Agents use new tools to trace handguns

This is a discussion on Agents use new tools to trace handguns within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; Agents use new tools to trace handguns By DAVID B. CARUSO, Associated Press Writer Fri Jul 13, 4:54 PM ET NEW YORK - The shell ...

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Thread: Agents use new tools to trace handguns

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array raysheen's Avatar
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    Agents use new tools to trace handguns

    Agents use new tools to trace handguns
    By DAVID B. CARUSO, Associated Press Writer
    Fri Jul 13, 4:54 PM ET


    NEW YORK - The shell casings had barely cooled on a Brooklyn street when federal agents began trying to unwrap a mystery: How did three pistols get in the hands of the men who gunned down two police officers?

    At the time, the agents had little to go on. The shooters were still on the loose. But within hours, agents learned that the guns were originally sold by three shops in southern states. Powerful computer databases also told them two of the weapons were several years old. Another was nearly new.

    By Monday evening, the agents were headed south, hunting for prior owners of the weapons who might explain how the guns traveled north to New York from Virginia, Tennessee and Alabama.

    This was routine work for one of the six regional gun-tracing centers run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Each day, the centers use a combination of science and shoe-leather detective work to track hundreds of firearms from crime scenes, looking for clues that can lead to a big break or put them on the trail of a gunrunner.

    "Every gun has a story to tell," said William G. McMahon, the special agent in charge of the ATF's New York field office.

    The good news is that telling that story has been getting a little easier.

    Years ago, investigators trying to trace a weapon had to browse file cabinets filled with index cards.

    These days, investigators at ATF centers in New York, Miami, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles and Washington have high-tech tools at their disposal.

    Every sale of a new firearm at a licensed gun shop is recorded, and the sales data can be analyzed by computer for clues and trends. Investigators also map where guns are recovered, sometimes with intriguing results.

    The ATF's regional gun center in Chicago analyzed records related to guns recently seized from gang members and discovered that more than 300 of the weapons had been purchased from just four shops in Mississippi.

    That lead resulted in the February arrests of 19 people on charges that they were buying weapons in bulk in Mississippi and illegally selling them to gang members up north.

    "The hardware we have is top-notch. The software continues to improve, and our analysts are great," said Andrew Traver, agent in charge of the ATF's Chicago field division.

    High tech isn't a cure-all, he said. But it helps agents stay on top of a mountain of guns. Last year, he said, Chicago police requested trace information on nearly 13,000 firearms.

    "When you get down to it, the problem itself is almost overwhelming because of the volume," Traver said.

    The task is made harder by limited manpower. Even the largest of the tracing centers has only a few dozen agents, plus a few officers detailed from city police departments.

    That means investigators need to be somewhat selective in which crimes get their full attention, said Kelvin Crenshaw, the special agent in charge of the Seattle field division.

    But the speed at which agents can work was apparent Monday after NYPD officers Russel Timoshenko and Herman Yan were wounded during a traffic stop of a stolen car.

    The shooting happened at 2:30 a.m. The guns were found a short time later.

    By 10 a.m. the serial numbers of the weapons had been delivered to the ATF's tracing center in Brooklyn. By 1 p.m., investigators knew who first purchased the guns and where.

    The next part of performing the trace has been harder.

    Federal law does not require gun owners to register their weapons or report secondhand sales, so agents must rely on old-fashioned police work. In most cases, that means finding the original owners and getting them to talk about what happened to the guns after they bought them.

    Tracking those people consumes a ton of manpower, "and a lot of times, it doesn't lead anywhere," McMahon said.

    One of the guns used in the New York police shooting had at least three owners, including one now out of the country on a cruise. The agents reached him aboard the ship by telephone.

    Another original owner died years ago. The third gun had at least two previous owners. One is in prison.

    ATF spokesman Joseph Green said investigators have yet to prove how the guns were delivered to the men now charged with the shootings.

    The stakes are high. Timoshenko was fighting for his life after being shot in the face and neck.

