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DAs, ATF and HIDTA Announce Game-Changer to Fight Gun Violence

From a press release

The district attorneys for Montgomery, Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties announced Wednesday that a new device obtained by Montgomery County will be used to dramatically cut down on gun violence by more rapidly tracing ammunition used in crimes more.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, Chester County District Attorney Deborah Ryan, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub, ATF Philadelphia Field Division Special Agent in Charge Eric DeGree and Liberty MidAtlantic High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Deputy Director Brian Michael announced Wednesday the acquisition of an ATF NIBIN machine.

The machine acquired by Montgomery County with federal funds will be used by all four suburban Philadelphia counties to dramatically upgrade law enforcement’s investigations, prosecutions and deterrence of gun crimes. NIBIN, which stands for the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, is a network database of fired cartridge casings (FCCs) from crime guns across the United States. Because each firearm leaves its own signature on bullet casings when a gun is fired—a unique set of scratches, grooves and/or dents—the NIBIN system can quickly compare these individual bullet casing “fingerprints” against its six million FCC database and create a list of high-probability matches.

From there, those hits are confirmed by a firearms examiner and then become investigative leads for detectives to use. Detectives will systemically look at the NIBIN leads and evidence of each case to determine the connections and suspects. Two types of FCC evidence are inputted into NIBIN: FCCs recovered at the scene of violent crimes and FCCs obtained from seized firearms that are test fired.

Those FCCs from Montgomery, Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties will be transported to the Montgomery County Detective Bureau’s Forensic Lab within 48 hours and then inputted into NIBIN. The results will then be sent back to the originating county for detective review and follow up. The quicker any resulting hits are obtained, the more useful the investigative lead is in terms of solving the crime at hand as well as interrupting the shooting cycle and disrupting the organizations operating in gun trafficking and gun violence.

“This is a game-changer in combatting gun crimes and gun violence. With this NIBIN portal, Montgomery County and the surrounding counties are in position to be able to quickly respond to gun crimes that are linked together in a timely manner and disrupt the shooting cycle by these trigger pullers,” said Steele. “We in Montgomery, Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties have not been immune to regional gun crimes and gun violence spilling over into our counties and all of us, along with our federal partners, are committed to responding vigorously and stopping this gun violence that threatens the safety of our communities.”

The funding for the NIBIN machine came from the Liberty Mid-Atlantic HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area), a federal program that fosters initiatives and inter-agency cooperation to curtail drug trafficking in the Delaware Valley. Crime data shows that gun traffickers are frequently involved in drug trafficking and drug traffickers are often heavily armed with illegally obtained firearms.

“The Liberty Mid-Atlantic HIDTA is proud to make investments in technologies for our region’s local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that enhance their capabilities to thwart the illegal firearms trade, drug trafficking and the violence that so often comes with both,” said HIDTA’s Brian Michael. “We are confident that the acquisition of the NIBIN system for this multi-county collaboration will succeed in accelerating investigative successes when gunfire breaks out and will lead to safer communities in Philadelphia and its suburbs.”

The ATF launched the national NIBIN program in 1997, and the number of NIBIN sites has grown steadily since, now numbering 293 systems around the country. There are seven in Pennsylvania, including two in the region housed in the Philadelphia Police Department and in Berks County.

“NIBIN sites help to combat violent crime, promote public and officer safety, and identify/target shooters before they can re-offend. Since ATF launched this national program in 1997, the NIBIN system has identified more than 722,000 NIBIN leads in the ongoing efforts to find serial shooters and stop the shooting cycle,” said SAC Eric DeGree. “Thanks to the Liberty Mid-Atlantic HIDTA, investigators in four counties will be able to utilize a new NIBIN site housed in Montgomery County.”

Montgomery County has also created a new Gun Violence Reduction Task Force made up of more than 100 detectives and police officers from Montgomery County police departments. Task Force members, who were being sworn in and trained Wednesday, will work alongside the Montgomery County Detective Bureau’s Violent Crimes Unit in investigating gun trafficking organizations and gun crimes throughout the county, including running down NIBIN-generated leads.

