SelectaDNA system tags criminals by shooting them with a DNA gun

by Ben Coxworth, GizMag.com  |  published on January 28, 2013

DNA gun

Imagine that you’re a police officer in the midst of a riot. While you may be able to apprehend the offenders closest to you, you can see plenty of other looters and vandals who you’re just not able to get to at the moment. Well, that’s where SelectaDNA’s High Velocity DNA Tagging System would come into the picture. At the heart of the system is a gun that shoots non-lethal pellets, which contain uniquely-coded synthetic DNA.

The idea is that when things have calmed down a bit, the police can set about rounding up the wrong-doers who they couldn’t nab when the riot was in full swing. In order to do so, they’d use one of SelectaDNA’s portable microscopes/readers to check suspects for the telltale DNA.

Each case of non-toxic pellets has a DNA code that’s specific to that batch, although all 14 pellets within the case share that same code – this means that the code could be used to tie a suspect to a certain event, but it couldn’t be used to single that one person out from all the other DNA-tagged suspects.

If someone were hit with one of the pellets on a piece of clothing, they could conceivably avoid arrest by discarding that item. They would have to throw it away, though – SelectaDNA’s Angela Singleton told us that the DNA will remain in fabric through several washings. Cleaning the DNA off of the skin would be considerably more challenging, as Singleton claims that it can remain in skin creases for up to two weeks.

The gun itself is available in pistol or rifle form, both of which are powered by CO2 cartridges. The pistol can squeeze off 20 shots per 12-gram cartridge, while the rifle’s capacity is higher. Both guns allow users to hit targets from a range of 30 to 40 meters (98 to 131 feet).

The company also makes a grease, gel and spray containing the synthetic DNA, for marking belongings against theft or for tagging attackers.

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