“TriggerSmart, a startup that has patented a system that relies on an RFID reader embedded in the handle of a firearm to authenticate its owner, is the brainchild of gun enthusiast Patrick O’Shaughnessy.” An enthusiast? Really? ‘Cause I don’t know of a single gun guy who thinks “smart guns” are a good idea. Setting aside reliability issues, tactical problems (oops! I forgot my gun-enabling decoder ring!) and ignoring the cost implications, RIFD in guns technology opens the door a dystopian future of techno-driven gun control . . .

Remind me why an “enthusiast” would want to risk the possibility of their gun failing? For the children!

If the reader does not detect the RFID tag, it will not allow the gun’s safety to disengage. This way, if a gun were wrestled away from its owner, the safety would re-engage (the reader could only detect the tag at very close range, so the user would need to be holding the gun for the safety to open). And if, say, a child were to discover the gun, or a thief were to steal it, he or she could not disengage the safety.

This is not the first time bio-metric firearms safety technology has been mooted. But every time some inventor encourages the gun grabbers’ dream of electronic gun control—whether its through RIFD chips or micro-stamping or some other final solution—is a bad day for gun rights. To wit:

“If I had $500,000 at my disposal now, I’d have a reliable smart gun ready within the year, but realisticially speaking, I think you’re looking at three to five years. There are some states that have already introduced legislation with regard to smart guns. A New Jersey law states that once smart guns become available, all gun stores will need to sell only smart guns. Other states have smart gun laws ready to go through [their legislative systems]. So we are trying to get some political support in those states, particiular in New Jersey,” says [marketing maven Robert yes Robert] McNamara.

This is from smartplanet.com? Anyway, one thing’s for sure: gun enthusiasts would resist this technology until it was cold dead hand gun prying time.

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Fried chips? Of course! [h/t DB]

65 Responses to Smart Gun Still A Stupid Idea

  1. So what do you do if your out of the house and your wife is attacked? Your shotgun only works with you. This technology is a terrible idea.

    • You could say that about car keys.
      What if my son gets hurt real bad at home and my wife needs to get him to the hospital, but she doesn’t have a key? Thats why my car should just be push button start.
      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for this technology, I’m just saying that your point can pretty easily be debated.

      • Not even close, Josh. If your car doesn’t work, call an ambulance, call the police, call AAA, or just call work and tell them you are going to be late, etc. If your gun doesn’t work in a moment of truth, you are truly buggered. These crap electronic interfaces require batteries, charging, warm up time, etc. Your cell phone ever drop a call or respond slowly? That probably won’t kill you (unless your driving while using your cell – and that’s a different issue). Guns are faster and more reliable than phones, cars, and computers, thank God. They don’t need batteries or software updates, and I pray that they never will.

        The minute my gun is as slow an unreliable as a computer, I’m dropping it and switching to a knife.

    • Smart guns can be shared by more than one user or have group recognition. 2 or more family members can have multiple spare tags similar to having a spare se of car keys. Many of the comments relate to reliability and people deserve to be concerned about technology failures. Guns also malfunction. RFID is trusted by the USA government in passports and banks trust RFID in credit cards. Smart guns will only be made available to the market when they pass rigorous testing and prove that the reliability issue is satisfied. The challenge is for guns to maintain the same level of reliability when integrated with RFID. if the the technology fails at first then more money will be spent on improved technology until it succeeds. We will be living with smart guns in the future much like we have air bags in cars now.

      • Not that I don’t agree with your point about rigorous testing, but your description of how they function is as if the smart guns have been on the market for years.

    • its simple. have a spare for your wife like a spare key for the car or house, Group recognition is easy to do and two or more offices can be authorized to share mutual guns.

      • Sorry, but I am not trusting my life to a battery. I don’t even like battery powered sights, I sure as H do not want a battery powered gun. You are trying to make this sound like a “reasonable” idea, which it is NOT.

