Finger Pointing

A New Technology Targets Gun Sales
by | May 2005

Massachusetts has some of the toughest gun licensing requirements in the nation. Now, the state has developed and is installing a first-of- its-kind, real-time system that will help keep guns out of the wrong hands.

Under state law, prospective gun owners must pass a background check when applying for a gun license and when buying a gun. The new, $4.7 million Web-based system, called the Massachusetts Instant Record Check System, or MIRCS, expedites and improves this process by digitally scanning fingerprints and matching them to the fingerprints already on file with the state. With a quick scan of the right index finger, state officials and gun dealers will know instantly if a customer is eligible to apply for a license or buy a firearm.

To use the system, gun stores need only a computer with Internet access and a personal identification device, which is supplied by the state. Only four gun dealers were set up as of April, but 200 of the 351 police departments are up and running. The system should be installed statewide by the end of June.

The state is working to enhance MIRCS further by adding a notification system that can send an instant alert to police and state offices if, for example, a person with a restraining order tries to buy a gun.

In a state where approximately 75,000 licenses are issued annually, and 40,000 to 50,000 guns are sold every year, MIRCS offers an overlooked benefit, says Barry LaCroix, executive director of the Massachusetts Criminal History Systems Board. "It instantly improves the safety of our police."


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