James Bond-Inspired ‘Smart Gun’ Proposal Enters Gun Control Debate

If you look at the bills legislators propose, you get a good insight into the inner workings of their brains. In Congressman John Tierney's (D-Mass.) case, James Bonds movies apparently spur the proverbial gerbil into action, spinning the wheels inside his head.

Tierney told the Boston Globe on May 15 that he plans to soon introduce the 007-inspired Personalized Handgun Safety Act of 2013, which would mandate all handguns be equipped with technology that allows the guns to only work in the hands of their owners or other authorized users.

Tierney's proposal would make manufacturers that do not meet the bill's standards liable for any misdeeds perpetrated by anyone with a handgun that doesn't have the required technology after two year of the bill's adoption.

The proposed Personalized Handgun Safety Act of 2013 would also require individuals or businesses selling older handguns to have them retrofitted with personalization technology within three years after the bill is enacted, at the expense of the federal government.

Is this feasible?

Depending who you ask, the answer is "Maybe so" or "Maybe not." Some say the technology is realistic, but Tierney's bill is not.

According to Tracy Jan of the Boston Globe, personalized handguns are already being sold in other countries, and several manufacturers plan to introduce the technology to the American market this summer.

Logan Whiteside of CNN Money Tech reported in late April that researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology have been working on a grip-recognizing gun similar to the one James Bond uses in "Skyfall."

Sensors on the grip -- similar to the touchpad on a laptop -- measure the pressure applied and the size and shape of the hand holding the gun, he writes.

"If a child tries to grab the gun, their hand geometry is actually going to be smaller," NJIT Associate Professor Michael Recce told CNN. "So they're not going to touch the sensors, and they're not going to be able to fire the gun."

Some insist there is merit to the "smart guns" idea -- or any idea, really -- simply because both the NRA and the Brady Violence Policy Center oppose it, meaning it could be worth a less ideologically motivated analysis.

The NRA and other gun-rights groups feel that smart gun technology is an attempt to control citizen ownership of guns. Many object to "smart guns" on a philosophical, regulatory and technological basis, according to the Globe's Jan.

"No defensive firearm should ever rely upon any technology more advanced than Newtonian physics," gun-rights advocate Boston T. Party writes in Boston's Gun Bible. "That includes batteries, radio links, encryption, scanning devices and micro-computers. Even if a particular system could be 99.9 percent reliable, that means it is expected to fail once every 1,000 operations. That is not reliable enough. My life deserves more certainty."

CNN's Whiteside reported in April that "at least one major seller of smart gun technology admits potential fallibility of the technology. Gun Technology Corporation says on their website that 'No mechanical or electrical device is capable of 100 percent reliability. Personalized guns offer advantages to some people and disadvantages to others.'"

The Brady Bunch has opposed "smart guns" since 2004 because, as it states in it position statement, "The False Hope of the 'Smart' Gun," such devices "will make gun ownership more commonplace by making guns seem safer."

Nevertheless, the momentum for finding a technological solution to the nation's "gun violence" issue is being stoked by the Obama Administration, which has directed the National Institute of Justice to study the state of gun personalization technology.

Vice President Joe Biden proposed adopting "smart gun" technology in January, when he claimed "evidence" shows personalized handguns may have prevented the Newtown school shooting. Not surprisingly, Biden has no "evidence" proving this claim, but that's been par for the course for Joe since gun control became a national obsession.

Is the time right to realistically look into "smart guns" as an alternative to political solutions that please no one?

Maybe, as Tierney told the Huffington Post's
Paige Lavender in a May 16 column, it's time to let those gerbils spin those wheels inside those heads -- even if the stimuli for action is a movie.

"In the most recent James Bond film, Bond escapes death when his handgun, which is equipped with technology that recognizes him as its owner, becomes inoperable when it gets into the wrong hands," Tierney's office told Lavender. "This technology, however, isn't just for the movies -- it's a reality."

Maybe so.

Then again, maybe not.