Dems in Washington are picking up where the Obama administration left off in 2016 on the subject of "smart guns" and mandating their exclusive sale. 

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney joined with a group of anti-gun advocates this week to raise the curtain on proposed legislation that would mandate a fundamental change in firearms technology in America. The New York Democrat's bill would require all new handguns sold in the U.S. to use “personalized” technology within five years and extend its usage to legacy firearms offered for sale within 10 years. 

What is a "Smart Gun?"


Smart guns, typically employing some sort of authorized-user technology like a fingerprint or passcode to unlock a firearm, are not a new concept. Perennially “just a couple years away” for over two decades, few attempts have made it to commercialization. One, the $1,200 German-made Armatix iP1, was introduced in 2014 but failed to make headway on the market. The .22 LR pistol, which required an RFID-equipped wristwatch to be able to fire, could allegedly be hacked with a $15 magnet and jammed with radio waves.

This has left a bad taste in the collective mouths of gun owners who are reluctant to trust such unproven technology. A survey published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2019 found that 70 percent of gun owners surveyed would have a concern about whether the tech would work when needed and only 5 percent would be very likely to buy such a firearm if it added significantly to the gun’s price.

What's in Maloney's Bill?


The new Handgun Trigger Safety Act would require that, within five years of it being signed into law by President Biden, all newly manufactured handguns must be personalized so that they can only be operated by authorized users. Ten years after it became law, anyone selling a handgun must first retrofit it with personalization technology.

The law in its current form would also get the government deeper into the business of further underwriting smart guns. It would authorize grants to further research and develop the technology and provide reimbursement to gun makers to defray the expense of retrofitting handguns. The money would come from the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund.

Obama Smart Gun Drive


In 2016, President Obama released a flurry of executive actions on guns. Sandwiched into the list was a directive for Homeland Security, DOJ, and the Pentagon to get on board with gun research and adoption.

“We need to develop new technologies that make guns safer,” said Obama on his actions. “If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns? If there’s an app that can help us find a missing tablet … if we can do it for your iPad, there’s no reason we can’t do it with a stolen gun.”

However, as the term-limited Democrat was soon to be leaving office, Obama's Smart Gun Technology Working Group was only able to file a few memos and amass a 93-page list of then-existing smart gun patents. 

Backing up the President in 2016 was then-Vice President Joe Biden, who gave an interview on the subject. Conversationally propped on a stool, the Veep dished on personalized firearms by letting you, the viewer, in on the theory that, “Only you are able to pull that trigger,” and that buying a smart gun is the “single most consequential thing you can do that’d have no impact on the Second Amendment.”

Rebooted Smart Gun Drive Hailed 

Maloney's push is endorsed by the Brady Campaign, Gays Against Guns, and March for Our Lives. It comes along with a package of bills that includes millions of taxpayer dollars for public health research into "gun violence," extension of NICS background check research periods to at least 90 days from the current three day maximum, and requires gun show operators to register with the U.S. Attorney General and notify the AG of the details of upcoming shows.

"It is vital that our Congress uses this moment of change and renewal to pass sensible gun control legislation for President Biden's signature,” said Jay W. Walker, founding member and organizer, Gays Against Guns, in a statement released by Maloney's office.

Does anyone even want a smart gun?


Firearms industry trade groups have long had a position that they are not opposed to authorized user recognition technology being applied to a firearm or to the further development of smart guns – as long as it is not made a requirement by lawmakers. However, gun makers stress the market for such guns doesn’t exist. In 2019, a Ruger shareholder report said that customer feedback showed “very little interest” in smart guns, while American Outdoor Brands Corporation, owners of Smith & Wesson, issued their own shareholder report that explained the company “does not believe that current authorized user or ‘smart gun’ technology is reliable, commercially viable, or has any significant consumer demand.”

The National Shooting Sports Foundation points out that “Gun owners already store their firearms to prevent their access by those who should not have them. They follow safe handling and storage practices which are set forth in the owner’s manual provided with each firearm. They don’t see a panacea in smart gun technology, nor should proponents or policymakers.”

Banner photos: NJIT

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