The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 says you don’t need a license to make a firearm for personal use, but the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 bans firearms that are invisible to metal detectors or airport X-rays.
Wilson said he’s working with lawyers to avoid running afoul of the latter law, but Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., on April 10 introduced House Resolution 1474 to renew and expand the 1988 law to include specific parts like those Wilson and his peers are producing.
“We must stay ahead of the curve to keep high-security areas safe from terrorists and criminals that can circumvent not only gun safety laws, but security checkpoints as well,” Israel said. “Law enforcement officials should have the power to stop homemade undetectable magazines and major components from proliferating with a simple click of a print button.”
Wilson’s chicken-in-every-pot, gun-in-every-hand ethos isn’t exactly what those developing smart guns have in mind.
They hope to prevent the tragedies that occur when guns end up in children’s hands, or misuse by anyone other than rightful owners. If Nancy Lanza had owned smart guns that weren’t coded for her son’s use, the argument goes, he couldn’t have used them to massacre Newtown schoolchildren.
Attorney Charles Miller, an officer and director of Safe Gun Technology in Columbus, Ga., is about to pitch a proposal for investments in his company to the Sandy Hook Promise Innovation Initiative, a project launched in March to enlist Silicon Valley technologists and investors in developing profitable, high-tech ways to quell gun violence.
Miller’s company has a prototype shotgun with a fingerprint-based mechanism and plans to develop a kit for use by trained gunsmiths to retrofit existing guns. Just as automakers and buyers embraced seat belts and air bags as desirable safety measures, Miller said “a lot of gun owners will put it on their weapons” because it’s “ultimately about trying to save lives.”
San Diego-based Intelligun is in the final stages of developing its own fingerprint-based system. Florida-based iGun Technology’s shotgun uses a magnetic tag in the owner’s ring to unlock the firing mechanism, but the company’s president said there hasn’t been enough demand to drive production. Other companies’ prototypes rely on a radio-frequency identification chip the gun owner could wear in a ring.
New Jersey legislators saw it coming. In 2002, they enacted a law requiring smart-gun technology in all new handguns sold starting three years after the state attorney general deems one safe and commercially available.
Jake McGuigan, a lobbyist for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said the firearms industry doesn’t oppose smart guns if they can be made as reliable as any other firearm. But, he said, they aren’t yet because batteries and sensors can fail, perhaps leaving gun owners in the lurch and gunmakers liable for their products’ failure.
“Up to this point, there hasn’t been a demand for this kind of product,” he said. “Let the market drive it, not a legislative mandate.”