    Ballistics tests offered an additional surprise: The .45-caliber pistol used to shoot the officer was also used in an earlier drive-by shooting.

    "We're going to keep at it," Green said. "Once you're on the trail, you never know where it may take you."

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  3. #2
    Member Array Jeremiah's Avatar
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    "Tracking those people consumes a ton of manpower, 'and a lot of times, it doesn't lead anywhere,' McMahon said."

    That pretty much sums up what I was thinking reading this. You have the criminals, lock them up. What does it matter where the guns came from?
    At first I thought this was going to be a story about how the fired casing registration had actually been used for something. Nope!

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    VIP Member Array sgtD's Avatar
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    One way to avoid the wasted expense would be to do away with the prohibition on guns in NYC & Chicago. Then when criminals got guns, you wouldn't have to travel to Mississippi to find out where it came from. They could find the person who sold it to them and then decide of a crime was committed in the act of supplying the firearms to a felon.

    Beyond that, this entire article and the pretext for these nationwide searches is nothing more than a waste of time and money.

    The criminal and the person selling the gun to them are the guilty parties, not everyone else who ever owned the gun since it was manufactured. Even then, this whole thing takes place after the crime has been carried out, so it really does nothing. All though I understand that they do want to catch the gun runners who supply guns to criminals.

    This is just another article being used to persuade people that gun registration is necessary and will reduce crime.

    Poppycock!
    When you've got 'em by the balls, their hearts & minds will follow. Semper Fi.

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    Senior Member Array raysheen's Avatar
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    we have a system in place in NYS called COBIS.
    It is a database fired cases from all new handguns sold in the state.

    Cost: $25,000,000
    Results: Not one single case solved since its inception

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    VIP Member Array ccw9mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremiah View Post
    You have the criminals, lock them up. What does it matter where the guns came from?
    Of course, info cuts both ways. When the perps are caught and the "trail" of evidence via this tool simply adds more info but no more firepower to convict more perps, it's dead info. However, if the perps aren't caught, or if the trail continues into the networks of perp suppliers and gunrunning, then such info could prove valuable to even finding the perps in the first place. I'm guessing this tool would be no different.

    That said, it also has the potential to be abused by dishonorable people ... like any tool.
    Your best weapon is your brain. Don't leave home without it.
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    Yep, about 18- 20 some odd years ago, I had a gun stolen from me by a person I worked with. (S&W 459)

    He was a medic, had a family and owned a couple guns himself. He had worked with us for about a year and a half, I had been to his house for dinner a few times and a couple parties and he was just one of the guys. He was interested in buying my gun after I told him I was wanting to buy a new gun. I let him borrow it for a couple weeks to try it out at the range.

    He went on vacation to another state during that time and apparently was looking for another job out there. When he returned, he got fired by our service and within days... before I could get my gun back, he split town with my gun. He stole all of a rental company's appliances to include washer, dryer, refrigerator, Console TV and Stove. He also left owing his landlord (a fire captain) 3 months rent too.

    I tried to get the police to take a stolen gun report at two different precincts and they refused because technically, "I loaned" him the gun. I explained he skipped town and was never coming back. He stole a few thousand dollars worth of rental appliances and they were looking for him. Left owing rent and who knows what else.

    They told me it was a civil matter and would not take a stolen gun report.

    I asked them what would happen if a crime is committed with that gun sometime in the future. They just said, tell the cops what happened when they come to my door looking for a murderer.

    I never liked that answer and it never set well with me! I was not happy!

    To this day, I worry from time to time where the hell that gun is and what my responsibility would actually be?

    The only thing I remember about the guy is his name. I can't even remember his wife or kids names.
    -Bark'n
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    "The gun is the great equalizer... For it is the gun, that allows the meek to repel the monsters; Whom are bigger, stronger and without conscience, prey on those who without one, would surely perish."

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    VIP Member Array obxned's Avatar
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    So why in the world were repeat violent offenders out on the loose free to do their evil again and again??

