Whats next

Future developments in the field of fingerprints and firearms are limited only by human imagination. One possibility that may not be too far into the future is hand-carried fingerprint scanners that would allow an investigator to identify an individual and do an instant check against the fingerprint database while the investigator is at the crime scene. With components getting smaller and smaller and the technology continuing to improve, this does not seem too far fetched.

The same miniaturization and portability can be imagined for bullet and cartridge case identification systems. Another item of firearms analysis equipment that might one day be available is a portable vapor analyzer that could analyze the remnant vapor within gun barrels and cartridge cases to establish time since firing. Such a device would help investigators rapidly determine whether persons being interviewed at shooting scenes were telling the truth regarding the events of the shooting.

A hypothetical pair of tools that could revolutionize criminal identification through fingerprints is a device that could scan a crime scene fingerprint followed by a portable DNA analyzer for the fingerprint residue. A combination of a fingerprint scanner and a retinal or iris scanner could do the same for noncriminal identification.

After 40 years of quiet diligence the fields of forensic firearms and fingerprints have been thrust into the limelight, willingly or unwillingly. Nonstop media attention and numerous television and movie dramas have put forensic science in general into the public eye. The term forensic has become a household word and is no longer misconstrued as something associated with debate. Although most forensic scientists do not particularly relish all the current attention, there has been some definite good to come out of it all. Instead of having to adapt industrial equipment to forensic applications, manufacturers have begun to recognize the field and are responding with equipment specifically designed for it. The vast array of forensic scientific equipment available on the market is a reflection of this awakening. Doubtless some of the "dream machines" discussed here are on the horizon.

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