United States Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) announced on Wednesday that he will be introducing a new bill called “The Handgun Trigger Safety Act.” The bill will require all handguns manufactured in the United States be fitted with technology that allows the firearm to only be fired by its owner. The Massachusetts lawmaker says these “personalized handguns” or “smart guns” will make it harder for stolen or otherwise illegally obtained firearms to be used in crimes.
“No one wants children to get access to a handgun and hurt themselves or others,” said Senator Markey in a press release. “In the 21st century, we should use advances in technology to our own advantage and save lives, and the Handgun Trigger Safety Act will help ensure that only authorized users can operate handguns. This is the type of gun safety legislation that everyone—regardless of political party or affiliation—should be able to support.”
Personalized guns and laws mandating their use are hardly new. Last year US Representative John Tierney (D-MA) introduced a similar bill after he saw demonstrations of smart gun technology firsthand.
“This technology was developed and exists, but in the past was shelved because of efforts of the powerful gun lobby,” Tierney said at the time. “This does not in any way restrict somebody’s ability to own a gun. It recognizes and honors the Second Amendment.”
Like the bill introduced by Tierney, The Handgun Trigger Safety Act would require firearm manufacturers to equip their guns with the technology within two years of the bill’s passage or face stiff penalties. Going further, Markey is pushing for all parties selling a handgun, whether an individual or a business, to retrofit the firearm before the gun can be sold. The bill also calls for the allocation of $10 million in research into gun violence.
“We need to study gun violence like the public health crisis it is,” continued Senator Markey. “Funding for a federal gun violence research agenda should be a permanent priority so that we no longer look back and say that we didn’t commit any resources to a cause of death that took more people last year than leukemia.”
Gun rights advocates have long criticized the technology as being new and unproven. Smart guns work by the addition of a device that allows the gun to recognize its owner, such as radio identification, magnets, or biometric scanners. Few companies manufacture firearms equipped with this technology, and fewer still have their products commercially available. One such manufacturer is Kodiak Industries and its “Intelligun” fingerprint locking technology. The accessory, which is currently available for 1911-type pistols, locks a gun until it recognizes the correct fingerprint.
You can see a demonstration of the Intelligun below:
A poll taken last year by McKeon & Associates and released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) showed that gun owners are largely skeptical of the technology and most are unlikely to purchase a smart gun. According to the poll, 84 percent of gun owners surveyed responded that they believe smart guns are not reliable.
“The National Shooting Sports Foundation does not oppose the development of owner authorized technology for firearms and, should such products come to market, individuals should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to purchase them,” said Larry G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel. “However, we do oppose legislative mandates that would require manufacturers to produce only such firearms.”
It is a sentiment echoed by the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, which opposes any law that requires the use of the technology but does not oppose further smart gun development. NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said in the past that he believes common sense and zero-tolerance policies towards violent criminals are the best solution to gun crime, rather than smart gun technology or firearm bans.
Many gun owners also believe that any legislation requiring smart gun technology is an attempt at gun control at a federal level. Of the McKeon & Associates poll, 70 percent of both gun owners and non-gun owners said they did not believe the government should require smart gun technology should it become available. Of those polled, 17 percent approved of a mandate and 13 percent remained undecided.