Are “Smart Guns” a Smart Idea? One PA Legislator Thinks So

In Pennsylvania, a Democrat legislator from Philadelphia, State Senator Vincent Hughes, announced he is planning on reintroducing a bill in the legislature that would require every firearm sold in the Commonwealth to be “smart guns”. A “smart gun” is one that features technology that recognizes the grip strength, fingerprint, and contours of the owner’s hand. If the hand or fingerprint matches the sensor, the trigger will be allowed to fire. If not, the gun is rendered inoperable.

Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes
Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes

This effort is nothing new and follows a push by the Obama administration to increase federal funding to continue to develop the technology. There is a concern among many gun owners and others as to how well the technology functions and if there has been adequate testing, not to mention possible impact on Second Amendment rights.

On April 29, 2016, Obama issued a statement in support of his anti-gun agenda in which smart gun technology was one of the key elements.

First, we’ve jumpstarted the development of smart gun technology. Today, many gun injuries and deaths are the result of legal guns that were stolen, misused, or discharged accidentally. As long as we’ve got the technology to prevent a criminal from stealing and using your smartphone, then we should be able to prevent the wrong person from pulling a trigger on a gun. So, my Administration released a plan today to expedite the development of smart gun technology, including by identifying the requirements that smart guns would have to meet in order for law enforcement to purchase and use them effectively – and keep themselves and the public safer in the process.

Proponents of the technology point to ‘smart gun’ technology as a means to curb the illegal gun trade and, in turn, violent crime. It could also prevent accidental deaths by children who gain access to guns in the home.

New Jersey is the first state to require all guns sold in the state to be smart guns within thirty months of the availability of any personalized handgun anywhere in the country. (A so-called smart gun is currently available in Europe). This law, the Childproof Handgun Law, was enacted in 2002. But 14 years after New Jersey’s law was enacted, so-called smart guns still are not available anywhere in the U.S.

Earlier this year, NJ Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have allowed the sale of traditional firearms alongside smart guns, if and when they become available.

Federally funded project to develop smart guns were abandoned because it was difficult to work the technology into handguns without compromising their function, according to an April report from the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Defense.

But smart guns won’t be a quick fix to eliminating accidental shootings or crimes involving the use of stolen guns because traditional guns are so prevalent in this country, with an estimated 31 percent of households possessing firearms. How long would it take for the millions of existing guns to fall by the wayside?

Many gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, haven’t opposed ‘smart guns,’ but oppose any law prohibiting gun buyers from purchasing firearms without the technology.

Let us know what you think.