Advances in Firearm Identification Using GelSight

Several recent studies have called for improved imaging technology and matching algorithms to support firearm identification. The author investigated and developed a novel, accurate, and low-cost system for structural 3D imaging and comparison of cartridge cases.

He was able to demonstrate the system’s potential for increasing the quality and reducing the cost of forensic analyses. The project, named Top-Match, combines the recently developed GelSight high-resolution surface topography imaging system with state-of-the-art algorithms for matching structural features.

Compared to competing technologies, the author’s GelSight-based system is fast, inexpensive, and not sensitive to the optical properties of the material being measured. The project aimed to extend the system to measure and compare striated toolmarks (e.g., aperture shear), to integrate these marks into the scoring function, and to investigate matching algorithms for comparing 3D surface topographies captured using different imaging modalities (e.g., GelSight vs. confocal microscopy).

The author developed a robust algorithm for extracting the linear profile of aperture shears. This method is able to extract profiles from curved, flat, or arced shears. Manual examination of the extracted profiles shows informative profiles can be extracted for approximately 88 percent of Glock casings.

These linear profiles can then be matched as part of a matching algorithm, which demonstrates a significant improvement in Glock matching ability when the shears are considered.

The author created an open file format (X3P) for the free exchange of 3D surface topography data. This format allowed collaboration with his colleagues at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). They demonstrated that cross-modality matching is possible and that, in many cases, it works extremely well.

To achieve these results, the confocal scans required simple preprocessing (mainly interpolation of drop-outs and denoising with a low-pass filter). The system is able to accurately identify known matches when scans were acquired with GelSight or Confocal scanning systems. The algorithm was also able to identify known matches where one scan is a GelSight scan and the other is a Confocal scan.

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Man arrested in shooting incident at Richmond school

RICHMOND, Texas – Rosenberg Police arrested a man after a shooting incident Sunday morning at an elementary school in Fort Bend County.

Police arrested Christian Pieper, 20, after he allegedly fired shots in an unknown direction around 8 a.m. Sunday while standing on the roof of William Velasquez Elementary School in the 400 block of Macek Road in Richmond.

Pieper and another man were initially taken into custody, but police determined one of the men was not involved in the incident and was later released.

Police say there were no injuries during the incident, but they did discover some property damage.

Although the incident happened on a school campus, officials do not believe the suspect had intent to harm the school or students.

Lamar Consolidated Independent School District officials sent an e-mail to parents of Velasquez Elementary School students informing them of the incident.

Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office deputies determined the gun the Pieper had was later reported stolen.

Officials said Pieper faces charges of trespassing and criminal mischief, among others.

Investigators said there is surveillance video and Pieper never actually made it into the school. Officials said this was an isolated incident and there are no threats toward students and faculty of the school.

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Gun Control Group Would Endanger Military

As if misguided anti-gun policies that leave our fighting men and women defenseless stateside weren’t enough, some gun control advocates are intent on reviving a Clinton-era gun control tactic that would pose a danger to our military in the field.

In an opinion piece for the Saturday edition of the New York Times, several representatives of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, described as a group “aimed at building power for social change,” encouraged President Obama to inject gun control politics into federal firearms acquisition procedure.

More specifically, Metro-IAF wants the president to exercise the federal government’s purchasing power to reward firearms manufacturers that acquiesce to “voluntary” gun control measures in its dealings with civilian gun owners, and punish those that refuse to curb the rights of American gun owners.

According to the group, “For the government to keep buying guns from these companies — purchases meant to ensure public safety — without making demands for change is to squander its leverage.”

The first organization Metro-IAF would like to foist their gun control experiment on is the U.S. Army.

The group states, “The Pentagon is in the process of selecting the provider of handguns for the United States Army. It should require all bidders to provide detailed information about their gun safety technologies and distribution practices in the civilian market. No response, no contract.”

Another target specifically mentioned by Metro-IAF is the FBI. However, it appears the group would like to extend this strategy to all of federal law enforcement.

