CBP begins ballistic testing on seized firearms

Posted: Updated:
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Guns seized along our border with Mexico are undergoing ballistic tests to see if they were used in crimes here in the Valley or elsewhere across the nation. Of course there is no way you can look at a gun and tell how many, if any, crimes a gun was used to commit without that testing, and now more and more local, state and federal agencies are coming to Phoenix to get it done.
An AK47, a MAC-10 and countless handguns are just some of the guns seized so far this year by the Border Patrol in Arizona.
“Most guns we find are in the desert used by drug smugglers to protect their loads,” said Andy Adame, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “We're testing every gun we find out in the field, we're bringing it up to Phoenix once a month, getting it tested to see if it's tied to any crimes.”
It's all part of NIBIN or the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network launched by the ATF in 1990 and operated by the Phoenix Police Department since 2002.
“When that gun fires, it leaves a specific mark from that gun not unlike a fingerprint a human leaves,” said Phoenix police Sgt. Tommy Thompson.
Ideally, all guns seized would be test-fired and all shell casings gathered at crime scenes would be entered into the database. Today, law enforcement from Florence, Tempe, Peoria and Phoenix had guns to test along with the Border Patrol.
“Now when we seize a weapon in the field we'll be able to tell if this weapon was used in a crime here in the United States,” Adame said.
When a pattern from a test-fire or an evidence scene casing is entered into NIBIN, it could take as little as an hour or two to get the entry analyzed to see if there is a hit. The Phoenix police NIBIN lab has had some 520 hits, or matches, to date. And the border patrol realizes, “We may have some guns in our vaults at specific stations where those guns may be linked to crimes in the United States."
Again, Phoenix police have been using this technology since 2002 making it available to other local, state and federal agencies. Of course there is a back log, but the idea is that the data base will grow and shell casings, like DNA and fingerprints, will help law enforcement ID a gun and thus a suspect.