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Author Topic: Washington, D.C.
Everard
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The situation in the capitol is fairly nuts. I'm pretty convinced there are two snipers, or maybe more. That said, the best lead we have right now is a shell casing found at the scene of one of the shootings. Given that, ballistics profiling has been a hot topic.

Given that our country finds it useful to register things like cars, I'm pretty firmly in the camp of a national ballistics database. Why would we need to know the ballistics of a given shell? For this reason... the potential to solve a crime that might otherwise go unsolved. In this case, lives are at stake.

Given that the NRA is opposed, I doubt we'll see legislation requiring ballistics to be registered for every gun. However, I think its time to look closely at this issue, and figure out what is objectionable, and how we can get around these problems. My initial thought is simply code so that information is available only if specific ballistics information is entered into the database.


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maniacal_engineer
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I am not an NRA member. I don't own guns, but that's cuz I got 10 kids, one on prozac, and it just doesn't seem wise right now. I think gun ownership is a good thing.
My understanding is tht the NRA opposition is to anything that would allow the feds to round up and confiscate all guns. So what is needed is something that will let the police find the owner of a particular weapon, but not give a list of all weapons. I am not sure if that is possible.
Maybe Ev is right, if the records coulf only be accessed by the ballistics data, then you couldnt really do a massive dump. It would be like trying to find everyone with fingerprints. But the software lockouts seem to me to be a fairly thin bulwark against the potential waves of govt authority (he says, trying not to mix metaphors)

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Mike_W
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Ev,
You're asking for 2 things. One, a registry, presumably produced at time of manufacturer "fingerprinting" the unique marks left on the bullet by the barrel, and on the casing by the receiver. Second, a registry that ties this firearm to an owner. Otherwise, there's not much use.

I see the first as do-able but costly. The second is a political non starter in the USA.

Even if you did it, there are already so many firearms floating around that any criminal with more than 3 brain cells could ensure he had an "unprinted" gun.

When all is said and done, taking gun control that far probably does go way too far toward infringing on individual rights. There are, I would think, cheaper and better ways to increase public safety.

Mike


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Locus
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Everard,

Hold the phone a minute ..A few educated terrorists/nuts could make a nuclear bomb ..but not an unmarked gun? (or steal a registered one?)

Guns that can fire one shot at a time accurately to 100 yards are frighteningly simple to build.

Ballistics data only helps so much ..more to determine guilt in court once you've caught the person than anything else(can also establish links between crimes ..but you don't need a database on every gun ever made to do that).

You can remanufacture an existing gun to completely change its ballistics profile VERY simply in a few hours with a common machine shop.


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JonathanTheOmnipotent
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It sound's like a nice plan, but even if you got every single gun in the country on a database, isn't it possible to scrape the inside of the barrell and change the markings?
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Doug J
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Replace the barrel and the markings change. Are you going to add replacement barrels to the list and how are you going to sync them up to the rifles they go into?
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Locus
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Even if you somehow (magically) stuff the gun genie back into the bottle.

What's to stop them from using bombs instead?

(I'm figuring that will be the next step after the snipers anyway)


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Baldar
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DC has the one of the highest murder rates in the country. About 2 a day.

So why are they worrying about a sniper that only takes out one person a day? The extra police should make everyone feel more comfortable. I wonder if the murder rate fell since the sniper started shooting. Should he get an award for lowering the crime rate?

DC also has the highest policeman per capita rate more than 1 for every 1000 residents.


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Everard
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Baldar-
Please tell me you don't honestly believe what you just wrote?

Ok, I hadn't thought about the ability to change the ballistics markings on a weapon. Thats an interesting point.

Lets assume for the moment that I'm convinced this doesn't actually help (I'm not, but whatever) I'm curious about something Mike said. How is it an infringment on freedoms to register X, where X is anything. Examples in current society include cars, social security numbers, and voting. My thinking here is that if it doesn't infring upon my rights for the government to know who owns the car with my license plate, then it wouldn't be an infringement on my rights for them to know the ballistics markings on the rifle I might buy.


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JonathanTheOmnipotent
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Perhaps there could be some way to mark bullets, but that would merely encourage a black market of unmarked/unregistered bullets just like the black market of unregistered guns.

Although it invites interesting ethical questions, there really is no way to actually carry out the process of registering the fingerprints of guns and/or bullets.

It would be nice though. The only invasion of privacy would be that the government could know when you've been to the shooting range...other than that there's no other reason (that doesn't include using it to kill someone) to fire the gun.

Does anyone in the NRA have a problem if the government knew when you'd been at a firing range?


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LetterRip
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Ev,

one objection to gun registration is that if the government becomes a 'bad government' and hence needs to be overthrown by the populace, the first thing 'bad governments' want to do is take the ability of said populace to overthrow the government, and hence takes away the guns. With a registration database this is much easier to do.

