Smart gun

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This article is about guns using biometrics to identify a legitimate user. For self-aiming weapon systems, see Smartgun and Sentry gun.

For electronic firearms that use GPS and other technologies to restrict firing locations, see Locationized gun.

A personalized gun, or smart gun, is a concept firearm that is designed to reduce the misuse of firearms through the use of RFID chips or other proximity devices, fingerprint recognition, magnetic rings, or a microchip implant.[1]


Proponents of smart gun technology say that the technology would reduce or eliminate accidental use and misuse of firearms by children and teens, as well as reducing accidental discharges or the use of a firearm against its owner if the firearm is stolen or taken away.[2]


In the United States, New Jersey was the first state to enact an eventual mandate for smart guns. Governor Jim McGreevey signed the Childproof Handgun Bill into state law on December 23, 2002, which will eventually require that all guns sold in the state of New Jersey have a mechanism to prevent unauthorized users from firing it.[3] Weapons used by law enforcement officers would be exempt from the smart gun requirement. However, this law will only take effect three years after such a smart gun is approved by the state.[4][5][6] In May 2014, hours after the publication of an article in Forbes by Joseph Steinberg, in which he criticized the New Jersey law for "delaying the production of truly safer and 'smarter' handguns" by incenting "gun manufacturers – who earn a tremendous amount of profit from the sales of conventional firearms... not to develop smartguns if by doing so they will cause their flagship product lines to become unsellable," New Jersey State Senate Majority leader, Loretta Weinberg, who had originally sponsored the New Jersey bill while serving in the State Assembly, stated that she would consider repealing the law if, after doing so, the National Rifle Association would agree not to impede the development of better smartguns.[7]

In April 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder told a House appropriations subcommittee that his agency is exploring smart gun technology as a means for curbing gun violence. The Justice Department has requested $382.1 million in increased spending for its fiscal year 2014 budget for "gun safety," a figure which includes $2 million for "Gun Safety Technology" grants, which would award prizes for technologies that are "proven to be reliable and effective."[8]

In October 2013 the European Commission published a document by commissioner Cecilia Malmström, stating that "he Commission will work with the firearms industry to explore technological solutions, such as biometric sensors where personal data is stored in the firearm, for ensuring that purchased firearms may only be used by their legal owner. It will carry out a detailed cost-benefit analysis on the question of making such 'smart gun' security features mandatory for firearms lawfully sold in the EU."[9]

Magnetic devices[edit]

The Magna-Trigger system for K- through N-frame size Smith & Wesson revolvers prevents the trigger from returning far enough to fire. It was developed by Joe Davis in 1975, and has proven reliable. This system will work ambidextrously, provided the magnetic rings used are worn on both hands.[10]

The Magloc conversion kit for 1911A1 pistols works by preventing the handgun from firing unless a magnetic ring worn by the user repels the magnetic blocking device installed inside the grip.[11] Once the system is activated using the matching magnetic ring, the owner can switch the over-ride switch to the on position and allow anyone to fire the pistol.[12]


Metal Storm[edit]

Australian defense company Metal Storm made a prototype electronic 'smart' personalized handgun called the O'Dwyer VLe. It utilized biometric authorizing technology and was the world's first 100% electronic handgun. It also incorporated Metal Storm's patented 'stacked projectile' technology, which, in cohesion with the nature of the weapon system itself, meant that there was no moving parts, no separate magazine, no ammunition feed, and it outstripped conventional firing systems.[13]


According to Jonathan Mossberg, the CEO of iGun Technology Corporation, his company is working on a smart shotgun that uses magnetic spectrum tag technology, similar in function to RFID, which is embedded in a ring that a user must wear in order to fire the gun. A 2013 report by the National Institute of Justice stated that iGun's product "could be considered the first personalized firearm to go beyond a prototype to an actual commercializable or production-ready product."[14][15] Mossberg has trademarked the term "SmartGun".[16]

New Jersey Institute of Technology[edit]

A current prototype personalized gun by New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) relies on biometric sensors in the grip and trigger that can track a gun owner’s hand size, strength, and Dynamic grip style also known as (DGR) Dynamic Grip Recognition. The gun is programmed to recognize only the owner or anyone whom the owner wishes to authorize. One of the major projects involves the NJIT team, which claims the prototype identifies gun owners with 90% accuracy.[17]


