This hasn’t been a great week for gun control advocates. On Wednesday, seven measures failed in the U.S. Senate, including an amendment that would’ve expanded background checks.
For the time being, at least, the road to stricter gun control has dead-ended, it seems, in Washington, and many advocates are looking for other ways to reduce gun violence.
“Smart guns” are firearms that only authorized users can fire; but so far, there is not a single one on the market in the U.S.
Researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology have been working on this kind of technology for more than a decade. They have outfitted a conventional sidearm with “Dynamic Grip Recognition.”
According to Don Sebastian, who spearheads the project, NJIT’s gun has 32 computerized pressure transducers “detecting where your fingers are and how hard you’re pressing.” He says everyone fires a gun differently.
“We can see a difference between you and all the other people who might want to use that gun.” The gun with Dynamic Grip Technology will only fire when you pull the trigger.
Robert Spitzer is an expert on firearms policy at SUNY-Cortland, and he says “smart gun” technology has been around for years.
“The chief problem, though, is that neither the gun industry nor the gun lobby really has shown any interest whatsoever in pursuing it or adopting it or spending money to develop this kind of technology further.”
It is sensible, he says, and it is almost market-ready.
But Larry Keane, the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s general counsel, disputes that. He says companies are not convinced “smart guns” — or what he calls “guns outfitted with authorized user recognition technology” — will sell.
“You know, money is spent on research and development, but like any other company, you’re only going to bring to market products that you think there is consumer demand for,” he says.
Keane is concerned with liability and reliability, and he says manufacturers and buyers aren’t enthusiastic about computerizing guns.
“If smart guns were to succeed here, in the United States, at the consumer level, it would almost have to be mandated by the federal government,” says Rommel Dionisio, an analyst with Wedbush Securities who focuses on firearms. Like seatbelts were, for instance. But that kind of mandate is something the firearms industry says it will fight against.
Tell us: If “smart guns” were available, would you consider buying one?
If you’re a member of your local public radio station, we thank you — because your support helps those stations keep programs like Marketplace on the air. But for Marketplace to continue to grow, we need additional investment from those who care most about what we do: superfans like you.
Your donation — as little as $5 — helps us create more content that matters to you and your community, and to reach more people where they are – whether that’s radio, podcasts or online.
When you contribute directly to Marketplace, you become a partner in that mission: someone who understands that when we all get smarter, everybody wins.