Mandating electronic ballistic registration of firearms

A new national model may come from Denver, which created a Crime Gun Intelligence Center (CGIC) in 2013 in order to coordinate a multi-agency approach to processing NIBIN information and investigating gun crimes more effectively.According to Greg La Berge, the director of the Denver Police Department’s Forensics and Evidence Division, in less than two years, CGIC was credited for assisting with the arrest of 25 repeat shooters connected to 40 different incidents.

When a “match” (or “hit”) is found, firearms examiners are able to conclude that the same gun was used in both crimes.Recovered crime guns are also test-fired and their ballistic images entered into the system, allowing law enforcement to determine whether those guns were used in other crimes.Without the assistance of ballistic identification, this crime would have been much more difficult — if not impossible — to solve.Ballistic identification is based on the fact that all firearms leave unique markings on the cartridge cases they expel when fired, leaving behind a sort of fingerprint that allows law enforcement experts to link cartridge cases to the specific gun that fired them.In the early days of ballistic identification, this process was conducted by individual technicians and was extremely time-consuming because of the sheer volume of images that needed to be manually reviewed.

However, in the mid-1990s, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) pioneered the concept of using automated ballistic imaging and computer comparison equipment to analyze crime gun evidence, making the identification process much faster and more efficient.

One reason gun crimes are so difficult to solve is that very little evidence is usually left behind at the scene, with the exception of spent cartridge cases that are expelled when a gun is fired.

Not surprisingly, cartridge cases are much more likely to be recovered at the scene of a shooting than the gun itself.

A number of evaluations of NIBIN and the CGIC strategy are expected soon.

It’s important that researchers continue to evaluate the effectiveness of these strategies, especially given that NIBIN is not necessarily cheap.

For example, on July 10, 2007, a gunman shot and killed three people in their apartment in North Charleston, South Carolina.