New York Ballistic Database Firing Blanks?


June 4, 2004, 10:56 PM
Fron NRA-ILA today ......


New York Ballistic Database Firing Blanks?
A database designed to match handguns in New York state to crime scene
evidence has not solved a crime more than three years after its debut.,0,6234238.story?coll=ny-ap-regional-wire
Pataki administration officials cite difficulties local police can face in getting crime scene evidence to Albany, where the database is housed. But state officials say they are close to solving the problem through a deal that would allow inquiries made around New York to piggyback on a federal ballistic network.

Since March 2001, identifying information about each new pistol and revolver sold in New York has been entered into the Combined Ballistic Identification System database. Under the system, called CoBIS for short, new guns are fired, casings are collected and the minute markings are cataloged by a computer. Law enforcement officials say the unique markings are like gun "fingerprints" and that bullet casings recovered from crime scenes can potentially be matched with the more than 53,000 guns entered into New York's database. New York and Maryland are the only states operating such databases.

Federal law enforcement officials run a different sort of database containing information on guns used in crimes, as opposed to new guns. The federal National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, called NIBIN, has been credited with thousands of "hits," many of them yielding investigative information. Maryland's database, five months older than New York's, has posted six hits based on more than 160 queries, according to Maryland state police.

New York's database has produced no hits from 203 queries.

Proponents of ballistic databases say New York's system is still relatively young and that it could take years before new, legally purchased guns are used in crimes. New York criminal justice officials said there is a logistical hurdle, too. Since the CoBIS station is at state police headquarters in Albany, investigators in cities like Buffalo or Watertown must transport crime scene casings to Albany for testing.

State officials hope to make their system more accessible by using the eight federal NIBIN stations around New York as entry points for evidence. But federal regulations bar information on new guns from being entered into that system _ rules attributed to the influence of gun advocates concerned over central registries.

Pataki administration officials say they reached a deal with federal officials that would allow crime scene information to be transmitted one-way to the NIBIN station at state police headquarters in Albany. It would then pass through a firewall to the state-run system, where the actual matching would be done.

ATF spokeswoman Sheree Mixell said there is no final agreement yet. But she said talks were continuing with law enforcement officials in New York to assist them in a way that does not violate the law.

Jessica Scaperotti, a spokeswoman for the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, said the Pataki administration is confident that the federal partnership will help realize the "tremendous potential" of CoBIS. "Gun fingerprinting has the power to provide powerful evidence that can solve crimes," she said.

While the administration expects the arrangement to result in new investigative leads, it's not likely to dampen the long-running dispute over ballistic databases. In New York, a recently filed lawsuit challenging the $1.5 million-a-year system alleges that it violates the privacy of gun owners. Others have questioned whether the databases in New York and Maryland will ever be effective.

Walter Rowe, a professor of forensic science at George Washington University, said there are too many ways to get around New York's database. Criminals can buy guns in neighboring states or simply take a file to the gun's breech face, essentially changing the gun's unique "signature." "If one does a cost benefit analysis, this might not have been a wise way to spend public money," Rowe said.

Eric Gorovitz of The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence disputed the contention that criminals can easily foil the database with a file given the wide array of markings the computer looks at. "Even if they did succeed in doing it once in a while, it's still a tool you don't otherwise have," Gorovitz said. "Nobody says, 'People wear gloves. We shouldn't a have a fingerprint database,' It's a preposterous suggestion."

Gorovitz believes a major problem with ballistic databases is that only New York and Maryland have one. They need to be more widespread to be effective, he said. Don't need to comment much on this except ...... Gorovitz believes a major problem with ballistic databases is that only New York and Maryland have one. They need to be more widespread to be effective, he said And where I ask is the logic in that? So - every state has one?? Big deal .. it'll still be a highly expensive and near useless tool ...... minimally effective IMO.

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buy guns
June 4, 2004, 11:12 PM
ballistics can only match shells to a type of gun and not a specific gun right?

June 4, 2004, 11:21 PM
''In theory'' ....... a shell could be matched. By virtue of distinctive impressions made due to extractor claw ... ejector and firing pin indent.

In practice .. I have always seen this as highly improbable. It takes little skill to alter the profile of any of these cvomponents ... so a BG could probably make enough chganges to throw the process. Sufficient even to perhaps obscure the gun type.

Whatever .... it is a non-cost effective debacle IMO. Sounds good when the legislators decide it's a ''great idea'' .. keeps the Brady crew, et al, happy I guess.:rolleyes:

June 5, 2004, 01:25 AM
California -- yes CALIFORNIA -- as PC and lame as they are on firearms knowledge and function rejected ballistic "fingerprinting" (as if firearms have fingers) as a financial boondoggle. They stated that they were rejecting it because of cost, unreliability, and the ability to alter the characteristics by merely firing the weapon.