  2. There was just one small problem: getting a gun.

    “We could not get our hands on a gun in Ireland,” McNamara, in his thick brogue, explained to me.

    can’t be much of an enthusiast. Perhaps a would-be enthusiast?

    • Strict laws on gun ownership is a reason why you cant easily get guns in Ireland. There are about 2,000 total licensed hand guns in Ireland and that includes the police. Accidental discharge of guns with kids is not an everyday occurence in Ireland but it is in the USA.

      • Really? ND’s involving children are an EVERY DAY occurrence in the US?

        Just because Ireland is a land of dis – armed slaves doesn’t justify Americans following suit.

  3. From an engineering standpoint, this stuff doesn’t make sense. You’re adding another layer of uncertainty into the system, particularly with respect to power source (battery) failure.
    Perhaps if there was a passive mechanism that didn’t require power or had extremely low power usage with a battery life equivalent to keyless entry with car keys…
    In terms of the gun grabber, big-brother-remotely-turning-off-your-gun stuff… that capability is very far out in the future. I suspect by the time we are having that argument, it won’t be about guns but phasers.

    • I suspect by the time we are having that argument, it won’t be about guns but phasers.

      Common sense phaser control? The mind boggles.

    • I can see a smart gun disabling jammer for the safety of our police officers.
      When phasers are outlawed, only Klingons will have phasers.

    • “Perhaps if there was a passive mechanism that didn’t require power” They have it already it’s called magnatrigger, been around for a long time.

      http://www.tarnhelm.com/magna-trigger/gun/safety/magna1.html

      Ayoob reviewed it many years ago in his book “In the gravest extreme”

      Please note I am not saying it is a panacea merely one option and depending on the situation possibly not a good one.

      NukemJim

      • The magna-trigger is a revolver only system – with another major downside:

        The permanent magnet ring that operates the system will also wipe out the magnetic code strip on your credit card, debit card and driver’s license!

  4. While I have no use for a technology such as this, and am confident that most other people don’t have a use for it either, I wouldn’t call it a strictly “stupid” idea. There are three classes of arguments against this kind of thing. 1) Can it be flawlessly reliable? 2) what if I forget to wear the activation device/someone else needs to use the gun. 3) it will be used as a new form of gun control.

    Argument 1 reflects a trend in society that we are presently more comfortable with mechanical systems than electrical. It also judges the technology before it is finished being implemented. No one uses this standard when deciding to get in their car and drive or when they get in an airplane to fly, or have kidney dialysis or put a loved one on life support, or while online banking. Such a simple system could be made flawlessly reliable, it is just a manner of finding the best way to do that by testing ideas.

    Argument 2 blames the technology for a person’s instability to use it or select an appropriate use for it. What if you forget the ring? What if you forget your ammo? That’s on you bud. If you are prone to such forgetfulness and you still chose to use this technology, that’s on you too. If you plan to be in situations where other people need to use your guns and chose to use this technology, that’s on you too. There could be situations where this technology’s benefits are a big deal. Maybe in prisons or something of that nature. Maybe parents of young children who want to have loaded guns around the house. Maybe they have some arthritic condition which prevents them from reliably accessing pistol safes. Who knows? I leave it to these anomalous people in anomalous situations to decide if they want this enough and want to fund the development, production, retail for the units themselves.

    Argument 3 is just really slippery slope. This technology won’t be used as gun control because people simply wouldn’t stand for it. Most people have no use for it so most manufacturers won’t build it in numbers. Fact is that at least in the US we tried our little gun control thing in the 80s and 90s. People got excited when they saw crime go down and assumed causation. Then gun control got peeled back and crime continued to go down. Most people are over it and realize that gun control doesn’t reduce crime, and the causes of crime are socioeconomic. Some nitwits (the same ones purporting gun control in the 80s and 90s) don’t yet accept this, choosing instead to rely on their faiths and and gut feelings and intuitions instead of statistical and social-scientific fact, but such battles against fact are always ultimately lost as the other side always becomes extinct. Given that the lifetime of a gun is about 20x longer than a sociopolitical fad, and sales continue to increase, and the diversity of those involved in gun sports and gun ownership continues to expand, there is not much need to be worried.

