I have recently been informed of legislation presented in eighteen states which, if passed, would seriously impact all gun owners and especially sport shooters. If this bill comes to your state, I urge every gun owner to do all you can to keep this proposed “bullet coding” legislation from ever becoming law.
A group calling themselves Ammunition Accountability is behind this. Their web site shows the versions being considered by those eighteen states where their legislation has already been introduced. They also link to a sample bill they are encouraging other states to introduce.
The proposed bill requires that all handgun and “assault rifle” ammunition be coded on the base of each bullet. It furthermore specifies that only such coded ammunition be allowed to be sold or possessed by January 1, 2011. It imposes record-keeping requirements on manufacturers, vendors and government agencies so that every bullet may be traced from manufacturer through to the end user, effectively creating a registry of ammunition owners.
While this bill is being presented as a crime-control bill, nothing could be farther from the truth. I object to it on three grounds; that it will seriously impact all legitimate users of handguns and supposed “assault rifles”, that it is unworkable with the most widely used ammunition, and that it is designed to infringe upon our right, under both the United States and many state Constitutions to keep and to bear arms.
Impact on Sport Shooters
A huge number of the handgun rounds fired for sport, target practice and competition are hand-loads. This is simply due to economics--hand-loads are much cheaper than factory ammunition. Of course they have another advantage; they can be tailored specifically to the sport and firearm used as well. I have hand-loaded and shot over 5000 rounds per year when actively involved in Police Pistol Combat, or PPC, a target game originally designed to enhance police marksmanship. When I was most active in this sport, a single day’s shooting-–300 rounds--would have cost $72 for factory ammunition, where my hand-loads cost me only $12. This proposed legislation, if passed, would simply make hand-loaded ammunition illegal, making many competitors unable to afford their sport!
It would additionally impose cost penalties on users of factory ammunition because it would restrict the variety and quantity of available ammunition, increase record-keeping costs passed on to consumers and add an additional tax to the cost of each bullet to pay for the program.
Unworkable with Much Ammunition
Cast lead bullets and full metal jacket bullets both have a lead base exposed. The heat of propellant gasses would obliterate any coding impressed into those bases. That is likely true even if lead substitutes were used for the bullet core. These are exactly the bullets most likely to be used for practice and target sports. Under this proposal, such bullets might well be made unavailable because of concern over the “rendering unreadable” provision of Section 5.3 (in the sample bill). If that concern were ignored and such exposed-base bullets were to be coded anyway, erosion of the base upon firing would still defeat the supposed purpose of the bill--to enable identification and tracing of bullets used in crime.
That concern would, of course, not bother anyone planning illegal use of uncoded ammunition, it would only affect legal ammunition users. There is a sufficient backlog of uncoded factory ammunition and components available today such that any criminal would be able to find untraceable ammunition for years to come and to manufacture it forever. In addition, stolen and smuggled ammunition--as stolen guns are today--would be used in such a disproportionate number of crimes that traces would likely be found fruitless.
Violation of Constitutional Guarantees
Registration of firearms is contraindicated by many state constitutions and the federal constitution. The United States legislature has repeatedly struck down attempts to make permanent files of background check information, believing such to be registration and therefore an infringement on the right to keep and bear arms. Ammunition historically has been considered as “arms” for constitutional purposes. To a possible future tyrannical government, a list of who owns what ammunition is effectively the same as a list of who owns what guns. Registering either stands opposed to every idea of Americans as citizens with individual rights, rather than as subjects to be exploited.
To conclude, this bullet coding proposal is an infringement on the rights of legitimate gun owners and shooters. It has sufficient practical limitation as to make it worthless for law enforcement; rather, it will create an increased burden on them as well. It would only serve to severely restrict the legitimate use of firearms and not impact criminal use. I urge you to watch out for this legislation when–-not if, but when–-it comes to your state and to do everything in your power to defeat it.
Note: Many of these concerns have been expressed by me here before in an article on Ballistic Fingerprinting. The mechanism is slightly different; in Ballistic Fingerprinting, the gun impresses a code on the cartridge case as it fires, where in Bullet Coding the bullet itself is pre-coded, but the object is the same—a thinly disguised attempt to interfere with the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of America’s shooters and defense-minded citizens! (Jun09)
copyright 2009 by the author, all rights reserved.