Imagine that!

June 5, 2004, 07:43 AM
ballistics can only match shells to a type of gun and not a specific gun right?

Yes, and no; the IBIS/NIBIN/CoBIS systems simply rank a questioned piece of evidence according to how close it is to something that's already in the database. It's up to a firearms and tool-marks examiner to then take those two pieces of evidence and say either "Yes, these casings/bullets were fired in the same firearm", or "No they weren't." I've seen some matches that were so close that it's simply a formality for an examiner to confirm a match, but others where either the breechface markings or firing-pin imprints had changed to the point where ONLY an examiner would be able to make the call. Because the system can't say "THIS is the gun you're looking for", it's ludicrous to claim that "ballistic fingerprinting" can work the way the antis would like it to; at best, all the system can do is say "Out of these 20 pieces of evidence, these 5 are the closest to the one that you're asking about." If you put every single firearm in the world into a system like this, instead of getting FIVE possibles, you'd be getting 50,000 possibles, which would be impossible for an examiner to go through and weed out anyway.
You've also got the problem of making sure that the original test samples entered as being from a particular firearm are actually FROM that firearm; this isn't a problem when a crime gun is sent to a lab for testing, but it's a BIG problem at a factory when you're firing hundreds or thousands of identical firearms. In an interesting experiment last year, the Association of Firearms & Toolmarks Examiners / AFTE looked at 15 brand-new pistols that were shipped to a law-enforcement agency WITH their mandated "test" casings; in 12 out of the 15, one or both of the "test casings" WEREN'T EVEN FIRED IN THE PISTOLS THEY WERE SHIPPED WITH.

June 5, 2004, 09:54 AM
Ballistic Fingerprinting in Maryland: 4 years, 6 "hits", and ZERO crimes solved.

The thing that REALLY irks me about this is amount of freakin' tax dollars that are being wasted on this.

We tried it.
It doesn't work.
Now let's nix it.

Of course the minute ONE CRIME is solved with BF, the anti's and media will be all over it claiming how effective a crime fighting tool it is.

June 5, 2004, 08:50 PM
If it saves only one life you know...:banghead:

June 5, 2004, 09:31 PM
Cost to return means nothing to politicians. If the life of one drug pushing gangbanger who never contributed a dime to society can be saved at a cost of 25 million dollars they will consider it money well spent.

June 5, 2004, 10:07 PM
cost of 25 million dollars they will consider it money well spent Indeed Jim but .... who's money!?? The taxpayer's. That money which can be squandered as seen fit ..... instead of spent wisely. :banghead: :(

We see it - over and over ........

Standing Wolf
June 5, 2004, 10:12 PM
We tried it.
It doesn't work.
Now let's nix it.

You obviously don't have what it takes to be a leftist extremist. Here's the right mantra:

We tried it.
It didn't work.
We need to raise taxes.

June 6, 2004, 08:30 PM
:( Sigh! The politicians never cease to do stupid things do they!

June 6, 2004, 08:37 PM
Standing Wolf is correct...

you have to throw more money at the problem...

Phil in Seattle
June 6, 2004, 11:28 PM

Here are some useful resources in countering the "ballistic fingerprinting" lies
By Jeff Chan (with some additions from Syd)

NSSF Press Release:

NSSF Ballistic Imaging Fact Sheet:

NSSF copy of California State report on Ballistic Fingerprinting:

NSSF copy of H.R. 3491:

Lockyer covering up doj report condemning ballistic imaging
DOJ experts gagged by CA attorney general

California DOJ Follow-Up Report On Ballistic "Fingerprinting" Confirms Technology Not Feasible slideshow, clearly explains problems:

Beltway Killer Media Response Kit

How Reliable Is Ballistic Fingerprinting?,2933,66007,00.html

Exploiting Mass Murder By Dr. Michael S. Brown
The weaknesses of ballistic fingerprinting

A tough call on gun 'fingerprinting',1299,DRMN_38_1491884,00.html

If ballistic fingerprinting worked...
D.C.-Area Police Know Caliber of Sniper's Bullets, but Gun Remains a Mystery

The Hardyville Study on the Effectiveness of Ballistic Fingerprinting

Not So Fast. Ballistic fingerprinting.
National Review Online. Oct. 23, 2002.
Dave Kopel with Paul H. Blackman.

Does The United States Need A National Database For Ballistic Fingerprints?
By Stephen P. Halbrook
Technically, the proposal just isn't feasible as a crime-fighting tool.

June 6, 2004, 11:40 PM
If that lot Phil - does not make it obvious what a joke it is --- I'm not sure what will!:p

Night Guy
June 7, 2004, 01:57 AM
IF I were a criminal and I was aware of this so called ballistic fingerprinting database being used in my state, I'd use a revolver and be darn sure I complete my crime without reloading.:scrutiny:

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