Technological Options for User-Authorized HANDGUNS
A Technology-Readiness Assessment
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NOTICE: To arrive at the findings and recommendations of this report, the National Academy of Engineering has used a process that involves careful selection of a balanced and knowledgeable committee, assembly of relevant information, and peer review of the resultant report. Over time, this process has proven to produce authoritative and balanced results.
This study was supported in part by Grant No. 2002-24405 between the National Academy of Sciences and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
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COMMITTEE ON USER-AUTHORIZED HANDGUNS
LANCE A. DAVIS (NAE) chair,
National Academy of Engineering
LOUIS F. BEHLING,
Picatinny Arsenal (retired)
RICHARD L. COSTELLO,
Colt’s Manufacturing Co. (retired)
T. DIXON DUDDERAR (NAE),
Lucent Technologies (retired)
LAWRENCE C. KRAVITZ,
Allied Signal (retired)
KAREN W. MARKUS,
Zeus Strategies, LLC
JAMES J. MATTICE,
Universal Technology Corporation
LAURENCE C. SEIFERT (NAE),
AT&T Wireless (retired)
MARVIN H. WHITE (NAE),
GREG PEARSON, Program Officer,
National Academy of Engineering (NAE)
RAY NASH, Consultant
CAROL R. ARENBERG, Managing Editor,
This report is the final product of the Committee on User-Authorized Handguns, a group of experts on diverse subjects under the auspices of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). The committee’s charge included examining the state of the art of technologies that might be used in the design of a reliable user-authorized handgun (UAHG) and estimating the costs and time required to achieve that goal. The project builds on a 2002 NAE workshop that touched on technical and non-technical issues associated with the development of a UAHG.
In order to make the task more manageable, the committee focused its analysis on two groups of users: those in law enforcement and those who store and intend to use their firearms at home. The choice to frame the problem in this way was motivated by the committee’s consideration of design constraints. In the law enforcement case, the firearm may have to operate in a variety of adverse conditions (e.g., involving cold temperature, water, mud, blood), which raises the bar significantly in terms of engineering challenges. In the case of homeowners, the requirements, while still imposing, are less difficult since such firearms would be used in relatively “clean” and uniform environmental conditions. There are, of course, many other categories of handgun user—for example, target shooters and individuals who possess a concealed-carry permit. In most of these cases, the technical requirements will align with those for law enforcement.
The committee hopes its report will inform ongoing discussions about the feasibility of developing handguns that may be less likely than standard-design firearms to be misused. Neither the report nor the committee takes a position regarding the desirability of producing a reliable UAHG.
Lance Davis, chair
Committee on User-Authorized Handguns
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Academy of Engineering. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
Steven M. Bellovin, Columbia University
Kevin G. Foley, Smith & Wesson
Kenneth D. Green, Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute
David Hemenway, Harvard School of Public Health
E. Dan Hirleman, Purdue University
William F. Parkerson, III, National Rifle Association
Edward Polkowski, American Competitiveness Institute
Charles F. Wellford, University of Maryland
John W. Wirsbinski, Sandia National Laboratories
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the findings nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Dale F. Stein, Michigan Technological University (emeritus). Appointed by the NAE president, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
In addition to the reviewers, the committee wishes to extend special thanks to the following individuals who provided particularly helpful input to the committee: Kevin Foley, Smith & Wesson; Donald Sebastian, New Jersey Institute of Technology; Ed Schmitter, FN Manufacturing Inc.; Christopher Miles, National Institute of Justice; Bert Moore, Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility; Larry Keane, National Shooting Sports Foundation; and Mark Behrens, Esq., Shook, Hardy & Bacon, L.L.P.