House bill would mandate guns with 007-style smart tech

Rep. Tierney cites Bond movie Skyfall for idea; older handguns would have to be retrofitted

Inspired by the latest James Bond movie, Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass) is pushing a bill that would require all U.S. handgun manufacturers to include "personalization technology" in their weapons.

The Personalized Handgun Safety Act of 2013 (H.R. 2005) would mandate that all newly manufactured handguns be "personalized" within two years, offering a modern-day solution to the persistent problem of gun violence.

The bill would also require that existing weapons be retrofitted with the technology within in three years before they could be sold.

Tierney said the technology would allow weapons to "recognize" their owners -- or others authorized to fire them -- and could prevent accidents that claim the lives of thousands, including small children, every year.

U.S. Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass)

In a statement, Tierney cited the case of a 6-year-old in New Jersey who last month accidentally shot and killed a 4-year-old child.

"Accidents like this are not as rare as we want to believe, and they are preventable," Tierney said. "Whether a gun owner or not, an NRA member or not, we should be able to agree on gun safety measures that will make our families and communities safer. This technology needs to be put into action."

Tierney said he got the idea for the bill from the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. In it, Bond escapes death when his handgun, which is equipped with technology that recognizes him as its owner, becomes inoperable when a bad guy picks it up.

"This technology, however, isn't just for the movies -- it's a reality," Tierney said.

Under development for more than a dozen years, "personalization technology, better known as "smart gun technology" could use a person's unique grip, fingerprints or an RFID chip to disable the gun's hammer, firing pin or trigger.

Jim Wallace, executive director of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League, the official state association of the National Rifle Association, said he knows of no gun owners who would want smart gun technology on their weapons.

"It's a little bit disingenuous for a congressman like Tierney to be giving us examples on how to fix issues when he virtually knows nothing about firearms, nothing about the firearms industry and nothing about firearms owners," Wallace said. "Are there any legitimate gun owners who are calling for this technology for safety? I haven't heard of one."

Handgun sensors
Sensors in an older generation of the current handgun once looked like this. Newer generations of the handgun will have sleeker, smaller sensors and microchips at least half the size of the ones in this photograph (Image: New Jersey Institute of Technology)

Wallace said any technology that may impede the proper function of a weapon is a problem. He pointed to the fact that any integrated processer technology would also require a battery of some kind, which could pose a system failure if it lost power.

"Also, if I happen to be carrying in public and something happens to me, that means no one else can use my firearm in their defense," he said. "Sometimes when ideas like this come up, my first response is, try it on law enforcement first. If they don't like it, then why should we take it."

There are several forms of smart gun technology under development. Dynamic Grip Recognition technology, for example, uses sensors in a gun's grip, which, like voice-recognition technology, can be trained to recognize a particular person's grip pattern profile to determine authorized and unauthorized users.

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