Technology Enters the Gun Debate

Even though it was a bit off topic, David Benjamin's blog Need a Reminder? Prohibition Doesn’t Work! has generated a lot of discussion. The topic is guns, and there actually is a high-tech angle to this debate: smart guns.

A New York Times report says technology could play a role in gun control:

Technology exists, or could exist, that would make guns safer. The idea of a safe gun might seem to be the ultimate oxymoron: guns are designed to kill. But something missing from the gun-control debate that has followed the killing of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., is the role of technology in preventing or at least limiting gun deaths.
Biometrics and grip pattern detection can sense the registered owner of a gun and allow only that person to fire it. For example, the iGun, made by Mossberg Group, cannot be fired unless its owner is wearing a ring with a chip that activates the gun.

This is the same kind of technology used for security systems and other identification-sensitive applications. It's also big bucks for the high-tech market. According to research published in November by, the biometric technologies market is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 18.7 percent to $13.89 billion by 2017.

The NYT reports that gun manufacturers are not interested in adapting the technology, because of certain sales practices. Private gun sales do not require background checks, and linking an ID to a specific weapon would discourage the secondary market.

However, the applications for biometric technology remain vast. Government, banking and finance, travel and immigration, defense, consumer electronics, home security, commercial security, and healthcare are some of the targeted markers. Government applications alone include voting, personal ID, licensing, building access, border access control, immigration, and detection of explosives at airports.

The idea is still a little too Orwellian for me. What do you think?

11 comments on “Technology Enters the Gun Debate

  1. R.J.Matthews
    January 10, 2013

    Good idea in some ways Adam Lanza took his mothers weapons so it would avoid the same kind of incident in theory.

    Would also reduce weapons being sold on to be used by criminal gangs.

    If it was just a ring someone could steal the ring along with the gun. Grip pattern is better.

    Maybe all new automatic and semi automatic weapons (if they are not banned from private ownership) should have this feature?


  2. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 10, 2013

    I think any legitimate owner of a gun would welcome such technology or any means to protect their ownership and the provenenace of a weapon. We all try to protect the things we value with locks, ID, banks, etc., and gun owners are very passionate about their rights. It seems safety and security would be paramount.

  3. Ariella
    January 10, 2013

    @Barbara but it is an imperfect solution. If the technology relies on a ring, then a killer can get the ring and the gun, fire it, and incriminate the legal owner of the gun more effectively than he could without that feature. I could see that working in a mystery plot.

  4. Ariella
    January 10, 2013

    I see that there was another school shooting this morning in California. Fortunately, there were no fatalities, though.  You can see from the comments that in every single instance like this the people who beieve in more gun control will point to it as proof while the peopel who believe that guns in the hands of individuals are the only counterpoint to such violence will use the exact same incident to argue the opposite.

  5. Cryptoman
    January 10, 2013

    No matter how secure the weapons become with clever use of high tech, there will always be an alternative supply chain for unsecure variants of such weapons. Prohibitions and restrictions only make the underground suppliers and manufacturers happy as they mean new business at the end of the day. İn addition, there is already a huge stock of traditional weapons and ammunition out there that can easily and uncontrollably change hands. Therefore, people can easily get hold of weapons if they wish to do so.

  6. prabhakar_deosthali
    January 11, 2013

    When spurious electronic components can enter into the sensitive electronic modules of defense equipment under the eye of the strictest inspection and quality procedure, how can one prevent the spread od spurious weapons which flout all those hi-tech safety features?

    I think rather than making the guns high tech, we need better security measures at schools or such vulnerable places . Such institutes need to employ similar security measures at their entry gates as is done at airports .


    Detection of the presence of a weapon before it is fired  and seizure of the same is the only solution , in my opinion.

  7. Anand
    January 11, 2013

    Such institutes need to employ similar security measures at their entry gates as is done at airports .

    @prabhakar, that is a very good suggestion. I think schools and colleges should also start educating the youth about the dangers of using such weapons so that students dont carry weapons along with them.

  8. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 11, 2013

    I agree with readers that any measure the US tries to take will have little impact at first. The “installed base” (in techspeak) of guns in the US stretches beyond most estimates. Ariella noted there was another school shooting yesterday. Maybe instead of preventative measures, technology can continue to help us be more safe (like metal detectors do now.) I'm going to chew on that idea some more…

  9. Kevin Jackson
    January 11, 2013

    We care about our President, he has men with guns protecting him.

    We care about our Airplanes, they have men with guns protecting them.

    We care about our Money, banks have men with guns protecting them.

    We care about our Lawyers, courts have men with guns protecting them.

    But what about our children, our nation's future, mankind's future, indeed all that will be left of most of us when we are gone, what about them?

    Not only do we not have men with guns protecting them, we have signs alerting criminals and the insane that our precious children are available to them in a “Gun Free Zone” where their actions will not be challenged in any meaningful way as long as they are armed.

    Is that plan really the best we could come-up with?

  10. _hm
    January 13, 2013

    This is a very good point to start debate for gun control. Yes, technology can help give innovative solution to avoid innocent killing.


  11. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 14, 2013

    @kevin: I see your point. The US does send the message that our most precious things are protected by firepower. But perhaps technology can reverse that trend, by being pro-active (better security at the front door of the school, White House, bank and airport) rather than re-active (you have a gun so I'll get a bigger one.)


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