Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Encoded Ammunition: Fun Turns to Tragedy

Fun Turns to Tragedy -- is a blogspot, and Kirk (the blogger) from Maryland performs a great service not only in reporting a public hearing on bill HB-517, but in attending the hearing to register his disapproval.

His blog name is perhaps whimsical, but in at least this situation it is entirely appropriate.

Because the shooting sports are a great part of private ownership of firearms; hunting, competition, casual Sunday afternoon plinking, collecting (both firearms and ammunition!) are all part of the many ways we use firearms as a hobby, an avocation -- fun!

This last statement seemingly ignores the more serious aspects of firearms ownership. Self-defense, and acting as part of an unofficial militia both in defense of our homeland and to potentially overthrow a tyrant are probably more important, in the original sense of the Second Amendment. But these are not activities in which most people engage on a day-to-day basis.

We own guns, and we shoot them, for fun (and to hone our skills for the more serious activities.)

While our paramount reasons for private firearms ownership are often of the 'more serious' variety, it is arguable that these bills would not necessarily impede those activities. When it comes down to the point of dire necessity, most of us would be able to invest as much as a dollar, or two, or five per each round if our only purpose was to possess one gun and, say, five or ten or twenty rounds to defend ourself or our nation.

Even this extreme interpretation of the Second Amendment ignores the need for constant practice to maintain or improve our skills, and so these "Encoded Ammunition" bills would erode even the most serious and stringent requirements of private firearms ownership.

Beyond that, the ready and economical access to ammunition is potentially threatened by these bills, introduced into state legislatures presumably for the purpose of undermining the Second Amendment by means which are both nefarious and disingenuous.

Politicians, in composing these bills, often attempt to reassure us by suggesting that the cost to the ammunition purchaser would only be a few cents. Do not allow yourself to be fooled by the smooth assurances of poltroons and scoundrels. The cost would be astronomical, and probably prohibitive.

Obviously it would be legally and economically impossible for the private citizen who reloads his own ammunition to accommodate these propose laws. Many of us who shoot regularly, especially those who shoot for competitive or 'plinking' purposes, would immediately discover that reloading is no longer an option ... especially in light of variations which require that the serial number encoded on the bullet also be encoded on the INTERIOR of the cartridge case.

(Even if the technology was economically available to the private reloader, what happens when the case is re-used so many times that the surface of the case, having been reloaded many times, has no more room for another serial number? And are there penalties for having more than one serial number encoded on a single case? The proposed bills make no allowance.)

Ammunition manufacturers, in testimony at the Maryland hearing, have disabused the Maryland legislatures of their illusions. That the technology has not been demonstrated to be reliable; is 'single-vendor' applicable; has not been proven effective; and requires changes in ammunition manufacturing practices which are prohibitively costly -- are discussed in Kirk's article:

Justifications and supportive comments by Legislators:

The legislator that sponsored HB-517 is up : 2ish [sic]
He starts by trying to push this as a last chance for law enforcement. Which drew more than its fair share of chuckles as ballistic fingerprinting database has solve oh so many crimes so far.
The lawmaker amended the bill to only cover pistols. Once again trying to make it a law enforcement tool.

Some loser from Washington State is now testifying. He claims to be a gun owner, and a Concealed Carry permit holder. I think the last name was Ford. Ammunition Coding Technology is his company. [emphasis added] States that cops can track bullets at the crime scene. Yep I can just see the cops now prying the bullet out of the victim in order to get out there jewelers loop to get the serial number off of the bullet.

Seems the loser from Washington is not faring well he just got shredded by a lawmaker. then [sic] the lawmaker just drilled him as the patent holder about how much money he stands to make. Also seems he is the sole owner of said patent [sic, emphasis added]
A different lawmaker also want to see a fired round. Not just the pristine round that they were given for their examination. He seems to have a fired round that is completely shredded.

Statements from bill sponsors and supporters:

The bill sponsor wants to put a use by date on existing ammo. That had me about ready to fall on the floor laughing. He seems to be troubled that he is loosing the battle.

Another lawmaker is going after the tax and the fact that there are no ammo manufacturers in MD. That lawmaker is also going after interstate commerce as an issue citing Hawaii’s battle with the same bill

Now the bill sponsor is trying to tell us that Maryland should be a leader for other states in fighting crime. His last statement was that he feels that Concealed Cary [sic] would lead to bedlam.

One other lawmaker tried to defend the guy, says that there is other technology out there to make this not seem like a sole source.

Only one person testified in favor of this and she was from Baltimore…

Testimony from ammunition manufacturers:

First guy up from Remington, states that there are 8-10 billion rounds a year. 1800 rounds a minute of the assembly line and there is no way to encode at that rate. Very well spoken. He slams encoding very hard. Points out the hazard of lasers around powder and primers. I had not thought of that yet.

Next guy is from Federal. Also dissing encoding due to automated equipment. Also very well spoken. Says the costs would be passed on to the consumer and police. States that there is no technology capable of keeping up with rim fire ammunition manufacture rates

The manufactures [sic] also would have liability issues due to the tracking of the rounds from point of manufacture through the distribution to the end user. They would not be happy with the system as envisioned.

Finally, dialogue between the Legislators and the Manufacturers:

The manufactures [sic] also would have liability issues due to the tracking of the rounds from point of manufacture through the distribution to the end user. They would not be happy with the system as envisioned.

A lawmaker asked them what the chances of them making ammo for just MD were. He stated that they were not good.
The lawmaker then asked if there were just a few states.
The ammo manufactures [sic] then went in on how it would have to be a business case but even then they cost of setting up the facilities would be fairly prohibitive.

All and all I think this thing is dead just based on the Manufactures [sic] testimony.

At this time, it's impossible to determine how telling the testimony might be in the final consideration by the legislatures. I think it's important to note that this is the first manufacturer testimony that _I_ have seen on this issue, and that this testimony, as predicted, is entirely glum.

What these businessmen are saying is that, if these bills are enacted into law, the manufacturers will be unwilling ... unable! ... to accommodate the requirements. It would not be worth their time and expense to make ammunition which meets the statutory requirements, and essentially they would cease doing business within this (Maryland) states.

(By extension, they would cease doing business in ALL states which enacted this and similar laws. Note that this would undermine their customer base, which would logically increase their per-round manufacturing costs and consequently increase the cost of ammunition even in states which have not enacted similar laws.)

I apologize to Kirk for my extensive use of the [sic] "Such Is Cited" annotation of his quoted text. I understand that he was blogging 'in real time', and in the rush to publish it is impossible to edit text. I intended no criticism of his writing; I only included such annotations to emphasize that I was quoting actual text verbatim, rather than editing it. No changes in spelling, typing, punctuation ... and certainly in content ... has been imposed on Kirk's article.

Again, at the risk of providing redundant links to the article, I wholeheartedly encourage you to go 'read the whole thing'.
You'll be glad you did.

PS: One More Thing
I refer you to Kirk's final quoted comment, and I hope it's true and will be true in all of the states whose irresponsible legislators have proposed such bills:
All and all I think this thing is dead just based on the Manufacture[r]s testimony.

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