Your idea of the ballistics match as the key is interesting. It depends on how unique and replicable a rifling pattern is. (Ie is the replication nearly perfect, or is there some fuziness, what are the odds of a key collision, etc.)

I really like the idea of tracers in the mixes of lead although in the gun powder might be even better. (Obtaining lead from another source and making your own bullets isn't too tough, but making good gun powder is). Of course, the composition of the tracer, and how you vary it to differentiate batches is the toughy. Also, it could increase the cost of ammunition, (especially if it is required for the military as well...).

Also, there are other bullet materials than lead. (Ie our military forces are supposed to switch, because of the problems of lead leaching...). Thus we might have to find a tracer compatible with them as well.

LetterRip


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Mike_W
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Ev,
The possibility of registry facilitating unnecessary confiscation was what I was getting at as an invasion of privacy. Yes, we register other things (and here, I register my guns, but that’s another story). But, in the US in particular, guns are a political hot potato. And, as Pareto implied, in a democracy it is very hard to make some people worse off, to make some better off.

Yah, anyone can make a lead bullet. That’s fine for a muzzle loader or a low velocity handgun. But, for the kind of ammunition fired through most modern firearms (shotguns excepted – which, by the way, are hard if not impossible to ballistically match), you need a little more engineering. Altering barrels sounds like a way to really piss away accuracy. Bullet batch tracing is more than possible, but it means you need a licensing/registry system for ammunition sales. For serious crime and terrorism, a black market is plenty sufficient to negate any of these strategies. For buffoons, well, yah, I suppose you’d catch a few faster.

At the end of the day, registry is horrifically expensive (I know, we’ve done it) even without the ballistic fingerprinting. I’ll re-iterate that, if public safety is the goal, there’s probably a bigger bang for the buck in better policing, better education, certain types of social assistance, and, even scarier than gun control, modern surveillance technologies. That is one cat just getting out of the bag.

Mike


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Baldar
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My post was tongue in cheek with a serious side.

DC was (perhaps still is) the murder capital of the world. Not accidental death capital, not whoops sorry I shot you capital, but the murder capital. In a way I am pointing out something that Tom did a while ago. Terrorism does not change the death toll that much, but the reaction is the effect that devestates a country. What is different about random murders by one individual and random murders by several individuals?

Think about it.


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seagull
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quote:
So why are they worrying about a sniper that only takes out one person a day?

Because the first five and the last shootings happened in Montgomery county. In that county the annual murder rate rose by 25% in one day!

Baldar's cynical comment was right on! If the sniper had stayed in South West DC, nobody would have noticed. I wonder ...

If a hypothetical sniper stayed killed SW DC and "claimed responsibility" (like some terrorist organizations often do), would the local gangs pay more attention (and be more proactive) than the police?


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Locus
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"If a hypothetical sniper stayed killed SW DC and "claimed responsibility" (like some terrorist organizations often do), would the local gangs pay more attention (and be more proactive) than the police?"

Then the police would be responding similarly because they still have a high profile killer on their hands. The murder rate in DC isn't due to "random" killing in that there is no reason for them ..they all have MOs (drug related ..domestic dispute bar fights muggings etc) that place them in the "common crime" realm..

The sniper streak isn't random either. It's targeting areas to have the largest psychological impact. Once they've achieved that objective they'll either go underground for awhile or switch locations and target a new area.

As for shooting at people in a high crime area... It would have changed the nature of the game as people in those areas are more on alert and there's a good chance someone may shoot back. Gangs are not together enough to put up any sort of meaningful resistance though there may be a higher incidence of white vans getting shot up.

In any case I'm sure the crime prone neighborhoods are not appreciating the fact that the shooting spree has pulled more officers out to help catch the sniper.


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LetterRip
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Apparently the sniper is making ransom demands via leaving notes, and wants a secure anonymous electronic funds transfer.

We can make some deductions about the sniper. In a discussion last night it was suggested that the attacks are during the day, and not on the weekend. This suggests the individual is unemployed, self-employed, or works nights. The not on weekends suggests possibly spending time with family (in which case the abscence would possibly be noted).

The diversity of age, race, and gender (and socioeconomic?) groups suggest a pure terror motive, as does the wording in the letter ('your children are not safe').
The method for the ransom suggests technical knowledge.
The sniping methodology suggests serious planning.

LetterRIp


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Locus
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There have been attacks on the weekend ..the attacks have taken place throughout virtually the entire normal "waking day".


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LetterRip
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Found a timeline
http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGAAHCQZK7D.html

and a map
http://www.directionsmag.com/article.php?article_id=261

We also have the tarot card and "I am God", the threat on children, the ransom demand, the request for something involving something electronic (I assumed that meant an anonymous funds transfer...), and that the sniper is not willing to communicate other than via dropped notes at killings (thus far).

