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Could smart gun technology make us safer?

Lucas Mearian | Dec. 21, 2012
In the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, smart gun technology prevents a bad guy from using Bond's own Walther PPK to shoot him. Far fetched? Not at all.

The distance at which the signal works can be tuned to be several centimeters away from the gun or as close as two millimeters.

The technology used in TriggerSmart's prototype costs about $50, but if it were mass produced that cost would drop significantly, Dowling said. While the technology can be retrofitted to guns, the process requires a pistol grip change as well as the motor install, making it better suited to integration during the manufacturing process.

While the technology was originally developed for police use, it could easily be adapted for civilian or military use.

"We've been talking with the New York Police Department about it," Dowling said. "Up to 40% of instances where an officer is shot, they're shot with their own gun. This technology would obviously solve that problem."

Biometrics access control

Not all biometrics technology is focused on integration with weapons. For example, LEID Products LLC has created Biometric Access Control System (BACS) that can be used on gun lockers and storage containers to restrict access to guns and to track when and by whom weapons are used.

LEID Products has also created electronic lockers and rifle racks to secure the weapons. Authorized users whose names and biometric information has been recorded, go to a kiosk and log in by using either hand geometry or fingerprint scans. Users can also be limited to specific weapons, even if they're allowed into a locker with a gun rack.

"For example, if a law enforcement officer hadn't been certified to use a Taser, then he wouldn't be allowed to log in for access," said Georgia Whalen, director of marketing for LEID Products.

Gun-locker access can be controlled locally or remotely by one or more administrators using a PC. "So if an event like what happened at that elementary school occurred, the administrator can touch a computer button at home and release all the equipment to all the officers," Whalen said.

Currently, several government agencies throughout the country have installed or are considering LEID's BACS lockers, including the National Institutes of Health, which adopted the technology to protect its armory in 2009. The U.S. National Park Service is also considering installing lockers in different locations at national monuments for emergency use by its police force, Whalen said.

But such systems would likely be too expensive for home use. Just the kiosk and software for BACS retail for about $18,000. One gun rack is about $8,000, Whalen said.

Political and social climate

Biometrics technology proponents readily admit that their systems can be thwarted, and no single technology or piece of legislation will completely solve the gun safety problem. There are also logistical issues. For example, what if an officer forgets his RFID tag and can't operate his weapon?


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