Good Example Of Term Paper On Firearms Identification

Type of paper: Term Paper

Topic: Crime, Social Issues, Identification, Police, Science, Criminal Justice, Nuclear Weapon, Atomic Bomb

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/02/24


The science of forensic firearm identification dates back to the early 20th century. However, the primary tools as well as the principles used in this field have changed by a significant margin since this time. One of the most important tools in the field of firearm identification is the microscope and in the last 100 years, nothing has changed much in regards to the microscope. The microscope still finds a lot of usage in the modern field of firearm identification. Before the 19th century, many judicial institutions were oblivious to the science of firearm identification and it was indeed not recognized in many judicial systems. The turn of the century however saw an increase in the recognition of this science. This was primarily because of a large number of scientists across the world who were performing experiments regarding the identification of fired cartridges or projectiles and tying them to specific firearms and aiding in the identification of crime perpetrators. This paper looks at firearms investigation with particular focus on how the police are able to link shell casings and bullets from a crime scene to a particular gun. The paper also looks briefly at how firearm investigations assist prosecutors in the course of their work of prosecuting criminals.
The science if firearm investigation has continued to evolve throughout the 20th century with some of the most landmark events in relation to this being the opening of the FBI crime laboratory as well as the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory. Firearm identification has become one of the most important sections of the forensic departments of many states. Today, the science of firearm identification is very developed and is constantly being used to link evidence collected at crime scenes to specific firearms and therefore helping a lot in criminal investigations and in arresting individuals in the society who have committed criminal acts (James t al, 2014).
Therefore, when bullets or cartridge cases are taken by the police as part of evidence from a crime scene, all an examiner has to do is compare the microscopic marks on the cartridge cases and the bullets with those from a suspected weapon and determine whether these marks are consistent with those of the weapon (Fisher & Fisher, 2012). If they are, it means that the bullets were fired from this gun. This is essentially what happens in the science lab when it comes to the firearm identification.
There are however other processes and steps that take place in the crime lab that further assist in firearm identification. First of all, the weapons suspected to have been used in a crime are first test-fired when they arrive at the lab (Li, 2006). This is done so as to obtain exemplars of known evidence that are then compared to the cartridges cases from bullets collected from the scene of a crime. At this juncture, computer technology is introduced to assist in the process of determining whether a certain weapon was indeed used during the perpetration of a certain crime.
There are two specific imaging programs that are commonly used in many crime labs or firearm identification labs, and these are Matchpoint + and BrassTrax 3D (Michigan State Police, 2015). These systems or programs capture the digital photos of the bullets and fired cartridge cases that are then stored in a central database. Visual comparison of various images is then conducted in order to test for any similarities and to identify the bullets and casings from a particular weapon. If the police had for example taken images of the bullets and casings from another incidence and they show similarity to the ones that are currently under observation, then it can be concluded that the two separate incidences or shooting activities were carried out using the same gun (Michigan State Police, 2015). This has often proved to be very beneficial in the past where the police and investigators have been able to make connections between firearm evidence and shooting incidences that were committed in the past and whose weapons of preparation have never been found (DiMaio, 2002). An individual whose gun, for example, does not match with the casings of a current crime scene may find himself linked to another crime scene when the casings and bullet images display similarity (Eckert, 2010). This shows just how useful firearm identification is because it is not just used to solve present crimes but can at the same time positively contribute to the solving of crimes that happened in the past.
Another component of the firearm identification process is known as the serial number restoration. It is common knowledge that every firearm has a distinctive serial number that sets it apart from the other. Sometimes, however, unscrupulous individuals will attempt to obliterate the serial number of a firearm so as to conceal the ownership of firearm that has for example been stolen (Michigan State Police, 2015).
When the serial number of a firearm is obliterated, it becomes hard for the police to be able to tell who the legal owner of registered firearm is. Once again, firearm identification techniques have to be used to, for example, to reveal the serial number of the gun. One of the techniques or methods used by investigators is known as magnetic particle inspection. Others methods include heat/thermal procedures, electrochemical procedures as well as chemical etching (Michigan State Police, 2015).
These processes help to reveal the serial number of a weapon and after this has taken place, it is then possible for the police to pinpoint the registered owner of a firearm that has for example been used in criminal incidence and make an arrest if need be. However, it is important to note that firearm identification, in this case, may simply reveal the serial number of a weapon and thus the registered owner of the weapon, but it does always mean that this registered owner is the real perpetrator of a crime because the weapon could have been stolen and then used to commit a particular crime.
Therefore, the identification of a firearm and its owner is merely the first step during the criminal investigation and it does not mean that the criminal has been found simply because firearm identification has linked a particular gun to a particular person.
Unfortunately, one aspect that happens quite a lot in the course of investigations is the failure to continue with these investigations after a certain gun has been linked to both the casings and bullets from a crime scene and after that the gun has been linked to a particular person based on its serial number. If investigations stop here, there is a high likelihood of sending the wrong people to jail.
However, when it comes to criminal prosecution, the importance of firearm identification cannot be understated. Firearm identification has facilitated the closing of many cases by positively linking the casing and shells from a crime scene to a suspected gun found with a given person.
As mentioned previously before the 20th century, many legal and judicial systems across the world were oblivious to firearm identification technology, and it was in fact not legally accepted. However, as more research was conducted into this technology, and it was found to be reliable, it became increasingly accepted among many judicial systems across the world.
Currently, as part of prosecutorial evidence presentation, judges allocate time to firearm identification experts to present their evidence and show how they were able to connect the casings and bullets from certain crime scene to a certain gun and therefore to a certain person. If more evidence emerges linking this person to a particular crime, the work of the judge is made easier since there is little doubt that this person perpetrated the crime. In simple terms, firearm identification makes the work of the prosecutors easier in terms of linking an accused party to a given crime
In conclusion, it is clear that firearm identification is a science that has been evolving since the turn of the 20th Century and that has played a great role in the field of criminal justice. It has enabled police investigators to be able to identify perpetrators of criminal acts committed through the use of firearms by connecting the evidence left from a crime scene with the gun used to perpetrate a crime. With the advent of technology, there is no doubt that this science will continue to evolve as days go by. This will only be beneficial to the society, and it will play a great role in the maintenance of law and order in the society. However, it is also important to stress that criminals are unfortunately also getting wiser as they realize that leaving evidence at the crime scene in form of bullets and gun casings can catch up with them later on and are therefore adopting new ways of committing crime (Saferstein, 2004). Ultimately, the police entity must also come with new ways of keeping up with these criminals who are becoming cleverer by the day.


James, S. H., Nordby, J. J., & Bell, S. (Eds.). (2014). Forensic science: an introduction to scientific and investigative techniques. CRC press.
Saferstein, R. (2004). Criminalistics: An introduction to forensic science.
Eckert, W. G. (2010). Introduction to forensic sciences. CRC press.
Fisher, B. A., & Fisher, D. R. (2012). Techniques of crime scene investigation. CRC Press.
Li, D. (2006). Ballistics projectile image analysis for firearm identification. Image Processing, IEEE Transactions on, 15(10), 2857-2865.
DiMaio, V. J. (2002). Gunshot wounds: practical aspects of firearms, ballistics, and forensic techniques. CRC press.
Nichols, R. G. (1997). Firearm and tool mark identification criteria: review of literature. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 42, 466-474.
Michigan State Police. (2015). MSP - Firearms & Toolmarks. Retrieved from,4643,7-123-60141_60282_60497---,00.html

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