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manufactured by its contractor, Forensic Technology WAI, Inc. (FTI), of Montréal, Canada (see Box 4-1 in Chapter 4 for an important note on the use of the term “IBIS”). The IBIS platform acquires greyscale photographs of bullet or cartridge case evidence, scoring and ranking pairs of exhibits by deriving a mathematical signature from images. The scope of NIBIN is limited by legislative language, prohibiting it from including noncrime gun evidence in the database.
Second, RBIDs do currently exist but not at the national level. Two states—Maryland and New York—established RBID systems for new handguns sold in those states in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Both states use the same IBIS platform for acquiring images, but are barred from directly networking their RBID data with crime-scene-based NIBIN data. State legislation directed the California Department of Justice to study the feasibility of establishing an RBID in that state; its assessment in 2001 was that such a database was not feasible, but suggested that further study be conducted at the national level. In the wake of the October 2002 sniper shootings in the Washington, D.C., area, legislative proposals to create RBIDs were advanced or discussed in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts (Butterfield, 2002), as well as Missouri (George, 2004a).1
As of 2002, a national-level RBID was said to be under discussion in Belgium, and “a similar debate is going on in a number of member states of the European community” (De Kinder, 2002a:198). Recent U.S. Congresses have seen bills introduced that would create a national RBID, though none of the bills have advanced past referral to the appropriate committees.2 In
Both chambers of the New Jersey state legislature have, at different times, passed bills requiring some form of ballistic imaging, but not the same bill. In May 2000, the Senate passed S. 2048 on a 37–0 vote; the bill prohibited sales of handguns unless a “ballistics identifier” was obtained from the gun and put in a “qualified database.” A “ballistics identifier” was defined as “a digitized or electronic image of a bullet and shell casing … clearly showing the distinctive firing pin, ejection, extraction and land marks for that particular handgun.” In November 2002, the Assembly passed A. 438 on a 48–18–10 vote; initial bill text made submissions to an image database voluntary by handgun owners, but the passed bill had been amended to make submission of identifiers mandatory for all sold handguns. The bill was not acted upon by the Senate. In the 2004–2005 session, proposed bills would have required firearms repair shops to obtain ballistics identifiers for handguns or rifles before returning them to their owners; as of September 2006, no similar bills had been introduced in either chamber. In Massachusetts, a Boston police official lauded the idea as a “great law enforcement tool,” pointing to a case that had been solved using NIBIN (linking the same .22 caliber Ruger pistol to shootings of seven people in four cities,” as one where an earlier investigative lead to the gun’s purchaser would have been useful (Butterfield, 2002).
See, e.g., in the 108th Congress, the Technological Resource to Assist Criminal Enforcement (TRACE) Act (S. 469/H.R. 776) and the So No Innocent Person Ever Repeats (SNIPER) the Sniper Tragedy Act of 2003 (S. 1983), the latter of which incorporated the former in its entirety, as well as the Bullet Tracing Act to Reduce Gun Violence Act (H.R. 24). In the 107th Congress, see the Ballistics, Law Assistance, and Safety Technology (BLAST) Act (H.R. 5663)