Every person has a unique fingerprint. Most everyone knows this. But, did you know that every gun has something similar?
When a gun is fired, it leaves unique markings on each shell casing. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has a little-known program in place that uses these “firearm fingerprints” to link suspects to a crime. Let’s take a look at how ballistics labs in California are using this information to catch those who commit crimes involving firearms.
Fingerprints for Firearms
The National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) is a ballistics database maintained by the ATF.
When a shell casing is found at the scene of a crime, law enforcement agencies can submit the evidence to NIBIN labs. Ballistics investigators can then see if those casings match with any others in the database, potentially connecting separate shootings to the same shooter or gun.
At NIBIN ballistics labs, bullet casings are uploaded into the database using an imaging machine. Any firearms that are collected are fired in a water tank and bullet casings from that shot are entered into the database to search for matches.
So, how does this work in real life situations? In 2016, a home burglary in California turned violent when the victim was shot. Law enforcement officers could not crack the case until a few months later, when a gun was found in a parking lot. The weapon was sent to a local NIBIN lab, where it was linked back to the home burglary as well as two other shootings through its “firearm fingerprint.”
There are 179 NIBIN sites in the U.S., which serve about 3,000 law enforcement agencies. However, some law enforcement agencies don’t use the database at all
How the Ballistics Database Makes Catching Criminals Easier
Studies show it can take months to a year to process gun casings in most law enforcement agencies, allowing the evidence trail to grow cold and shooters to go free. Turning in evidence to NIBIN labs greatly speeds up that process.
For any crime involving the firing of a firearm, chances are that the bullet casings will be taken into evidence and entered into the NIBIN database. If police can find the firearm that was used or if there are any bullet casing matches in the ballistics database, it would make it very easy for law enforcement to identify the suspect. Additionally, that suspect could be charged with any other crime he or she may have previously committed using that same firearm.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
Crimes involving firearms are taken very seriously in California. That is why you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately if you or someone you love has been accused of a crime involving a gun.
At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled criminal defense attorneys have more than 35 years of experience successfully defending clients facing criminal charges involving the use of a firearm. Let us help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles and San Diego, you can find an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available near you no matter where you are located.
Call our office today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.