    -D

    • Mechanical systems are more reliable than electrical. Guns and knives don’t need batteries. Your intellectual arguments aren’t fast enough to keep up with a gunfight, so yes, adding unnecessary electronics to firearms is strictly a stupid idea in the world we live in.

      I’d want the BG to have an electronic system on his gun. Preferably with dead batteries, in need of a ‘software upgrade,’ or both. If you want to add electronics to your guns, go for it. It’s a free country, more or less.

      • So a carburetor is more reliable than fuel injection? Yeah right! Seriously, why not let the market decide?

        • I guess should qualify that a bit, I just took issue with the statement that mechanical systems are more reliable than electrical. This may be true for very simple systems but after very much complexity the electrical systems are far more reliable. It’s not a point that even needs argument but just look at a watch, sure you can do it mechanically but nobody would argue that the mechanical one is more reliable than a $10 timex quartz.

          I’m wondering why nobody is building a mostly electrical gun. The trigger pull could be what ever you want since it wouldn’t be tied to the mechanism for firing. It would be “shoot by wire”. Don’t like it? Then I suggest you don’t fly on a commercial plane. You car throttle is most likely drive by wire, steering and brakes are next.

          On the electrical gun, pulling the trigger could cause a solenoid to hit the primer or better yet, an electrically discharged primer.

          I’m not saying this is the best solution for me or most of the guys here. But face it, most of the country is getting very comfortable with technology.

          Also, look at the ruger LC9, it certainly doesn’t need an external safety but they put one on because their “voice of the customer” or whatever program indicated that most people wanted one. Now I wouldn’t want one but I think we should recognize that there are lots and lots of people out there that don’t spend 20% of their awake time reading gun blogs.

        • Ok, say I give you carbs. Eventually we get to the CPU and I win. You theoretically could build a mechanical computer but it would never work after you add too much complexity. What if the only moving part of the gun was the trigger? And, of course the bullet. No sear, firing pin blocks, trigger bar, firing pin spring, mech. safety, etc.

        • But we are not trying to build a computer. I am a Production Engineer. On a lot of the simple stuff, you do not need a programmable controller or electronics. and really they just get in the way of the function of the machine.

        • I can fix a carb on the side of the road if need be, good luck working on your EFI.

        • I can fix both on the side of the road. It’s a silly analogy, however.

          Solid state electronic equipment in a complex and/or high speed application, left to its own devices and operated within its design environment, is MUCH more reliable with a much longer serviceable lifetime than anything mechanical this side of a steam engine.

          However, said electronic equipment was invented because a problem existed– it was not possible to tune for actions happening very quickly, in many different environments of operation, using mechanical means. This is why EFI works as well at sea level as it does at 10,000 feet, and why engines with EFI are massively more efficient.

          The buck stops with the problem in question, which in this case is a firearm. Firearms do not have any such requirements to address many environmental metrics at high speed. They just need to go boom when you press the bang switch, and the best solution for that is and always shall be a simple mechanical spring, sear and linkage.

        • The buck stops with the problem in question, which in this case is a firearm. Firearms do not have any such requirements to address many environmental metrics at high speed. They just need to go boom when you press the bang switch, and the best solution for that is and always shall be a simple mechanical spring, sear and linkage.

          On that, I will agree.

        • What was the mean time between failures with carbs compared to EFI? You could possibly fix a carb on the side of the road but you’d be much more likely to have to.

        • That would be a good argument if it was either true or relevant, but it is neither.

        • Sorry for being succinct, I was multi-tasking. I believe the biggest issue with your argument is your choice of items to compair to. That is why I am not going to go point for point.

      • Stating “mechanical systems are more reliable than electrical systems” as if it was a fact doesn’t make it true. In many cases it’s not. Your electrical computer is way more reliable than a mechanical one.

