OLR Bill Analysis

HB 5096 (File 171, as amended by Senate “A”)*

AN ACT CONCERNING THE FIREARMS EVIDENCE DATABANK.

SUMMARY:

This bill makes changes in the laws pertaining to the state's firearms evidence databank, which, under current law, is a computerized system that stores discharged ammunition from handguns (pistols and revolvers) submitted to the state forensic science laboratory within the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP).

Among other things, the bill (1) conforms the law to practice by expanding the types of ammunition the databank stores to include not just handgun ammunition but other firearm ammunition as well; (2) eliminates the mandate for entering all handgun “test fire” data as defined in law and instead gives personnel discretion in data entry; (3) allows, rather than requires, police departments to submit to the laboratory for testing handguns in their custody that pertain to a criminal investigation; (4) allows, rather than requires, the laboratory to test fire handguns submitted to it; and (5) eliminates the mandate for completing tests within 60 days of submission.

The bill also makes technical and conforming changes.

*Senate Amendment “A” (1) requires the databank to maintain evidence on all firearm, not just handgun, ammunition, and makes conforming changes; (2) allows, rather than requires, police to submit to the laboratory for testing handguns that pertain to a criminal investigation; and (3) allows, rather than requires, test fires of handguns submitted to the laboratory.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2012

FIREARMS EVIDENCE DATABANK

Definition

Under current law, the databank is a computer-based system that scans and stores images of handgun “test fires” in a way that can be retrieved and compared with other test fires and evidence. The bill renames “test fires” as “fired components of ammunition” and makes conforming and other changes to reflect the new label.

Under the bill, “fired components of ammunition,” means discharged ammunition consisting of a cartridge case or a bullet fragment, collected after a handgun is fired and containing sufficient microscopical characteristics to compare to other discharged ammunition or to determine the handgun from which the ammunition was fired. Fired components of ammunition includes ammunition collected from any firearm, not just handguns.

Data Input

The bill allows, rather than requires, DESPP forensic science laboratory personnel to enter evidence of fired components of ammunition into the databank.

Subjects of and Deadline for Test Fires

Under current law, (1) police departments must submit to the laboratory any handguns in their custody that were found, ordered destroyed by a court, or pertain to a criminal investigation before returning or destroying them and (2) the laboratory must collect a test fire from each handgun submitted within 60 days of submission.

The bill (1) eliminates the requirement for the departments to submit guns that were found or ordered destroyed; (2) allows, rather than requires, them to submit handguns related to criminal investigations; (3) allows, rather than requires, the laboratory to test fire the guns; and (4) eliminates the 60-day deadline for such tests.

Department-Issued Firearms

By law, police departments must collect a test fire from all handguns before issuing them to their employees. Under current law, they must submit two intact cartridges of the same type of ammunition used for the test fire. The bill instead requires a department to submit two cartridges that are representative samples of the ammunition the department uses in its service handguns.

BACKGROUND

Firearm Discharge

When a firearm is discharged, it leaves unique markings on the bullets and shell casings. The bullets and shell casings are ballistic data. Ballistic identification systems make it possible to link bullets and shell casings recovered at crime scenes. They can identify the make, model, and serial number of the gun that fired a bullet.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Public Safety and Security Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

23

Nay

0

(03/15/2012)