Friday, April 7, 2017

F is for Firearms and Fingerprints


District of Columbia v. Heller

[June 26, 2008, decision 5-4]

The District of Columbia Code made it illegal to carry an unregistered firearm, and prohibited the registration of “handguns”, though the chief of police could issue one-year licenses for handguns. The Code also required owners of firearms to keep them unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock or other similar device.

Dick Anthony Heller was a D.C. special police officer who was authorized to carry a handgun while on duty. He applied for a one-year license for a handgun he wished to keep at home, but his application was denied. Heller sued the District of Columbia, arguing that the D.C. Code violated his Second Amendment right to keep a functional firearm in his home without a license.

The Supreme Court reasoned that “the inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right.”

The Court held that banning handguns, an entire class of arms that is commonly used for protection and self-defense purposes, and prohibiting firearms from being ready and available in the home [not disassembled or with a trigger lock], the area traditionally in need of protection, violates the Second Amendment.


Back around 2000 BC, Babylonians placed fingerprints on contracts to help prevent forgery.

In more modern times - while working for the Central Police Department in La Plata, Argentina, Juan Vucetich created the world’s first fingerprint classification system.  This system was based on early experiments by English scientist Sir Francis Galton.  Vucetich referred to his system as “comparative dactyloscopy,” and he used it in 1892 to identify a bloody fingerprint found at the scene of a gruesome double-murder of two children. The children’s mother admitted to the killings after she was presented with the evidence against her.

In 1892, Vucetich’s system identified 101 different fingerprint patterns. Today, the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) is considered the largest biometric identification system in the world.  It includes the fingerprints of more than 103 million US residents and 73,000 known and suspected terrorists from around the world.


In September 1984, University of Leicester geneticist Dr. Alec Jeffreys found what he called “a horrible, smudgy, blurry mess” on a slide containing biological material. After studying it closer, he identified a family group in the sample and realized he could distinguish all three members of the family by a simple pattern of inheritance. Jeffreys first used the technique in April 1985 to solve a complex immigration issue that ultimately reunited a young boy from Ghana with his family in England. In 1986, Jeffreys used DNA to arrest and convict a suspect who raped and murdered two schoolgirls three years apart.

As of December 2012, the National DNA Index (NDIS) contains more than 10 million offender profiles, 1.3 million arrestee profiles and 467,000 forensic profiles. The primary metric used to determine the effectiveness of the NDIS is the number of investigations the database has helped. As of December 2012, the Combined DNA Index System (Codis) has produced more than 198,000 hits and assisted in 190,500 investigations.

Did you guess right?
Here's Saturday's hint - G is for Gideon.  Can you guess the case and what it's about?  Leave a comment!


  1. Interesting way of approaching the A-Z challenge. I'm not a gun nut, but in this case I think the courts got it right. I can't imagine a law enforcement officer not able to have a weapon in his home.

    1. And that's a right we ALL have, with a few exceptions. If we choose, we can have a handgun in our home.

  2. I had no idea on this one. I do have my fingerprints on file which were required when I sold some gold jewelry many years ago. I'll have to think about Gideon.

    Denise at My Life in Retirement Flanders Fields

    1. My fingerprints are on file too. Attorney licensing required it.

      Love the Flanders Fields poem.

  3. How educational was THAT post! Read it to his lordship. Thought it was fascinating to know the story behind DNA.

    Impromptu Promptlings
    A to Z Challenge Letter F

  4. Woulda NEVER guessed in 2008 someone had to sue to keep a handgun in their own house. Shocks me. All I think of with Gideon is the bible in a hotel room, but the case can't be about that. Have I only gotten one case correct so far? Yikes.

    1. One right so far, but there's still quite a few letters left =)