        Regardless, the reliability of electrical systems isn’t the point. Engaging in a thought experiment about how a device could fit into the world is a worthwhile pursuit, even if the place it fits in is niche.

        Also, if an argument can’t be made intellectually then it’s generally not an argument, rather an opinion and/or BS. If my “intellectual arguments” bother you, sorry.

        -D

        • My desktop computer is not the most reliable.
          If it were a car, it would recalled under lemon laws.

        • If your desktop computer was mechanical it would be the size of Vermont and consume an oil tanker worth of lubrication per hour. It likely wouldn’t be able to boot without throwing a rod or stripping a gear.

        • Your argument is moot. If I want to use an electrical device, I turn it on. If it doesn’t power up, no big deal, I am not going to be injured or die. Same with any electrical system, hospitals and large companies have generators to supply power to critical systems in the event of a power outage. If I am in no man’s land being attacked, I need my firearm to function, period. A very stupid idea this one.

      • Ok, I started it, so I’ll take responsibility for it. When I said mechanical systems are more reliable than electrical, I had recently spent 90 minutes of my life downloading a 9k file (software glitch with an encrypted file), printing a 2 page Word document (printer driver / software malfunction), and unjamming a copy machine (some other damn malfunction). Yes, that should never happen, but it certainly did.

        In my mind I was referring to paperclips, knives, and firearms vs the equipment that I had been using. My point was more that firearms employ mechanical systems that can not be readily improved by the introduction of electronics. You can argue that if you want, but I don’t know of any major firearm that has any need of an electrical interface of any sort prior to functioning. There have been efforts to introduce electrical ignition of specialized cartridges, and a few other fads, but to no avail.

        Additionally, these electronic devices would add a whole level of gun control options not previously available, which others have mentioned as well. They can be a required purchase, taxed, a required retrofit, serialized, limited, etc.

        (I never thought my comments would spark a carb vs. EFI debate. Interesting site, this TTAG…)

      • When it comes to smart guns,you’re not replacing mechanical with electronic or electronic with mechanical. you’re adding one so that you have BOTH. The correct analogy would be adding fuel injection in addition to a carb, not replacing one with the other. So now you have 2 interconnected systems that can fail, not just one.

        • Hello Mikey
          Have you not heard of a gun malfunction. Do you prefer wind up or electrical windows in your car? How are you getting on with your old typewriter and mechanical phone? Do you rely on electronics to keep the plane in the air and to land safely in a fog? Is the remote locking on your car and the car alarm making it harder to steal?
          Etc etc

        • Hello Mikey
          Have you not heard of a gun malfunction. Do you prefer wind up or electrical windows in your car?
          How are you getting on with your old typewriter and mechanical phone?
          Do you use electronics to pay for services or plane ticket?
          Do you rely on electronics to keep the plane in the air and to land safely in a fog? Is the remote locking on your car and the car alarm making it harder to steal?
          Bet your family rely on electronics everyday. They are not for everyone but let the consumer decide if they want to buy childproof guns.
          Robert

    • There’s another vulnerability you didn’t mention – the existence of a communications link provides an opportunity to attack the system remotely. In other words, any RF communications is susceptible to jamming, at least in principle.

      • Sure, though in the right application jamming may not be a threat which outweighs the threat that this idea is trying to mitigate. It would be interesting to see what it takes to do it however.

        -D

  5. RFID doesn’t really work as implied. There’s no way to “track” a firearm in the method suggested. You could track a gun if it contained a RFID tag, and one was close enough to read it (a few inches), and one were able to decode the RFID tag into something useful. However, in practice that’s little different than a serial number.

    The implementation here has an RFID reader in the gun. Tag goes on your hand/finger, and if said tag contains the correct code, the weapon is unlocked.

    There are numerous problems with this approach, and it is indeed a very silly idea. For the gun to automatically “safe” itself once it leaves your hand, the RFID reader would need to continually poll the tag, and that’s a power-hungry operation that is very difficult to miniaturize. Moreover, presumably the gun would fail to a safe state, rather than a live state, without battery power. That means when the battery dies and you need the gun to work, so do you.