    Let's throw a few incompetent judges, lazy prosecutors, and negligent parole board members in jail. Oh, and why don't we lock up the thugs while we are at it?
    "If we loose Freedom here, there's no place to escape to. This is the Last Place on Earth!" Ronald Reagan

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    Member Array Phaetos's Avatar
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    Just how do they go from shell casings and not know diddly squat about the scene to having serial numbers of the guns in question barely 8 hours later? Do they live on the set of CSI?
    "While the wicked stand confounded, call me with thy saints surrounded."

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    Senior Member Array jualdeaux's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phaetos View Post
    Just how do they go from shell casings and not know diddly squat about the scene to having serial numbers of the guns in question barely 8 hours later? Do they live on the set of CSI?
    That was my first question as well.

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    Senior Member Array stanislaskasava's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phaetos View Post
    Just how do they go from shell casings and not know diddly squat about the scene to having serial numbers of the guns in question barely 8 hours later? Do they live on the set of CSI?
    They found the weapons. Then they read the serial number on the frame. It's a powerful, new tool.

    Quote Originally Posted by raysheen View Post
    The shooting happened at 2:30 a.m. The guns were found a short time later.

    By 10 a.m. the serial numbers of the weapons had been delivered to the ATF's tracing center in Brooklyn. By 1 p.m., investigators knew who first purchased the guns and where.

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    Member Array Passa Fist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bark'n View Post
    I let him borrow it for a couple weeks to try it out at the range.
    You can gladly go to the range WITH ME and fire my weapons. But there is NO WAY IN HELL, I would loan ANY firearm that I own out to anyone.

    Sarcasm: "Hey, can I borrow a gin for a couple of days? Sure! (takes it and kills someone and brings it back.) Thanks.
    John 15:13 - Greater love have no man, than he who is willing to lay down his life for a friend. (Let's just pray we BOTH come out alive)

    If the guns kill then pencils misspell words!

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    Distinguished Member Array Colin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raysheen View Post
    we have a system in place in NYS called COBIS.
    It is a database fired cases from all new handguns sold in the state.

    Cost: $25,000,000
    Results: Not one single case solved since its inception
    We got you beat, Canada spent about 2 billion and they still have to lie to make it sound worthwhile.

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    VIP Member Array Rob72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by obxned View Post
    Let's throw a few incompetent judges, lazy prosecutors, and negligent parole board members in jail. Oh, and why don't we lock up the thugs while we are at it?
    Don't know if anyone caught it, but China just executed the Trade Minister responsible for exporting the "tainted produce" that ended up in pet food. I like their Civil Service Punitive Redress System.

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    Member Array Protect's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob72 View Post
    Don't know if anyone caught it, but China just executed the Trade Minister responsible for exporting the "tainted produce" that ended up in pet food. I like their Civil Service Punitive Redress System.
    Our political system *might* be a little better if the politicians had to face the music for their decisions.
    "When a man attempts to deal with me by force, I answer himóby force.
    "... No, I do not share his evil or sink to his concept of morality: I merely grant him his choice, destruction, the only destruction he had the right to choose: his own." -John Galt, Atlas Shrugged

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    VIP Member Array packinnova's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by obxned View Post
    So why in the world were repeat violent offenders out on the loose free to do their evil again and again??

    Let's throw a few incompetent judges, lazy prosecutors, and negligent parole board members in jail. Oh, and why don't we lock up the thugs while we are at it?
    Better yet...why do repeat violent offenders end up in jail at all? Why do we keep feeding them, protecting them, paying their medical bills, etc... I'm all for being old fashioned in those kinds of cases. Somebody pass the rope please! If someone is SO dangerous as to no one ever wanting them released...why put them in and support them in the first place!!!!
    ...off my soap box now.
    "My God David, We're a Civilized society."

    "Sure, As long as the machines are workin' and you can call 911. But you take those things away, you throw people in the dark, and you scare the **** out of them; no more rules...You'll see how primitive they can get."
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