Under the group’s plan, in order to compete for federal contracts, manufacturers would be required to fund unprofitable “smart gun” technology, only sell through dealers that will not complete a sale following a delayed NICS check that extends past the three-day safety-valve provision (a potential gun ban for the significant number of persons wrongfully delayed each year), and “distribute their guns exclusively through dealers that sell guns responsibly.”

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Pew! Pew! Soldiers with handheld energy blasters are the stuff of G.I. Joe, not real life … until now. The U.S Army is currently testing electricity guns for possible use against electronics on the battlefield.

They don’t look like props from the popular cartoon show but, rather like regular standard-issue M4 rifles with a pair of antennas that shoot out from the barrel and then spread, giving the front end of the gun a musket-like shape.

Soldiers “already carry rifles. Why not use something that every soldier already carries,” said James E. Burke, an electronics engineer with the U.S.Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC. Burke spoke with Defense One at a National Defense Industry Association event in Baltimore on Tuesday.

Burke’s apparatus, which he’s named the “Burke Pulser,” consists of two wide antennas, a piezoelectric generator and a few other small bits and pieces. It has a blast shield to protect the user from electricity levels that the inventor describes as “hazardous.”

The Pulser takes the explosive energy released when the gun fires and converts it into pulses of electrical energy. This is done via the piezoelectric effect, which derives an electric charge when pressure is exerted on crystalline materials such as quartz, changing the balance of positive and negative ions.

The Pulser isn’t the first electricity gun ever invented. One of the more interesting prototypes that have emerged over the last several years came from, Seattle-based hacker Rob Flickenger, who cast a Nerf gun in aluminum and rigged it to shoot 20,000 volts of electricity a short distance.

The military, too, has been experimenting with so-called energy weapons for decades, including lasers. “Most of these are vehicle-towed and require a huge power system,” Burke noted. “The antennas are sometimes seven feet.” The Burke Pulser, meanwhile, fits onto an M4 rifle like a standard suppressor. Burke estimates that the cost to mass-produce them would be less than $1,000 each.

What do you do with an energy gun? You don’t shoot people. The gun is intended for use against electronics, potentially giving dismounted soldiers an edge against the ever-wider range electronic and cyber threats that they might face on patrol:Bluetooth-enabled improvised explosive devices, consumer drones modified to be more deadly, and the like.

The Army is currently testing the Pulser against an assortment of devices, a 555 timer, a bipolar junction transistor and a yellow light emitting diode, or LED, combined into a single target. “All these things pretty much generalize all the common electronics you’ll find in a circuit board,” Burke said.“What we’re going to do is fire at it. If the LED light stops blinking, it was defeated and if smoke comes up, it was destroyed.”

As for the range, “we’re still investigating,” said Burke The capabilities measured so far “turn classified very quickly.” He couldn’t go into detail about how the tests were progressing, but he called them “very promising.”

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Teen killed classmate and uploaded ‘selfie’ with the body to Snapchat

A Pennsylvania teenager has been accused of murdering a classmate and posing with the victim’s body for a “selfie,” according to news reports.

Authorities say 16-year-old Maxwell Marion Morton of Jeannette, Pa., fatally shot 16-year-old Ryan Mangan in the face before taking a photo with Mangan’s body and uploading it to Snapchat, a smartphone application that allows users to send images that are deleted a few seconds after they’re received, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Morton sent the image to a friend, who saved it on his phone before it was deleted, according to Fox News. The friend showed the photo to his mother, who turned the image over to police, according to Fox News.

“[Police] received a copy of the photo which depicted the victim sitting in the chair with a gunshot wound to the face,” a police affidavit states, according to the Tribune-Review. “It also depicts a black male taking the ‘selfie,’ with his face facing the camera and the victim behind the actor. The photo had the name ‘Maxwell’ across the top.”

Police also say the friend received more text messages from Morton, saying: “Told you I cleaned up the shells” and “Ryan was not the last one,” according to CBS Pittsburgh.

Mangan’s body was discovered by his mother, who contacted police, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Police found a photo of Mangan holding a semiautomatic handgun on his phone, the Post-Gazette reported.