    All and all a stupid idea that should be roundly criticized as such. However, kind of far from the orwellian OMG They Can See My Gun From Space!@# suggested by some. While I’ve no idea the usual suspects would jump all that sort of technology were it available, it just isn’t right now, and is unlikely to be in the near future in a context that would allow it to work cheaply on a firearm.

    • It would be rather easy to set up a doorway to sense for the RFID transmitter walking through it using technology currently in use. Every time someone walked through that doorway with a firearm it could alert people, set off an alarm, take your picture, etc.

      • No, it really isn’t.

        1) Passive RFID tag on your hand (the technology implied in this example). These cannot be read at great distance, even with very powerful readers using huge antennas. You’d have to pass within a few inches, or at most a foot or so, from the reader in order for a tag to be read. And then, all you have is a string of numbers, so unless that string of numbers is a key stored in some centralized database, and you can query it instantly, no bells and whistles will be going off any time soon.

        2) Passive RFID on a firearm. Very difficult to integrate, as the only plausible location on most all firearms would be in removable plastic or wooden grips (RFID does not work through metal). Even if you were required to have an RFID chip on the exterior of your gun, or embedded into a RF-transparent part of it, you would still need to come very close to a receiver with it, and be able to rapidly decode and understand the information on it.

        Both #1 and #2 would also be all kinds of fun to play with should you somehow arrive at a venue with a pocket full of RFID tags set to the relevant frequencies. Readers do not like lots of tags being presented at once.

        3) Active RFID on a firearm. This is the only methodology that can be read at great distance. Active RFID requires two things that are fairly unfriendly to firearms packaging: A relatively large antenna, and a battery. This is how highway toll passes work. It is very difficult, if not impossible to currently employ this technology on any kind of firearm, and it would largely be useless for anything OTHER than tracking said firearm. E.g. you could not really make a “safe gun” mentality stick, it would need to be a flat out firearms tracking mandate, and you can well imagine the arial feces that would generate, and for good reason.

        Now, with all that said, there already is a pretty infallible method of detecting if someone has a gun when walking through a doorway: It’s called a metal detector.

        So, again, this sort of “safe gun” technology is silly, and will probably end up going nowhere fast. However, it can NOT be practically employed to track firearms from afar.

        • “1) Passive RFID tag on your hand (the technology implied in this example). These cannot be read at great distance, even with very powerful readers using huge antennas.”

          I did not talk about being read, only detected. They can be detected out to far greater ranges than they are read. Also how far is your CCW gun usually from a doorway when you walk through it?

          There is a very good reason that many large corporations, included two that I personally worked for, use RFID tags for inventory control. They will set of the proximity sensors and you can then scan the actuall item and read the id to see where it should have been once you have been alerted to its presence.

        • “Now, with all that said, there already is a pretty infallible method of detecting if someone has a gun when walking through a doorway: It’s called a metal detector.”

          Surprisingly metal detectors detect metal. That includes my keys, my zippo, etc. Once the FCC states a frequency range to be used only for “smart” guns they would be the only thing broadcasting a signal in that range.

  6. I recall reading something interesting about the anti-gun states’ proposed laws on these little gems: Firearms for law enforcement personnel are exempted from the requirement, primarily due to the reliablility issues described above. Hey, an unreliable gun is OK for the peasants, but we aren’t going to require it for the armed defenders of the political aristocracy.

  7. If the technology advances to the point where it reaches some general level of practicality and the powers that be mandate that it be implemented for the general population (under penalty of law, of course), then I’d have to say that we’ve crossed the Rubicon and it’s now nut-cutting time. And those very same powers that be can kiss my sweet Irish ass while they’re at it.

    I want my firearms reliable, simple, accurate and utterly dumb; accept no substitutes.

  8. Another use for duct tape.
    Semi auto pistols have enough potential mechanical reliability problems and now this guy wants to add electrical malfunctions.