Initial prototypes produced by Colt's Manufacturing Company involved the intended user wearing a bracelet that emitted a radio signal that would activate a mechanism inside the pistol to allow the handgun to be fired. The project was apparently scrapped over concerns of the batteries in the bracelet and the pistol failing.[18]


Patrick O'Shaughnessy, owner of the Irish company Triggersmart, has patented and achieved a working prototype of a personalized gun in 2012 that works using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology.[19] TriggerSmart's Robert McNamara has spoken with US Attorney General, Eric Holder, at the White House and he and O'Shaughnessy met with and discussed smart guns with the United Nations in Berlin and New York. The NIJ featured TriggerSmart when it issued its report on Smart Guns in 2013.[14][20]


In May 2014 BBC News reported that Biomac, a US and Austrian company, was working on a firearm system that uses optical sensors to measure the biometric data below a user's skin in order to determine whether the individual holding the gun is the rightful owner of the weapon. Such a weapon would not fire if the sensors do not recognize the biometric data of one of its authorized user or users. The company also stated that it could also retro-fit older weapons to employ the this technology. However, the report highlighted the fact that RFID tags can be easily hacked, and that fingerprint scanners can be easily compromised, though it is unclear whether such breaches would work on smart guns.[21]


A German company, Armatix, has developed the Armatix iP1 pistol, which comes with a special wrist watch which uses radio frequencies to identify the user.[15][22]

Innovation Initiative[edit]

Sandy Hook Promise, a group of parents of the Sandy Hook massacre, have launched an Innovation Initiative with members of the Silicon Valley technology community. This initiative will advocate for providing breakthroughs in new gun technology by providing grant and prize moneys.[23]

Ægen Technologies[edit]

Kai Kloepfer, a high school student and founder of the company, has a working prototype that uses a fingerprint sensor to unlock the firearms safety. It can be programed to register a range of fingerprints so that the gun would be able to be used by all the members of a police force. This prototype also promises to reduce risk of accidental shootings. [24]

The smart gun is supposed to:

  • Reduce the likelihood of unintentional injuries to children
  • Preventing teenage suicides and homicides.
  • Limit the violent acts committed by criminals using stolen guns.
  • Protect law enforcement officers from criminals grabbing their firearms during a struggle.

If battery failure occurs one of two things can happen:

  • For civilian use, the gun can be set to not fire.
  • For law enforcement and military use, the safety system will be bypassed, and the gun will function like a normal firearm.


Smart guns have been criticized by gun-rights groups like the NRA[25] as well as by gun-control groups like the Violence Policy Center. Gun rights groups generally feel that smart gun technology is an attempt to control citizen ownership of firearms. The Violence Policy Center feels smart guns will make firearm ownership more commonplace by making firearms seem safer.[26]

Many firearm enthusiasts object to smart guns on a philosophical and regulatory basis as well as a technological basis. Gun ownership advocate Kenneth W. Royce, writing under the pen name of "Boston T. Party", wrote that "no defensive firearm should ever rely upon any technology more advanced than Newtonian physics. That includes batteries, radio links, encryption, scanning devices and microcomputers. Even if a particular system could be 99.9% reliable, that means it is expected to fail once every 1000 operations. That is not reliable enough. My life deserves more certainty".[27]

In an article in Forbes, information security expert, Joseph Steinberg, discussed several technological shortcomings with smartguns that might “create new, serious safety issues for gun owners and non-owners alike.” Among them were claims that “biometrics take time to process and are often inaccurate – especially when a user is under duress – as is likely going to be the case in any situation in which he needs to brandish a gun,” “it is not ideal to add a requirement for power to devices utilized in cases of emergency that did not need electricity previously. How many fire codes allow fire extinguishers that require a battery to operate?,” “smartguns might be hackable” or even “susceptible to government tracking or jamming,” and “Firearms must be able to be disassembled in order to be cleaned and maintained. One of the principles of information security is that someone who has physical access to a machine can undermine its security."[28]

The potential effects of New Jersey's smart gun law has also influenced opposition to the technology in the United States; two attempts to commercially market the Armatix iP1 smart gun in the California and Maryland were met with immediate opposition from gun rights groups, who argued that allowing the gun to be sold in the United States would trigger the law. The NRA also briefly boycott Smith & Wesson after it was revealed in 1999 that the company was developing a smart gun for the U.S. government.[4][6]

