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Tracking gun 'fingerprints' to crackdown on offenders

Tracking gun 'fingerprints' to crackdown on offenders

HOME OFFICE News Release (034/2009) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 2 March 2009

A new state of the art £8 million national ballistics service to assist police in solving gun crimes was officially opened today by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

The National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) provides a specialist 'CSI-style' analysis of all ballistics - effectively giving guns and bullets a 'fingerprint' which can be tracked. This means that police across the country will be able to match guns to offenders in double quick time and trace which gun a bullet has been fired from when criminals are using it more than once. NABIS will support the police to solve crimes where firearms have been used quickly, identify the few individuals who import, store and supply illegal firearms and track down the people involved in illegally converting or adapting firearms.

Since NABIS began work three months ago it has already linked over 100 incidents in which firearms have been discharged and have received over 700 items for analysis. This includes providing support to the police teams investigating Operation Trident incidents in London and the Fairfield Post Office shooting.

The national database, available to all 43 forces across England and Wales includes:

* A complete registry of all recovered guns and ammunition coming into police possession in England and Wales;

* A ballistics comparison capability to link crimes and incidents within 24 to 48 hours; and

* Intelligence relating to suspects, weapons, locations and incidents. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

"Every gun or bullet tells a story. The National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) helps police unravel that story and track down offenders. NABIS's specialist CSI-style analysis of ballistics - effectively giving guns and bullets a fingerprint which can be tracked - will help police to match guns to offenders in double quick time.

"NABIS's expert advice will help police take more guns off our streets and better protect our communities from gun-related crimes".

The Government and police are also concerned about the use of deactivated firearms in crime. The concerns are on two fronts: the reactivation of deactivated firearms and the misuse of firearms while in their deactivated form to threaten and intimidate people.

The new consultation paper seeks views on which of the following options, or a combination thereof, represents the best way forward:

* Treat deactivated guns as realistic imitation firearms.
* Make deactivation standards a mandatory requirement.
* Require pre-1995 deactivations to be modified to the 1995 standard.
* Sell deactivated guns only through Registered Firearms Dealers.
* Prohibit certain convicted offenders from buying deactivated guns.

The Home Secretary added:

"Deactivated firearms that fall into the criminal hands can have terrifying, violent consequences. We estimate that there are about 180,000 certificated deactivated guns in circulation and a further 8,000 or 9,000 guns are deactivated each year.

"I do not wish to interfere with genuine collectors and others with a legitimate and safe use for these items. That is why I am asking people from a range agencies and organisations who have the expert knowledge to tell us the best way to crack down on this problem"

During her visit, the Home Secretary also opened a conference room at the centre dedicated to teenagers Letitia Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis. They were both killed in a drive-by shooting six years ago in Birmingham.


1. NABIS was initially jointly funded by the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers, with an investment of £5.5 million. The Association of Chief Police Officers will be funding the service for a further £2.5 million per year.

2. The programme went live on 3 November 2008.

3. More information about the National Ballistics Intelligence Service can be found at http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/ballistics/index-temp.asp

4. The Tackling Gangs Action Programme was launched by the Home Secretary in September 2007 as the focus of renewed action to tackle gun crime and serious violence amongst young people and delivered a 51% reduction in firearms-related injuries over a six-month period.

5. The public consultation on regulations to control the use of deactivated firearms is available online at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk.

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