  9. One must wonder why people insist on misnaming products. This may be an interesting technical achievement, but smart it is not. This tool accomplishes nothing that a complete field strip cannot accomplish, as it is rather difficult for theif and child alike to fire a pistol deprived of its barrel or cylinder.

    As to the stated goal of preventing unauthorized use,such is the fodder of inexperienced comedians. Children and criminals alike are known for technical skill and general mischeif, and indeed any gun owner who installs such an instrument should not be shocked when he activates the trigger and finds that the weapon has a new master.

  10. Please someone remind me what is supposed to prevent me from simply removing the “Smart” RFID chip from the weapon? I mean not being Einstein or anything but I don’t see how this thing will re-engage or prevent the safety from engaging except by electronic impulse, the safety itself will still by neccessity be mechanical anything else would require changes to the entire design of the weapon that could only be effected by complete redesigns on the part of the manufacturer. So… logically if this guy is saying he could have the tech ready in a year if only he had half a million dollars I’m assuming that the thing will be a relatively simple post assembly add-on and therefore simple enough to defeat with 10 or 15 minutes and a screwdriver.

    • I agree Joseph. Your not Einstein. sorry I couldn’t resist.
      Yes you can take apart the gun and remove the safety. You can also take out the bullets or dismantle the trigger. Lots of ways to modify and make the gun harmless with the proper tools. The point is that the gun will be childproof and help prevent the 800+ killed annually as a result of accidental discharge and the thousands that are injured. The average intruder that enters a home is not so sophisticated that he brings his gunsmith tools. Also the LEO that is overpowered in the course of duty will be safe knowing that the criminal cant use his gun against him.

  11. I don’t know where you are getting you numbers from, but as far as I can tell, they are completely bogus. All “accidental firearm deaths are: 747, all ages, all races. 800+ children dying from ND’s is simply not true.

  12. Thanks for confirming 747 deaths in a year. 842 In 2009 so I guess it depends on what year you pick. Thousands more are injured. About 70% of victims are kids 18 or under.
    The comment that Ireland is a land of ‘Disarmed slaves” is simply offensive and ignorant.
    It is an indisputable fact that accidental discharges happen everyday and on average 2 a day are killed.

  13. I’m impressed with all the technical savvy posts. Quite informative. As a consumer and more importantly a parent, I see this technology as a good thing.
    This technology has obvious limits still the only threat I see is the mad rush to be the first special interest group to either control this technology in order to ban or force legislation.
    I believe solutions to our modern day problems are born from the innovation of the private sector it’s just that because of the power hungry duopoly which controls the not so free market will scurry to Washington DC spend millions in order to either corner a market through legislation or protect a position in the market via legislation.
    Meanwhile as we banter on the many merits of our agrandized political talking points, some people would simply like to own a safer way to protect their homes and family.
    Even as a registered member of the Libertarian Party, I still do not fantasize about picking up arms against my government, but do believe in the right to protect my life, liberty and property. It’s just when Republicans & Democrats get hold of anything innovative you can bet your butt that some sort of convoluted legislation will be in the works which ultimately snuffs out innovation.

  14. I have seen a myriad of arguments pro and con regarding so called “smart guns”. However, there are a few crucial point being ooverlooked.

    I strongly disagree with the “smart gun” moniker. It ranks in stupidity and lack of reality with other stupid semantically slick marketing terms like gun control, Saturday night special and assault weapons. Rule number 1 of gun safety to to keep the gun pointed in a safe direction above all else.

    What makes a gun “smartt” is the person behind the trigger. It is a undeniable fact that people overlook in this debate because this debate is always gun centric instead of user centric. Those of us that have grown up shooting have always known never to rely on mechanical safeties. So now you introduce a piece and electronic device in a very inhospitable place full of hot burning gasses, filled with powder residue various harsh cleaning cleaning products and oils.

    Additionally, guns are a very analog device that some feel a need to inject electronic interface indo the mix. Not to mention that we have an increasing number of hacker youth

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