HOUSTON - The guns seized after the deadly shootout in Waco have the potential to breathe new life into unsolved crimes around the country.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive's Houston office is taking the lead on tracing all of the guns found to determine if any can be connected to cases that go well beyond the Waco area.
"We're initiating firearms traces on all the firearms that were recovered," said Rob Elder, ATF special agent-in-charge.
Elder said at last count, more than 100 firearms have been recovered; everything from pistols to rifles.
"We don't know, at this point, if those weapons could have been used in other shootings, other homicides," said Elder.
ATF agents will not only run the serial numbers of each gun to trace its history, each gun will also be test fired at a lab. When a gun fires a bullet, it leaves a unique mark like fingerprints or DNA. No two guns will every leave the same mark. The information will then be uploaded into the ATF's National Integrated Ballistic Information Network.
This database contains millions of pieces of evidence from gun related crimes around the country. The guns in Waco will be checked to determine if they match other crimes already catalogued in the NIBIN database.
"Possibly link those firearms to other crimes that have been committed either in the Waco area and, potentially, nationally," said Elder.
Elder said the forensic work done on these guns will also help give Waco police a clearer picture of how the shootout unfolded.
"The firearms evidence is going to be key to link up who shot who," said Elder.
The ATF is now working out the details of whether all those guns will be tested at the ballistic lab in Houston or a lab in California.
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