CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL LOCKYER has shot himself in the foot by commissioning a study on ballistic “fingerprinting” that says it won’t work — and then deciding not to release it, at least not yet:

Lockyer, a gun-control advocate who supports what could ultimately be a large and costly federal database of the unique markings guns leave on bullets and shell casings after being fired, has emboldened database opponents by commissioning a staff report that concluded such a program probably wouldn’t work.

The development comes at a key moment — as the federal government contemplates a national ballistic fingerprinting mandate. California and several other states, meanwhile, are considering their own programs. And the issue is being debated with renewed urgency in the wake of the sniper shootings in the Washington, D.C., area.

Lockyer’s report, which was supposed to be presented to the Legislature by June 2001, was quietly circulated to the National Rifle Association, forensic experts and other groups interested in the issue, but has yet to be released publicly or to lawmakers.

“It needed peer review,” Lockyer said in an interview last week.

No word on whether he had Michael Bellesiles on the job. . . . Here’s more:

According to those who have seen the report, researchers working on Tulleners’ report tested thousands of rounds of ammunition fired from nearly 800 handguns used by the California Highway Patrol. The researchers concluded that accurate matches were made only 62 percent of the time when the shells all came from the same manufacturer. The rate dropped to 38 percent when casings from different manufacturers were examined.

Jeez, even 99% accuracy would be too low, given the large number of guns that would be involved.