Last week Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) introduced the Handgun Trigger Safety Act, a bill that if passed will require all new handguns to be equipped with so-called “smart gun” technology—or technology that can recognize gun users—within five years. In addition, the bill would also allocate funding for the development and improvement of smart gun technology and mandate within 10 years of its passage that all existing guns be retrofitted before they can be sold.
“The epidemic of gun violence in America is not preordained, it is preventable,” said Senator Markey in a press release. “In the 21st century, we should use research and advances in technology to our advantage and save lives from tragic and needless gun violence. These bills will keep guns out of the hands that of those who shouldn’t have them and provide better information about what is causing gun violence and what can be done to prevent it. These are sensible proposals that everyone, regardless of political party or affiliation, should be able to support.”
“Smart guns” have been in development for years and is an issue of great contention among both gun owners and gun control advocates. Also known as “personalized” guns, these firearms can be set so only a specific user can operate them, thanks to RFID chips, fingerprint identification, or other proximity devices. Gun control advocates argue that this would prevent children or those prohibited from using a firearm from pulling the trigger, therefore making guns safer. Pro-gun activists say the technology is untested and unreliable. Many are also concerned that once the technology becomes available, it will be used as a de facto form of gun control. The state of New Jersey previously passed a law that if smart gun technology becomes available in the United States, all guns sold in the state must be fitted with new features.
Smart guns are not popular among gun owners. A 2013 poll by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) found that only 16 percent of the survey’s participants approved of smart guns and believed they could be reliable. Similarly, only 17 percent believed that the government should mandate new smart gun requirements for gun owners.
“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. However, we do oppose legislative mandates that would require manufacturers to produce only such firearms,” said Larry G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the NSSF. “We commissioned this poll to help determine where Americans stood on this issue. We are not surprised, frankly, to find that the majority of those polled were skeptical of this technology.”
So far the Handgun Trigger Safety Act has been endorsed by the Newtown Action Alliance, Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, and other gun control groups.