Forum to examine ballistic fingerprinting

By Gus Bode

Policy implications, constitutional issues to be explored

Factoid:The forum will begin at 7:30 Tuesday night in Lesar Law Building, room 102. Admission is free.

After sniper shootings took the lives of 10 and injured three in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C., questions were raised as to whether ballistic fingerprinting – the markings guns make on bullets and shell casings – played a role in quickly apprehending the offenders.


On Tuesday night, five speakers plan on exploring the ideas and implications involved with ballistic fingerprinting at an ACLU sponsored forum at 7:30 p.m. in the Lesar Law Building, room 102.

Tuesday’s panel will include the following:Don Gannell, a retired ballistics expert from the Illinois State Crime Lab; James Garofalo, chairman of SIUC’s Crime Study Center; Brannon P. Denning of SIUC’s School of Law; Chris Boyster of the Illinois Coalition Against Handgun Violence; and Joshua Powell, an SIUC sophomore in sociology.

Fingerprinting legislation has been introduced in Congress and President George W. Bush has asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to explore the issues involved. If legislation were passed, it would require that all guns manufactured be fired once with the bullet and casing collected and stored in a national database. In the event of a crime, police officers would have to collect the casing and bullet and match it to the one stored in the database.

Mark Schneider, a representative from the ACLU, said the forum would expose the audience to diverse points of view.

“They can expect technical expertise as to whether this legislative has any prospect of working,” he said. “There will be a technical side, pro and con sides, second amendment analysis and public policy expertise.”

Recently the National Rifle Association spoke out against such legislation, saying that it is “flawed, unworkable and infringes on the rights of tens of millions of law-abiding Americans.”

Schneider said the ACLU has not taken a stance on the proposed legislation and is only interested in creating a forum to encourage discussion among differing views.


The free forum is expected to last about an hour. Each panel member will speak for 10 minutes, followed by debate between members and a question and answer segment with the audience.

Reporter Brad Brondsema can be reached at [email protected]