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Ballistics identification gone, for now

By: Todd Etshman//April 3, 2012

Ballistics identification gone, for now

By: Todd Etshman//April 3, 2012//

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Dealers and manufacturers of semiautomatic firearms, like the one pictured in this file photo, had to register spent cartridge shells with the state under CoBIS. Funding for the program was left out of the state budget that was released Friday. AP Images

The New York State Combined Ballistic Identification System effectively ended last Friday when the final state budget left out funding for the controversial anti-gun measure.

The system, known as CoBIS, required licensed semiautomatic firearm dealers and gun manufacturers to file spent cartridge shells with regional New York State Police CoBIS storage centers within 10 days of retail sale and delivery.

The law supported by former Gov. George Pataki had been in effect since January 2001 and was intended to help solve crimes by matching crime scene cartridge shell markings with those in the database; critics said it didn’t work.

“People who commit murders don’t walk into a gun shop and buy a gun. They can get the guns on the street,” said Second Amendment attorney Sheldon W. Boyce of Brenna, Brenna & Boyce PLLC.

The state Assembly passed another semiautomatic cataloging measure called microstamping, but Senate Republicans opposed it and that measure didn’t make it in the budget either.

“I think the complete failure of CoBIS can predict the failure of microstamping,” Boyce said. “It would require gun manufacturers to create the technology. CoBIS and microstamping do nothing about guns in the hands of criminals.”

New York City Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel supports microstamping measures and said it ensures that when a gun is fired, information identifying the make, model and serial number of the gun is stamped onto the cartridge as numbers and letters.

Schimel said microstamping measures are supported by over 80 New York state law enforcement organizations.

Tom Smith, former Fairport resident and current New York State Rifle & Pistol Association president, said the state spent about $4 million a year on the CoBIS program since its inception and the technology “just isn’t there” for a cataloging system that stores information on lawful gun owners to catch criminals.

“In theory it sounds like a good deal but you end up using a lot of money, to get a database that gets you nowhere,” Smith said from Albany.

Smith said a national program administered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives called the National Integrated Ballistic Information System has the support of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and might work since it utilizes crime scene shell casings and “guns that belong to criminals.”

Smith said he believes the state will pass some form of NIBIN in the future.

“This was a bureaucratic nightmare for firearm sellers and an unnecessary cost that they had to absorb or pass on to their customers,” Buffalo area Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio said.

Boyce said both the CoBIS and microstamping measures increase the cost of firearms including those made in New York State by Remington and Kimber. “Once again, the law-abiding citizen bears the cost of an ineffective system,” he said.

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