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Attorney General Bill Lockyer Issues Statement Calling For National Ballistics Identification System

Sunday, October 20, 2002
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today issued the following statement regarding ballistics database:

"As directed by state law, the California Department of Justice is currently evaluating the feasibility, cost, and value of creating a state firearms ballistics databank, which would utilize images of shell casings and bullets provided by manufacturers and importers of firearms. In order to complete a thorough and credible evaluation, my office is relying on the expertise of some of the world's foremost experts on firearms and database technology. While our evaluation won't be completed for another six months, I believe that the potential for solving crimes and saving lives through the use of an effective national ballistics database is so significant that the Federal government should make it a top national priority to complete the research, overcome any technological obstacles, and fully fund the creation and maintenance of a national database for use by law enforcement at federal, state and local levels.

It has been incorrectly reported that the State of California has studied the efficacy of ballistics databanks and concluded that they are ineffective. Not so. We have not completed our evaluation, but we have identified two important issues that should be addressed in any state or federal ballistics database. First, a database must be sufficiently sophisticated to store and distinguish unique ballistic markings for millions of firearms with adequate speed and accuracy as well as the capability to narrow possible "suspect" firearms to a realistic and useful few. In California, at least 100,000 firearms are sold each year that would qualify for submission to a ballistics database. Nationally, the number of qualifying firearms sold is in excess of one million. A database containing millions of images and details from firearms would be unprecedented in size and scope. While the technology undoubtedly exists to create such a database, we will need to demand that such a database meet carefully developed specifications in order to do so. Second, adequate funding must be obtained to implement this technology and provide the necessary equipment to law enforcement personnel.

The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have proven through their National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) that ballistics databases help law enforcement solve crimes. That database, however, only contains information for about a half-million firearms that have already been used in crimes. It is critically important that we invest our resources and energy to create a ballistics database that contains information about all new firearms manufactured and sold in order to help law enforcement solve crimes faster and save lives.

While individual states throughout the country may implement their own ballistics systems in the years ahead, it is clear to me that a piecemeal approach is a poor alternative. The most effective and useful system would be a national program requiring all firearm manufacturers and sellers of qualifying guns in the United States to submit ballistics information to a consolidated database."

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