The TriggerSmart is an Irish gun safety system that checks for RFID tags to enable a firearm and make it so that it only functions when held by a specific user or group of users. If a person handling the firearm without wearing the correct tag, embedded in a ring or bracelet, the firearm it will not fire. It is a new take on the concept of a “smart gun,” a gun that only shoots when the right person is using it.
Originally designed for agency use, the TriggerSmart safety is an electromechanical device that broadcasts a small radio field at a specific frequency that powers RFID tags. When RFID tags are within the range of the radio, they broadcast their own signal. When the TriggerSmart safety detects a gun-specific RFID signal, it disengages its physical internal safety, allowing the operator of the handgun to shoot it. In addition, the TriggerSmart safety system can be used to inventory a great number of firearms wirelessly.
While their primary market is clearly law enforcement, a secondary market is in homes wherever there are children. Guns with TriggerSmart safeties will be that much harder for kids to fire when the safety’s lock is physically worn by the adults who own them.
Even though no security system is foolproof, TriggerSmart will implement 256-bit AES encryption with their safeties, making RFID spoofing very difficult. The tags themselves are very small and can be installed in just about any ring, watch or bracelet, and only cost about 10 cents to manufacture.
The company also says it would be possible to install wide-area controllers (WAC) that would automatically disable or enable all TriggerSmart safeties in a zone, like airports, government buildings and schools. “This WAC would protect and help prevent massacres such as Virginia Tech, Tuscon Arizona, Fort Hood, Norway and the recent Oakland California shooting where innocent adults and children lost their lives and many more were injured.”
Of course, you don’t have to be a forensic examiner to know that none of the guns used at those shootings had TriggerSmart safeties, like most of the other 300-plus million firearms in the US alone. If the Smith & Wesson lock is any indicator, safeties can be removed. And since they rely on radio, we have to wonder if they can be jammed—a very serious problem anyone who is looking into this technology must consider.
That being said, the TriggerSmart safety is very unique and a flexible tool in many ways and succeeds where biometric safeties have failed. With a battery installed inside the grip of the gun, it has a standby time of about two years and features a batter level indicator.
Installing a TriggerSmart safety is expected to add about $300 to a gun’s sticker and cost about the same for a retrofit when the technology becomes available in 2014. TriggerSmart safeties will be marketed to manufacturers so that licensing companies may install them at the factory.
We obviously see some issues with the TriggerSmart installed on a wide scale, but insofar as matters of personal preference, particularly where child safety is concerned, we think that there is no doubt a market for this. What first needs to be proven is if the safeties are 100 percent reliable—a target no “smart gun” technology has achieved. It also has to react quickly in stressful situations; it isn’t a safety if it takes too long to engage or disengage.
“Smart-gun” technology is particularly controversial. Some people predict legislatures mandating smart gun control technology for all future sales, increasing the cost of private gun ownership and decreasing small arms availability. Interestingly enough, New Jersey and Maryland, two of the handful of states that has considered such legislation, have all added police exemptions for requiring this type of safety, citing both failures and cost.