“We are working at being at the forefront of investigating and prosecuting gun trafficking in the region, and we’ve obtained some significant sentences in our county for these crimes that are an extreme threat to the safety of our communities,” said Steele. “Now we have at our disposal cutting-edge technology in NIBIN and more law enforcement boots on the ground to take it to the next level in fighting gun crimes. This is just the next big step—but not the last—in our overall goal to make communities in Montgomery County and surrounding counties safer.”

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Two DelVal Dems Want Mandatory Background Check to Buy Ammo

Guns don’t kill people. Bullets do.

At least that’s the thinking behind legislation proposed by two Delaware Valley Democrats who are turning their sights on rising gun violence by attempting to restrict access to ammunition.

State Sens. Art Haywood (D-Montgomery/Philadelphia) and John Kane (Delaware/Chester) are sponsoring two bills to make it harder to buy ammo.

The first bill would require the Pennsylvania State Police to perform background checks on anyone who wants to purchase ammunition, just as they do background checks for those who buy guns. The second would require identification to prove ammunition buyers are 18 or 21, depending on the type of ammunition they want to buy. The lawmakers say sellers are not currently required to ask for ID in such cases.

In signing statements advocating their proposals, Haywood and Kane cited the mass shooting at Philadelphia’s Roxborough High School last September. Police said at least six people – five gunmen and a getaway driver – were involved in the ambush of 14-year-old football player Nicolas Elizalde.

According to police, the shooter simply walked into a Philadelphia gun shop and bought the ammo used in the shooting despite being a convicted felon.

“Although Pennsylvania law bars an individual with a felony record from purchasing firearms or ammunition, the Commonwealth does not regulate the sale or purchase of bullets,” a police statement said.

Asked for additional comments by DVJournal,  the two senators stood by their signing statements.

Jim Stoker, the president of Pennsylvania-based Firearms Owners Against Crime, believes the bills are “absolutely not” necessary.

“First of all, we know that background checks don’t do anything to stop crime,” said Stoker. “That’s been proven time and time again. The bad guys traditionally don’t source their guns through retailers because they have to identify themselves. If it doesn’t work with firearms, it’s certainly not going to make a difference with ammunition.

“Registering ammunition or serializing ammunition through microstamping just means they will be able to identify who bought the ammunition at a store,” he continued. “It’s not going to change the course of where that ammunition goes, where the bad guys get their ammunition.

“It’s certainly going to add an expense or an intrusion on the Second Amendment or, in our case, Article 1, Section 21 in Pennsylvania,” Stoker added. “So, once again, they’re going to add fees and do what they can to inconvenience the law-abiding citizens of the commonwealth while having zero impact on criminals or crime across the state.”

The senators insist their proposal is both modest and effective.

“Gun violence is prevalent in America, and its web of impact reaches everyone, including children. Forty-eight children under the age of 19 are shot every day in the United States, resulting in 2,900 deaths and 14,500 injuries each year. Folks, these are kids that we’re talking about.”

Stephen Gutowski of The Reload, one of the nation’s leading news sites on gun policy, says the idea has already been tried.

“Ammunition background checks are extremely uncommon throughout the country given their redundant nature since gun sales at licensed dealers already require background checks,” Gutowski said. “California is one of the few states that require background checks for ammo purchases.

“And it’s very unlikely that a proposal like this will go anywhere in the Pennsylvania legislature,” he added.

Haywood and Kane called the ID bill “common sense requirement to protect children and all Pennsylvanians from gun violence. This legislation would require all individuals to provide an official form of photographic identification with every purchase of firearm ammunition in the commonwealth. In addition, it would reinforce current law to ensure that firearm ammunition is not sold to underage children.”

Stoker said that most stores already have an ID policy to buy ammunition.

“The stores protect themselves by requiring ID already,” he said. “It’s beyond redundant. If the law is already on the books, why do we need another one?

“We know the vast majority of crimes in Pennsylvania are perpetrated by the same offenders over and over again,” Stoker continued. “Why don’t we do something about that instead of going after the grandpa that wants to take his gun out with his grandson and teach him how to hunt deer?”

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