Reporter's Notes: How to ID a Bullet
I was excited to be working on this story. After all, it's not that often that a primarily environmental reporter gets to spend a couple weeks focusing on forensics technology and the debate over gun control (let alone receive firearms training on a 38-special from a senior criminalist at the DOJ's California Criminalistics Institute). In the end, there was much, much more to report than I could squeeze into five minutes.
Supporters of microstamping will want to have heard from the technology's inventor, Todd Lizotte of NanoMark Technologies. Lizotte reports a much higher success rate than the UC Davis study and, according to a microstamping supporter I spoke with, has declined any potential profits he might have made on it.
Microstamping itself has far more subtleties than I was able to report on. Fred Tulleners experimented with (and had various degrees of success with) several different types of stamping, as documented in the report he and others prepared for the California Policy Research Center. Even for a non-ballistics expert, that report makes for compelling reading. Tullener's personal opinions on microstamping are also more complex than the story allows: He told me that he would like to see more investment in law enforcement and detection — on the street investments, in other words, rather than new technologies.
I also want to point out that the story overestimates the overall success rate of Tulleners' microstamping tests. I say that microstamping worked "roughly three quarters;" of the time; in actuality, Tulleners says it was closer to 50 percent.
And finally, there's more afoot in the world of gun control technology than I was able to delve into. For example, "Smart Guns," which would recognize and respond exclusively to their registered owner's grip. Supporters point in particular to the number of minors killed while playing with their parents' guns. Of course, controversy follows every new gun proposal. Here’s a Wired article about the Smart Guns debate.
Listen to the "How to ID a Bullet" Radio report online, as well as find additional links and resources.
38.546793 -121.449336Tags: bullet, California Department of Justice, crime, detective, forensics, gun control, kqed, microstamping, pbs, public radio, QUEST, Radio, Science