Representative John Tierney (D-MA) introduced a bill earlier this month that could mandate gun makers to equip their products with “smart” technologies such as RFID chips and proximity devices that would stop a gun from being used by anyone besides the owner. Called the Personalized Handgun Safety Act of 2013, the bill will require all new handguns to be fixed with the devices in the next two years or face liability. If passed, the bill will draw government funds to retrofit retailers; existing handguns with smart gun technology. According to the Boston Globe, Tierney described the proposal as “common sense.”
“This technology was developed and exists, but in the past was shelved because of efforts of the powerful gun lobby,” Tierney said. “This does not in any way restrict somebody’s ability to own a gun. It recognizes and honors the second amendment.”
While several manufactures have pioneered “smart gun” technology, it is has not seen widespread use. Devices using radio identification, magnets or bio-metrics enable firearms to “recognize” their owners, therefore theoretically lowering misuse. Criminals or children who take hold of the gun will find that it is not able to fire or otherwise locked. Supporters of the bill say that the requirement will save lives as well as promoting firearm use.
Tierney told reporters that he was inspired by the example of a “smart gun” in James Bond film Skyfall, and had seen several demonstrations of the devices in his office.
However, gun owners groups largely disfavor the technology and believe that smart guns are unreliable. The National Rifle Association has spoken against the technology in the past, and many gun owners feel that legislation requiring manufacturers to add these devices are attempts at gun control.
“Tragic victims couldn’t have been saved by trigger locks or magazine bans or ‘smart-gun’ technology, or some new government commission running our firearms companies,” NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said in 2002. “They could have been saved by something far simpler and more common sense, zero-tolerance enforcement of the mandatory sentencing provisions in the gun laws against violent criminals we’ve had on the books for a long time.”
Similarly, many manufacturers are also wary of the technology. Even after years of experimentation, many still consider “smart” guns to be a concept technology. In any event, the addition of an additional electronic device to firearms has many gun owners frustrated.
Below is a demonstration of TriggerSmart’s “smart gun” technology:
According to Congressman Tierney’s office, details of the bill include:
- Authorizing grants, to be administered through NIJ, for further development and improvement of personalized handgun technology
- Directing the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to create a safety standard for personalized handguns that all newly manufactured handguns will have to meet.
- Requiring that all handguns manufactured in the United States two years after the date of enactment of the bill be “personalized handguns” and comply with the CPSC standard.
- Requiring that any entity, whether an individual or business, selling a handgun, retrofit their handgun with personalization technology three years after the date of enactment of the bill. The retrofitting shall be paid for out of the Asset Forfeiture Fund at the Department of Justice. Cash confiscated by the Department of Justice, and proceeds from the sale of other confiscated property, is deposited into this Asset Forfeiture Fund, which is used to retrofit vehicles for law enforcement purposes, pay rewards to informants in illicit drug cases, and pay overtime, travel, and training expenses for state and local law enforcement personnel who assist the Department of Justice in forfeiture cases.
- Holding gun manufacturers liable if they produce guns that do not meet the CPSC safety standard two years after the passage of the bill.