"Smart Gun" technology may never be good enough


In the latest Bond film, "Skyfall," movie-goers may have been shocked by the unusual absence of cutting-edge technology. Armed with a seemingly normal handgun and a distress beacon, Daniel Craig was forced to rely more on his cunning than Q’s latest gadgets.

The reality, however, is that Bond’s seemingly normal gun is patently state-of-the-art. The sidearm holstered by Britain’s infamous secret agent employs technology that helps instantly recognize its wielder to determine if it should fire. Since the grip of the gun is mapped to Bond’s palm print, only he is capable of using it. At the New Jersey Institute of Technology, this kind of equipment is not confined to the realm of spy fiction.

For the last 13 years, engineers have been undergoing research and development to make this safety feature more marketable to consumers. Gun manufacturers have even come up with their own security measures, which include wristwatches and rings that activate a firearm.

But even while the most outspoken proponents of this technology claim it will prevent accidental gun-related deaths and minimize risk in violent situations, American gun-owners may not be too keen on changing the status quo. If, for example, people become too reliant on this safety feature they may be encouraged to keep their guns loaded at all times. Should the sensor happen to fail in any situation, the results could be fatal.

Will this kind of technology make enough of an impact to bring down gun violence in the United States? Since American is a country founded on the premise of free will, the answer is most likely "not at all." Without any kind of legislation to back up or require these safety features, the most likely outcome for "Smart Gun" technology would be dust collecting on shelves. Even if the sensors were more highly tested and reliable, it is a dubious proposition to suggest that everyone will agree on what increases or decreases a gunowner's safety.