Executive Director of the NFSS explains how lab uses tech to track guns

Executive Director of the NFSS explains how lab uses tech to track guns

While most of the firearms used to commit crimes enter the country illegally, there are instances where stolen guns fall into the hands of criminals. But where do these guns come from and how can authorities trace them? The National Forensic Science Service says their work has shown that most of the guns are illicitly trafficked from Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, and the United States of America. Gian Cho, Executive Director of the NFSS, says the guns are often legally purchased and smuggled into the country through various means. Today, he weighed in on the donation received by the police and how the lab uses technology to track guns found by the cops.

Gian Cho, Executive Director, National Forensic Science Service: “Regarding the recent donation I believe is to mark firearms or engrave firearms coming into Belize. Currently I know our law enforcement agencies and our military do mark their firearms so if those for instance end up using in criminal incidents or as part of an investigation they’re submitted it’s clearly marked as either police or military firearm. I believe there is only one firearm importer or dealer in Belize that has been responsible enough to mark their firearms that they purchase and sell and those have reached the lab sometimes when they’re either reported stolen or lost and used in criminal incidents. So we are hopeful that the donation of equipment to our authorities to mark firearms would be one step closer to where all importers would be required to mark their firearms with a feature usually it would be something like BZ to indicate that it was purchased by a dealer here in Belize. For instance in Guatemala their firearms that are legally imported to Guatemala are marked GUA, El Salvador I believe is ES or ELS, so in keeping up with some of the international commitments that we have to combat firearms trafficking it’s one step closer to that. And so that does help our firearms experts here when we do what is called tracing to trace where the firearm was purchased and from there usually trace back further where it was importer from. Through serial numbers we have access to databases that are managed by the US ATF as well as from Interpol to trace legally purchased firearms as well as lost or stolen firearms pertaining to the Interpol database.”

Cho further added that the NFSS is also able to restore firearm serial numbers that have been removed and conduct ballistic tests to match bullets to specific make and models. 

Gian Cho, Executive Director, National Forensic Science Service: “At our forensic lab we have the ability to restore serial numbers in most instances so there are times when guns would come in or be picked up or recovered by investigators with no serial numbers and we can restore it at least to give an indication of where it was purchased or where it was imported from. But that is separate from the ballistic comparison or the microscopic comparison that we can do which does nor rely on the serial numbers or the engravings that actually relies on the unique microscopic features of the firearm or what people would refer to as ballistic fingerprint that can identify that individual firearm and link it to other shootings or to fired components in the past. So that aspect there where we do ballistic comparison microscopy we do that on a routine basis actually. We get hundreds of cases every year for firearms investigations the comparison microscopy we use to confirm if the firearm was used in a particular shooting. We have in the past successfully linked through microscopic comparison analysis firearms that were recovered in Belize that were used in I think in both instances it was a murder in Guatemala. So we have been able to successfully match transnational trafficking of firearms in that manner through the Interpol database what is called the IBIN database. So that aspect there in terms of our use of our IBIS database to search wether another country’s database we just have to make a specific correlation request. We have also done that with the US authorities as well with the ATF NIBIN database where we suspect there may be some leads so we can request correlation searches in that aspect.”

We’ll have from out interview with the NFSS in tomorrow’s newscast.

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