Morton, a high school junior and a running back on the school’s football team, confessed to killing Mangan after police found a 9-millimeter handgun hidden in his home, according to the Tribune-Review. He has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder, homicide and illegal possession of a firearm, the Tribune-Review said.

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Missouri School Districts Start Train Teachers To Carry Concealed Weapons

In response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 that left 20 children and six staff members dead, some school districts in Missouri have started training teachers to carry concealed weapons in classrooms.

For a $17,500 fee, districts that opt in to the 40-hour program receive training for two staffers from current law enforcement officers through the Shield Solutions training school. Teachers are required to spend five hours in a classroom and 35 hours on the range with the required firearm, a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol. Ten districts have undergone the training thus far, with three more having signed contracts and even more in negotiations, according to The Kansas City Star.

After completing the program, qualified teachers then technically become Shield Solutions employees and receive a “nominal stipend,” Don Crowley, training supervisor for Shield Solutions, told The Huffington Post on Monday.

“They become an employee of Shield Solutions in that if they are called upon to dispatch a threat, then that is when they hold a duty to Shield Solutions to do so,” Crowley explained.

Moreover, only school district administrators, fellow program members and local law enforcement will be privy to the identities of the teachers trained to carry concealed weapons.

In an effort to avoid harming the wrong students, teachers will also be armed with a special type of bullet designed to lodge inside the first body it makes contact with.

Young school children will also be prohibited from hugging their teachers if they are carrying concealed weapons in order to avoid detection of the firearm.

“Kids in elementary age like to hug their teachers, but students cannot put their hands on you,” Crowley added. “They can knuckle bump, they can shake hands, but hugs are no longer appropriate.”

Since Sandy Hook, at least 74 school shootings have occurred, averaging more than one each week that school was in session.

In response, the Missouri Legislature passed a bill last month permitting trained teachers or administrators to carry concealed weapons in the classroom. The bill, which awaits Gov. Jay Nixon’s (D) signature, would also lower the age requirement for a concealed carry permit from 21 to 19.

Crowley viewed the legislation as unnecessary, however, calling the bill a “reiteration of a law that already exists under [Missouri Revised Statutes] Chapter 571, which says concealed weapons are unlawful unless the school board or the governing body of that school district okays it.”

Several states have approved similar legislation, despite opposition from many school administrators.

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Pa. bill would allow armed teachers in classroom

Philadelphia PA Oct 6 2014 The saying that the best defense is a good offense is not necessarily a strategy most wish would be applied to schools.

But as the issue of school safety stemming from school shootings continues, some lawmakers and schools are looking at offensive measures to help protect students.

One such measure is a bill in the state Senate Education Committee that would allow school employees to carry guns on school property. The bill was introduced as another option for protecting students, especially those in rural areas that rely on often-distant state troopers for police protection, The Associated Press reported.

That measure, however, does not sit well with everyone — even those who back offensive defense training for school staff.

After the Columbine shooting, former law enforcement officer Greg Crane co-founded the ALICE Training Institute with his wife, an elementary school principal. The two designed a training regimen for schools across the country that would allow staff to take action if confronted with an intruder.

Though a number of states allow teachers to carry guns on school property, Crane said he has not included weapons in the training program and does not believe they are a good idea.

“It’s actually not at all the same for people using weapons for self-defense as it is to use it (offensively),” Crane said. “(Arming teachers) is asking too much of teachers to be … the security force. If there’s a shooting in the cafeteria, what are the teachers supposed to do? Are they supposed to leave their students alone to respond?”

Mike Hurley, co-founder and president of Cumberland County Safe Schools Association, said there has been discussion locally on arming school staff after the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting, but the association has no position on the matter.

“There was a lot of discussion, there was a lot of different opinions, a lot of pros and cons that have to be looked at, and I think that’s something each school district has to look at with their own community,” he said.

Crane said there is a danger in adding more guns to an intruder scenario. He used the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan as an example, saying the Secret Service members present were all armed but they did not fire their weapons — they used their numbers to tackle the shooter.

