specific action by a user to enable the technology—for example, to activate a firearm a user has to produce an item that activates the firearm (e.g., tokens, magnetic stripe badges, or proximity cards). Recently, gun safety technologies have focused on solutions that involve advanced technologies, passive, and person-specific approaches, such as “smart guns.” The term “smart gun” is used as an overarching concept to cover all weapons that have some level of user authorization. Types of user authorization include technologies that require

a user to provide information through mechanisms such as combinations, personal identification numbers, and passwords;

a user to produce an item that activates the firearm—e.g., tokens, magnetic stripe badges, or proximity cards; or

an individual recognition—e.g., technologies that recognize person-specific features such as voice, hand geometry, iris scans, and fingerprints (Weiss, 1996).

A personalized smart gun is defined as one that is designed to be fired only by an authorized user, automatically recognizes the user, automatically reverts to a locked state without requiring any overt action (beyond grasping or releasing the weapon), and can be programmed or reprogrammed for different users (Weiss, 1996).

Overview of Past and Ongoing Research on Gun Safety Technology

In 1994 and 2001, two studies commissioned by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ)38 identified 14 potential user-authorized technologies for further exploration. Of those, radio frequency identification (RFID) was determined to be the most viable (Weiss, 1996; Wirsbinski, 2001), but biometric approaches have continued to be explored (see Table 1).

Biometric recognition technology involves the automated verification “of a living person in real time based on a physical characteristic” (Jaiswal et al., 2011, p. 20). These systems rely on recognition of a unique physical characteristic of an individual, such as face, voice, fingerprint, hand geometry, iris, retina, or DNA. Common applications of

_________________

38 Although the research in this area began in order to address a risk to law enforcement, in subsequent years the deaths of police officers by their own weapons have decreased, possibly due to improved training, body armor, and secure holsters (FBI, 2011d).



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement