January, 2015

Firearms Reference Guide Available

The Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide - 2014 Edition (ATF P 5300.4) is now available.  Features of the 2014 edition include updated sections on ATF rulings, general information, and questions and answers.  The guide may be downloaded free of charge from the United States Department of Justice Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms website, https://www.atf.gov/content/library/firearms-publications- library

This resource is also available in PDF format at https://www.atf.gov/sites/default/files/assets/Library/Publications/ atf_p5300.4_federal_firearms_regulations_reference_guide_2014_edition.pdf and available in e-book formats for  mobile device like iPhone/ Android and Kindle with links on the publications library page.  [Our thanks to Bill Schooley for bringing this to our attention].

New DNA-Test Said to Reveal
Person’s Facial Features

A new type of DNA testing developed by Parabon Nanolabs in Virginia, can predict or describe a person’s physical appearance from a minute amount of DNA, according to a recent report.  The DNA phenotyping, called “Snapshot,” treats DNA as a “blueprint … a genetic description of a person from which physical appearance can be inferred,” according to Dr. Ellen McRae Greytak, director of bioinformatics at Parabon.

The article reports that Snapshot can predict, with a confidence rate of about 80% -- and a 95% confidence rate in determining which phenotypes to exclude -- an individual’s traits including skin-, hair- and eye-color, facial-shape, ancestry, and the presence of freckles, so that a “digital mugshot” can be created.

Sources:  Cristina Corbin, “New DNA technique may reveal face of unknown killer in unsolved double-murder,” www.foxnews.com, January 14, 2015: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/01/14/new-dna-technique-could-put-face-on-unsolved-double-murder/?intcmp=latestnews

New Technology Gives Jurors
Holodeck-View of Crime-Scene

A January 9, 2015, article at the www.newscientist.com reports on a new technology, utilizing a video-game/virtual reality headset, Oculus Rift, to potentially allow jurors to get a 3D-view of a crime-scene.  A team of researchers with Lars Ebert, at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Zurich, Switzerland, developed a system they called a “forensic holodeck.”

Mr. Ebert, who assists police in gathering evidence, was quoted as saying, "We have detailed measurements and all this 3D information, but then we hand it over on paper, and that comes with a loss of information.”  The team prepared software for the headset, and the information about a crime-scene could thebe viewed in a 3D reconstruction.  With the reconstruction, a viewer could the better understand bullet-trajectory.  Normally, "What you have is a line on paper, and it's difficult to get an idea of how it moved in space," he said, "[b]ut the second you see it in 3D, you know where it originated, where it goes, how close all the people and objects are.”

The digital reconstruction allows for modification; for example, a particularly gruesome scene could be edited.  The article noted that “a potentially traumatic scene, or … distracting and irrelevant details” could be removed.  Also, the fact-finder could view a scene from a witness’s line-of-sight, which could be helpful in determining whether a witness could have seen an event, said Jeremy Bailenson, a researcher with the Virtual Human Interaction lab at Stanford University in California.

Sources:  Jessica Hamzelou, “Forensic holodeck to transport jury to the crime scene,” www.newscientist.com, January 9, 2015: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26764-forensic-holodeck-to-transport-jury-to-the-crimescene.html#.VOyilHl0yRs; http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12024-014-9605-0

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor