How “Bullet DNA” is Helping Solve Crimes…and Can Only Get Better

Posted on: October 17th, 2014
The obvious shortcoming in solving crimes involving guns is what gun was used in the crime. Being able to match up the gun with crime has gotten better over the years but is now taking a giant leap forward with some new technology in the market…“The National Integrated Ballistic Information Network.”

This is a national database of bullets and shell casings that allow investigators to link a gullet to a particular gun used in a crime. A great example of how this is being used is with a case in Minneapolis, the “400 Soundbar Shooting” last August. There was a great article on this inn the StarTribune out of Minneapolis called, “Minneapolis at the forefront of new gun ID technology.” If you want to know more about how this is being used in a particular crime, I would encourage you to read their article.

Whether you have time to read the article or not right now, let me share with you some highlights of this new technology I think you might find interesting. At the core of this national database is the capturing of the “markings” left by both the bullet and the casing. While not as exact as something like DNA in humans, it is like the DNA for a particular gun since these markings are unique. This system turns these into three-dimensional images and puts into the system that can be cross-referenced on a national level.

They capture these markings by firing a bullet out of the gun into a 6000 gallon water tank to preserve the markings and enter them into the database archives. While there are currently databases that track bullet markings, this one is superior in the technology and is said to speed up the process of matching considerably. One of the key reasons this particular system was developed was to “…give local law enforcement agencies an advantage in dealing with low-level street violence that often escapes much police scrutiny.”

While they point out the primary shortcoming is being able to link the actual gun to owners, it is a big start to being able to see when a gun has been used in multiple crimes. When it has, capturing the owner or user of the gun helps them solve multiple crimes at one time, saving time and money for the police agencies. More and more police departments are getting the technology every day. And as more and more obtain the system, they will be able to network on a national basis, outside of the FBI and ATF databases that were difficult to connect with on a local level.

While this isn’t perfect and doesn’t guarantee a conviction, it is a huge step forward in being able to assist local police in solving crimes using guns faster and with more accuracy. It is a piece to help them put the evidence together to hopefully capture criminals faster and get them in jail with a higher probability of a conviction. I’m sure we are going to hear much more about this in the future.
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