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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Committee on Law and Justice
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

Committee on Assessing the Feasibility, Accuracy, and the Technical Capability of a National Ballistics Database 


Project Scope

The project will assess the feasibility, accuracy and reliability, and technical capability of developing and using a national ballistics database as an aid to criminal investigations. The study will focus on fundamental issues concerning the uniqueness of ballistic images; the ability of imaging systems to capture unique characteristics and to extract reproducible information from ballistic impressions; the probability that ballistics evidence presented would lead to a match with an image captured in a database; the development of base rates for crimes that produce ballistic evidence, the probabilities and consequences of false positives and negatives, and the operational effectiveness and utility of such a database in solving crimes. The project is expected to inform federal policy on options for creating a ballistics database.


National Institute of Justice
National Science Foundation

Committee Membership
JOHN E. ROLPH (Chair), Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California
EUGENE S. MEIERAN (Vice Chair), Fellow, Intel Corporation, Santa Clara, California
ALFRED BLUMSTEIN, H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, Carnegie Mellon University
ALICIA CARRIQUIRY, Department of Statistics, Iowa State University
SCOTT CHUMBLEY, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Iowa State University
PHILIP J. COOK, Sanford Institute of Public Policy, Duke University
MARC DE GRAEF, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
DAVID L. DONOHO, Department of Statistics, Stanford University
WILLIAM F. EDDY, Department of Statistics, Carnegie Mellon University
GEORGE (RUSTY) GRAY, Materials Science Division, Los Alamos National Laboratories
ERIC GRIMSON, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Department of Medical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
DANIEL HUTTENLOCHER, Department of Computing, Information Science, and Business, Cornell University
MICHAEL M. MEYER, Google, Inc., Seattle, Washington
VIJAY NAIR, Department of Statistics and Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering, University of Michigan
ANGELO NINIVAGGI, Plexus Corp., Neenah, Wisconsin
DAVID W. PISENTI, Consultant, Fredericksburg, Virginia
DARYL PREGIBON, Google, Inc., New York, New York
HERMAN M. REININGA, Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
JAMES K. (CHIPS) STEWART, CNA Corporation, Alexandria, Virginia
MICHAEL STONEBRAKER, Department of Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
HARRY WECHSLER,* Department of Computer Science, George Mason University
JULIA WEERTMAN, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Northwestern University (emeritus)

CAROL V. PETRIE, Study Director
DANIEL L. CORK, Senior Program Officer
GARY FISCHMAN,** Director, National Materials Advisory Board
MICHAEL SIRI, Senior Program Assistant
ANTHONY A. BRAGA, Consultant
LAWDEN YATES, Consultant


* Served until May 2004.
** Served as liaison member to the committee from the National Materials Advisory Board until becoming that board’s staff director in March 2005. 

Ballistic Imaging (2008)

 Ballistic Imaging report cover




Ballistic Imaging assesses the state of computer-based imaging technology in forensic firearms identification. The book evaluates the current law enforcement database of images of crime-related cartridge cases and bullets and recommends ways to improve the usefulness of the technology for suggesting leads in criminal investigations. It also advises against the construction of a national reference database that would include images from test-fires of every newly manufactured or imported firearm in the United States. The book also suggests further research on an alternate method for generating an investigative lead to the location where a gun was first sold: "microstamping," the direct imprinting of unique identifiers on firearm parts or ammunition.   




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