“They did not shoot back, but subdued him in three seconds,” Crane said. “They did it with overwhelming numbers. In that environment, there was a lot of friendlies standing around, and it’s unacceptable to put other people at risk.”

Intruder Training

Although using guns is not an option as a defensive measure in Pennsylvania, what is being taught is a way for teachers and staff to verbally or physically intervene when confronted with a violent and armed intruder.

Since its founding after Columbine, the ALICE Training Institute has trained teachers in 49 states and reached students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Crane said they are branching out to training staff in the private sector of education.

Crane said the training itself is not so much physical as it is retraining the policies with which the schools follow in intruder incidents.

“It’s not something out of a manual,” Crane said. “We don’t want you fighting a gunman, but you may have to mitigate his chances of hurting someone.”

The point of the training is to follow what Crane believes is the better instinct to flee instead of instituting the sole method of a lockdown.

“I don’t understand why in a fire everyone gets out of the building, but you stay in the building when an intruder is on the loose,” Crane said. “At Sandy Hook, the children who ran out of the classroom survived. Why didn’t we evacuate if it is possible?

“We don’t dismiss lockdowns as strategy, but we dismiss lockdowns as policy,” he added.
The training isn’t too involved because Crane said it can’t be.

“It really is very simple — it had to be very, very simple,” he explained. “In (a confrontation), people are not going to come up with fine motor skills and complicated (orders). But it is also very, very effective.”

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Guns at School? If There’s a Will, There Are Ways

CLARKSVILLE, Ark. — The slim, black 9-millimeter handguns that the school superintendent David Hopkins selected for his teachers here weigh about a pound and slip easily into a pocket. Sixteen people, including the janitor and a kindergarten teacher, wear them to school every day.

Although state law prohibits guns on campus, Mr. Hopkins found a way around it.

Like rural educators who are quietly doing the same thing in a handful of other states, Mr. Hopkins has formulated a security plan that relies on a patchwork of concealed-weapons laws, special law enforcement regulations and local school board policies to arm teachers.

Without money to hire security guards for the five schools he oversees, giving teachers nearly 60 hours of training and their own guns seemed like the only reasonable, economical way to protect the 2,500 public school students in this small town in the Ozark foothills.

“Realistically, when you look at a person coming to your door right there with a firearm, you’ve got to have a plan,” Mr. Hopkins said. “If you have a better one, tell me.”

After the Newtown, Conn., rampage last December, 33 states considered new legislation aimed at arming teachers and administrators, according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Only 5 enacted laws that expanded the ability for public educators to arm themselves at school.

Still, some teachers and administrators around the country have carried guns for years under state or local laws that impose few restrictions on where concealed weapons can be carried.

“It’s a fairly common practice among the schools that do not have sworn officers,” said Asa Hutchinson, a former congressman and a candidate for governor in Arkansas. He recently led the National Rifle Association’s school safety initiative, which produced a 225-page report that advocated armed security officers or, in some cases, armed teachers in every public school.

Mr. Hutchinson said he recently spoke with a superintendent in Arkansas who had been carrying a firearm for 10 years. The district was among 13 in the state, including Clarksville, that have special permission to use rules designed for private security firms to arm their staff members.

Just before the school year began, the state suspended the practice temporarily after Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued an opinion that school districts could not act as private security companies. This month, however, a state board voted to allow the districts to continue using the law until the legislature reconsiders the issue in two years.

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Bulletproof blanket seeks to shield kids during school shootings

School shootings are a tragic reality. While much discussion has centered around prevention, ProTecht, a protective and safety products company in Oklahoma, has created a product it hopes kids will use in case such a tragedy strikes their schools. The Bodyguard Blanket is designed to offer a temporary shelter during dangerous situations, particularly school shootings.

While the Bodyguard is also built to help protect children from falling debris during natural disasters like tornadoes, much of the marketing around the product concerns the potential for school shootings. It’s the reason the blanket was created in the first place.