Gun Rights side proposes that smart guns will be detrimental to the second amendment of the constitution which states that every citizen has the constitutional right to bear arms. As per them, smart guns defy the purpose of self-protection as it might fail to respond quickly in an emergency (which might be due to unavailability of the accompanying radio device at the moment).[citation needed]

While the gun control side see it as a mere tool to take away the real issue off the radar. They have maintained that the introduction of smart guns is going to have a negligent effect on reducing the gun violence for the apparent reason that people use their own guns anyway when committing acts of gun-violence. They have gone further and suggested that it will actually end up deterring government’s focus from gun-violence research.[29]


  1. ^ "No Chip in Arm, No Shot From Gun". Retrieved 2012-08-04. 
  2. ^ "'Smart' Guns Backgrounder" (PDF). Violence Policy Center. Retrieved April 17, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "Gun control: the NRA wants to take America's smart guns away". The Verge. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  5. ^ Pearce, Jeremy (January 12, 2003). "Smart Guns, A Clever Bit of Legislating". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 December 2003. 
  6. ^ a b Nix, Naomi (October 14, 2013). "Could 'smart-guns' finally hit New Jersey stores?". 
  7. ^ N.J. Democrat: We will reverse smart gun law if NRA plays ball
  8. ^ Elizabeth Harrington (April 7, 2014). "Holder: We Want to Explore Gun Tracking Bracelets". Washington Free Beaconaccessdate=April 11, 2014. 
  9. ^ European Commission: Firearms and the internal security of the EU: protecting citizens and disrupting illegal trafficking, published October 10, 2013
  10. ^ Massad Ayoob, "State of the SMART GUN", Guns Magazine [dead link]
  11. ^ "Selling Safety Priority #1". Shooting Industry. 2000. 
  12. ^ "Magloc Smart Gun Conversion System from SMART LOCK TECHNOLOGY INC". 2007-08-20. Retrieved 2012-08-04. 
  13. ^ Hanlon, Mike. "Personalised, electronic handgun headed for commercialisation". Gizmag. Retrieved April 17, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Greene, Mark (June 2013). "A Review of Gun Safety Technologies". National Institute of Justice.
  15. ^ a b Bienaimé, Pierre (December 14, 2014). "Military & Defense More: Guns Arms Arms Industry Gun ControlA Look At The 'Smart Guns' That Could Prevent Future Tragedies". Business Insider.
  16. ^ Carter, Gregg Lee (2012). Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law. ABC-CLIO. p. 755. ISBN 978-0-313-38670-1. 
  17. ^ Carter, Gregg Lee (2006). Gun Control in the United States: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. pp. 373–374. ISBN 978-1-85109-760-9. 
  18. ^ Webster, Daniel W.; Vernick, Jon S. (2013). Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis. JHU Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-1-4214-1111-8. 
  19. ^ TriggerSmart Childproof RFID Smart Gun on YouTube
  20. ^ "'Smart guns' Show Promise, but Not Readily Available on U.S. Market". Los Angeles Times. December 22, 2012
  21. ^ Tufnell, Nicholas (May 23, 2014). "Smart guns: How smart are they?". BBC News.
  22. ^ Jones, Ashby (November 20, 2013). "New iP1 Pistol May Trigger Old Gun Law in New Jersey". The Wall Street Journal. 
  23. ^ Crevier, Nancy K. (March 21, 2013). "Sandy Hook Promise Launches Innovation Initiative In San Francisco". The Newtown Bee
  24. ^ Seitz, Dan. "Has This 18-Year-Old Created The World’s Safest Gun?". Upoxx. Uproxx. Retrieved 18 April 2015. 
  25. ^ Steve Friess (April 14, 2014). "NRA: Smart Guns Are Plain Stupid". Wired. 
  26. ^ "The False Hope of the "Smart" Gun". 1996-06-12. Retrieved 2012-08-04. 
  27. ^ Party, Boston T. (2000). Boston's Gun Bible. Javelin Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-888766-06-6. 
  28. ^ Steinberg Joseph (May 4, 2014). "Forbes: Why You Should Be Concerned About The New 'Smart Guns' (Whether You Love Or Hate Guns)". Forbes.
  29. ^ "Smart Guns: A Whole New Chapter in Gun Control Debate". Private Eyes Employment Investigators. May 23, 2014

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