term) by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). A former head of the registry, Thomas Busey, was videotaped in a lecture to new agents stating that the registry is about 50 percent inaccurate. (Busey went on to explain that in order to get convictions of people whose names are not in the registry, agents must lie on the stand and state that the data base is 100 percent accurate.)

Canada has had a handgun registry since 1934 that has never, ever, once been used to solve a crime. Their effort to register long guns has resulted in failure and scandal (hackers have penetrated the system and stolen guns from collectors identified in the registry).

Knowing this, does anyone believe for a minute that BATFE, which cannot keep an accurate data base of a few thousand machine guns, can actually keep track of hundreds of millions of bullets? Police will end up solving crimes the way they do now -- without help from gun or bullet registries.

And last of all, but certainly not least, consider that criminals are already smuggling fully-automatic AK-47's that are showing up on the street. Presumably, they get included with the loads of drugs that flow into the United States. If machine guns can easily be smuggled in, does anyone think there will be any problem getting a case of bullets added to the next dope load?

What will be the result if the bullet encoding measures get added to the books? What is that saying? Oh, yes: "When bullets are outlawed, only criminals will have bullets." At least non-encoded bullets.

Put another way, banning bullets through the back door will end up leaving peaceful citizens disarmed and only criminals (and the government) having guns with ammunition. Then, rather than restricting multiple-murder sprees to gun free zones such as schools, as well as some churches and malls, ALL of America will become in effect a gun free zone.

Encode bullets? Yes, say criminals. They will not have armed citizens to fear!

© 2008 Larry Pratt - All Rights Reserved

Larry Pratt has been Executive Director of Gun Owners of America for 27 years. GOA is a national membership organization of 300,000 Americans dedicated to promoting their second amendment freedom to keep and bear arms.

He published a book, Armed People Victorious, in 1990 and was editor of a book, Safeguarding Liberty: The Constitution & Militias, 1995. His latest book, On the Firing Line: Essays in the Defense of Liberty was published in 2001.

The GOA web site is: Pratt's weekly talk show Live Fire is archived there at:



Oakland’s Gun Buyback Misfires
February 23, 2008
Alexander Tabarrok
Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune

On Feb. 9, Oakland police, led by state Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland, offered to buy handguns and assault weapons for $250 each, “no questions asked, no ID required.” The “One Less Gun” buyback program attracted so many eager sellers that the money quickly ran out. But instead of closing up shop, the police handed out IOUs good for a future buyback. The Oakland police are now stuck with a bill for $170,000.

The buyback has been criticized as a poorly organized fiasco, but even the critics say it was “the right idea” and “a step in the right direction.”

On the contrary, the buyback was a bad idea from the beginning. Gun buybacks have been tried before, in cities from Seattle to Washington, D.C., and they simply don’t work.

In an authoritative study, the National Academy of Sciences reported that “the theory underlying gun buyback programs is badly flawed and the empirical evidence demonstrates the ineffectiveness of these programs.”

It doesn’t take much insight to understand why gun buybacks don’t work. Gun buybacks attract low-quality guns from people who aren’t likely to use them to commit crimes. The Oakland police, for example, bought a dozen guns from seniors living in an assisted-living facility. Are you relieved to know that Perata disarmed these dangerous senior citizens?

The Oakland buyback was especially absurd because of the high price offered: $250. Why didn’t anyone running the program think to look at the price of a new gun? In fact, the first two people in line at one of the three buyback locations were gun dealers with 60 firearms packed in the trunk of their cars.

One wonders why the police even bothered to buy the guns from Oakland residents. Why not buy directly from gun manufacturers?

Of course, buying guns from manufacturers is so obviously an absurd way to reduce the supply of guns that it has never been proposed.

Nevertheless, the idea is no less absurd when Oakland residents serve as the middlemen between the manufacturers and the police.

Buying a few thousand guns in Oakland is not going to make it more difficult for criminals in Oakland to get a gun.

There are 150 million to 200 million guns in the United States, so there are plenty of low-quality guns to be sold. An Oakland gun buyback is like trying to drain the Pacific—every bucket of water you take out is instantly replaced. Even large gun buyback programs are unlikely to have significant effects. Australia spent half a billion dollars buying guns, with no significant effect on homicide by firearms.

Imagine that instead of guns, the Oakland police decided, for whatever strange reason, to buy back sneakers. The idea of a gun buyback is to reduce the supply of guns in Oakland. Do you think that a sneaker buyback program would reduce the number of people wearing sneakers in Oakland? Of course not.

All that would happen is that people would reach into the back of their closet and sell the police a bunch of old, tired, stinky sneakers.

Gun buybacks won’t reduce the number of guns in Oakland. In fact, buybacks may increase the number of guns in Oakland.

Imagine that gun dealers offered a guarantee with every gun: Whenever this gun gets old and wears down, the dealer will buy back the gun for $250.

The dealers’ guarantee makes guns more valuable, so people will buy more guns.

But the story is exactly the same when it’s the police offering the guarantee. If buyers know that they can sell their old guns in a buyback, they are more likely to buy new guns. Thus the more common gun buybacks are held, the more likely they are to misfire.

Recognizing that gun buybacks don’t work is neither pro- nor anti-gun. We all want to reduce gun crime in Oakland. Yet the Oakland police and concerned private citizens have spent $250,000 on a policy that doesn’t work and that everyone who has studied the issue knows does not work.

The guns bought in this buyback are destined to be melted down to create a monument.

It’s a shame that this monument will be the only lasting effect of the buyback.
Wow, $250 for this!

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