Technically, the Bodyguard is bullet-resistant. It’s made from the same materials used in military and law enforcement body armor. Instead of having kids put on a flak vest, though, it puts the material in a form that can be folded up and then unfolded to create a body shelter. It has straps that help hold it in place like a backpack. ProTecht posted a video of the blanket undergoing a ballistics test, if you’re curious about how it behaves under fire.

Bullet-resistant materials aren’t cheap. The Bodyguard comes with a price tag just shy of $1,000, though ProTecht hopes to partner with schools and nonprofits to make it more affordable to buy in bulk. Even with a substantial discount, it will likely be out of reach for many school districts.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a bulletproof product for the classroom. A bulletproof whiteboard that doubles as a shield appeared early last year. In a better world, no one would even have the impetus to dream up products like these. The Bodyguard Blanket will likely rouse a lot of differing opinions. Do you think it’s excessive or practical? Tell us in the comments.

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Top drug cartel leader pleads guilty, cooperating with feds

The highest-ranking leader of the notorious Sinaloa drug cartel ever to be arrested on U.S. charges secretly pleaded guilty in Chicago more than a year ago to conspiring to distribute tons of cocaine and heroin and is cooperating with law enforcement, federal officials announced today.

Vincente Zambada-Niebla, 38, is a close associate of captured Sinaloa loader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and is the son of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who is believed to have taken control of the vast enterprise after Guzman’s arrest in February.

Prosecutors said Zambada-Niebla, known as “Mayito” or “Little Mayo,” was for years the logistical coordinator of a billion-dollar cocaine and heroin operation, overseeing the delivery of thousands of kilograms of cocaine and heroin into the U.S.

He pleaded guilty in U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo’s courtroom on April 3, 2013. Prosecutors in Chicago today unsealed his 23-page plea agreement.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Zambada-Niebla faces life in prison, but prosecutors said that if he continues to “provide full and truthful cooperation” they will ask for an unspecified break in his sentence. As part of the plea deal, Zambada-Niebla agreed not to fight an order to forfeit in excess of a staggering $1.37 billion. A sentencing date has not been set.

In a written statement, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon praised the work of federal agents “to hold accountable those individuals at the highest levels of the drug trafficking cartels who are responsible for flooding Chicago with cocaine and heroin and reaping the profits.”

Zambada-Niebla was arrested in 2009 in Mexico City when he was indicted with Guzman, his father and other alleged Sinaloa cartel leaders in what was considered the most significant drug case in Chicago history. The indictment accused the cartel of using jumbo jets, submarines, tunnels, and other means to smuggle drugs into the U.S.

Pedro and Margarito Flores, twin brothers from Chicago’s West Side who had risen in the ranks of Guzman’s organization, provided key cooperation against Zambada-Niebla, leading to the seizure of millions of dollars worth of drugs between 2005 and 2009, according to court records.

Margarito Flores attended a meeting in 2008 with Zambada-Niebla, Guzman and other cartel leaders at a mountaintop compound in Mexico, the charges allege. Flores told authorities that Guzman discussed a plot to attack a U.S. or Mexican government or media building in retaliation for the recent arrest of an associate.

Later in the conversation, Zambada-Niebla turned to Flores and asked him to find somebody who could give him “big, powerful weapons” to help carry out the attack, according to court records.

“American (expletive). We don’t want Middle Eastern or Asian guns, we want big U.S. guns or RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades),” Zambada-Niebla said, according to Flores’ account of the conversation in court records. “We don’t need one, we need a lot of them.”

Zambada-Niebla admitted in his plea agreement that between May 2005 and December 2008, he was a high-level member of the Sinaloa Cartel and was responsible for many aspects of its drug trafficking operations, “both independently and as a trusted lieutenant for his father.”

According to the plea deal, Zambada-Niebla coordinated the importation of multi-ton quantities of cocaine from Colombia and Panama into Mexico and facilitated the transportation and storage of these shipments within Mexico.

Zambada-Niebla also admitted that he was aware that the cartel used violence and made credible threats of violence to rival cartels and to law enforcement in Mexico to facilitate its business.

Guzman remains in custody in Mexico, where he is facing additional charges. Zambada-Niebla’s father remains a fugitive.

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