this technology include ATMs, immigration and border control, fraud protection, privacy of medical records, physical access control, time and attendance records, computer security, telecommunications, and criminal investigations (Jain et al., 2012). Five biometric technologies may be effective in firearms; of those, only two may be adaptable to handguns (NAE, 2005).

Challenges to Developing Gun Safety Technologies

There are approximately 1,000 patents on record for various designs to prevent access to a firearm by unauthorized users, but many are untested. The patents address a range of unauthorized user prevention devices and methods, such as electronically activated holsters, firearm holster locks with fingerprint identification, audio-controlled gun-locking mechanisms, biometrically activated locks and enablement systems, voice-activated weapon-lock apparatuses, RFID, and various other designs (see Table 1) (PatentStorm, LLC, 2013). Barriers to development of these and other user-authorized technologies include lack of funding and standards:

Funding for smart-gun research largely has come from the federal government, although New Jersey committed some state funding to support the work of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Together, the state and federal money totaled approximately $12 million from 1994 to 2005, with no follow-up funding planned at that time. Despite the need for greater research, development efforts will be delayed without ongoing federal support or direct investments by gun manufacturers (NAE, 2005).

Safety standards for firearms are not regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission due to a prohibition enacted in 1976 (Teret et al., 1998). Standards and regulations for smart-gun technology are important and consistent with President Obama’s plan to protect our children and communities by reducing firearm violence (White House, 2013a).

In addition to these barriers, the development and application of smart-gun technologies have been complicated by problems such as recognition failures due to dirt on fingertips or the use of gloves, voices

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