Shootings linked to Washington, D.C.-area sniper:

1- 5:20 p.m. Oct. 2: Window shot out at craft store in Montgomery County, Md. No one hurt.

1- 6:04 p.m. Oct. 2: James D. Martin, 55, of Silver Spring, Md., killed in grocery store parking lot in Montgomery County.

2- 7:41 a.m. Oct. 3: James L. "Sonny" Buchanan, 39, of Arlington, Va., killed while cutting grass at an auto dealership in Montgomery County.

3- 8:12 a.m. Oct. 3: Taxi driver Prem Kumar Walekar, 54, of Olney, Md., killed at gas station in Montgomery County.

4- 8:37 a.m. Oct. 3: Sarah Ramos, 34, of Silver Spring killed outside post office in Montgomery County.

5- 9:58 a.m. Oct. 3: Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera, 25, of Silver Spring slain as she vacuumed her van at gas station in Montgomery County.

6- 9:15 p.m. Oct. 3: Pascal Charlot, 72, of Washington, D.C., killed while standing on Washington street.

7- 2:30 p.m. Oct. 4: 43-year-old woman wounded in craft store parking lot in Fredericksburg, Va.

8- 8:09 a.m. Oct. 7: 13-year-old boy wounded as he is dropped off at school in Bowie, Md.

9- 8:15 p.m. Oct. 9: Dean Harold Meyers, 53, of Gaithersburg, Md., killed at gas station in Manassas, Va.

10- 9:30 a.m. Oct. 11: Kenneth H. Bridges, 53, of Philadelphia killed at gas station in Fredericksburg.

11- 9:15 p.m. Oct. 14: Linda Franklin, 47, of Arlington, Va., killed at home improvement store in Falls Church, Va.

12- 8 p.m. Oct. 19: 37-year-old man shot outside steakhouse in Ashland, Va.

LetterRip


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Dan Allen
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quote:
We also have the tarot card and "I am God", the threat on children, the ransom demand, the request for something involving something electronic (I assumed that meant an anonymous funds transfer...), and that the sniper is not willing to communicate other than via dropped notes at killings (thus far).

There was also the mention of an 800 number being set up, and that they have called the ops center at least five times - and been hung up on...
Some of this electronics stuff is probably a wish for a secure line of communication - secure meaning untraceable.


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LetterRip
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quote:
There was also the mention of an 800 number being set up, and that they have called the ops center at least five times - and been hung up on...
Some of this electronics stuff is probably a wish for a secure line of communication - secure meaning untraceable.

That is a possibility, I hadn't heard of the 800 number before. If he is stupid enough to call the number, then it will be easier than I thought. Traces can be done a heck of a lot easier and faster than they show in cop shows, and in DC even faster still. Him hanging up is irrelevant to a trace. (If he moves out a couple of states to make the call, and then uses a pay phone out in BFE, he might be able to avoid it). Secure untraceable communication is not very doable with our current infrastructure, so there seems little reason that the police would tell him that they wouldn't do it. (Email kiosks are watched by video in lots of places and internet cafes usually require signing in, etc. )

I find it interesting that he hasn't been caught via city video footage. Has he just been fortunate or is there something similar to isee (which points out the location of survielance cameras in New York).

See http://www.epic.org/privacy/surveillance/ http://www.observingsurveillance.org/

Anyway, the above still suggests funds instead of communication to me.

LetterRip


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Locus
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LetterRip,

Thanks for posting those urls ...

After looking at them..I think I need to take a bath now.

*creepy*


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LetterRip
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He had them say something really wierd today

quote:
We have him in a noose like a duck

Also, he has been in contact via other methods, ie calling other jurisdictions. So he is being extremely cautious about his communications methods.

Really bizarre when I did a search for the above words on google news I found this
http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=20020928-121316-5677r

It would guess it is just a strange coincidence...

LetterRip


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Dan Allen
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quote:
That is a possibility, I hadn't heard of the 800 number before. If he is stupid enough to call the number, then it will be easier than I thought. Traces can be done a heck of a lot easier and faster than they show in cop shows, and in DC even faster still. Him hanging up is irrelevant to a trace. (If he moves out a couple of states to make the call, and then uses a pay phone out in BFE, he might be able to avoid it). Secure untraceable communication is not very doable with our current infrastructure, so there seems little reason that the police would tell him that they wouldn't do it. (Email kiosks are watched by video in lots of places and internet cafes usually require signing in, etc. )

I heard it in during a news conference where the chief was saying that what the sniper wanted wasn't possible, but that other options were possible including "that 800 number you spoke about..." or a PO box if nothing electronic could be worked out.

It appears that none of it matters anyway if the latest reports are correct.

Thankfully


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LetterRip
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yep,

looks pretty well solved
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A14158-2002Oct24.html

LetterRip


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