Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Your tax dollars to help develop "smart-gun" technology

The New Jersey Institute of Technology has scored a quarter million dollar Department of Justice grant to continue developing "child-proof smart-gun" technology:
The Department of Justice has awarded a $254,889 federal grant to the New Jersey Institute of Technology so the Newark university can continue developing its child-proof "smart gun" technology, members of New Jersey's congressional delegation announced today.

(Prototype "smart-gun". Credit:

NJIT has spent the last nine years on a "dynamic grip recognition" technology that can identify gun owners based on how they squeeze the trigger. The technology uses sensors located in the gun to identify unconscious, reflexive actions unique to each person and then decides whether the gunman is authorized to fire the weapon.

University officials say it works 99 percent of the time when paired with an off-the-shelf handgun outfitted with green and red lights to indicate whether the embedded circuitry decided to fire or not. They have tested it successfully with shooters wearing gloves, under timed conditions to simulate stressful conditions and using alternate hands.

Article here.

Color me skeptical. First, the whole idea that you can identify a particular person based solely on their grip patterns under all combat conditions is nonsense. Second, how will you gain the necessary "training" inputs to program the gun for the particular authorized user, short of having the person, say, engage in multiple live-fire gunfights to generate the necessary realism, stress, and fear of dying under varying conditions to obtain accurate "grip profiles" (in which case, I suspect few users will survive the programming phase :))? Finally, how will the system have enough "leeway" under all conceivable conditions to avoid ALL false-negatives (where the gun fails to fire for an authorized person), while allowing the false-positive rate (where the gun fires for an unauthorized person) to remain low? What happens when the user is injured (shot / stabbed / slashed in the arm, has broken fingers, etc., etc.) and his/her grip no longer meets the programmed profile for an "authorized user". Those are the times when the gun is likely most needed.

If I recall correctly, New Jersey has a law on the books that will outlaw all sales of new conventional handguns in that state once a single manufacturer offers for sale anywhere in the country a handgun equipped with "smart-gun" technology. Of course, New Jersey law enforcement is exempted from this law, so the guinea pigs would be the public.

Hah! My memory works fine! Here's an article from 2002 on the NJ "smart-gun" law:
The New Jersey Institute of Technology is developing a smart gun prototype that would use sensors on the pistol grip to identify a user.

The owner would have his grip programmed at a gun shop or police range by practice-firing the weapon. A microchip in the weapon would remember the grip and determine in an instant whether the authorized user was holding the weapon. If not, the gun would not fire.

Under the New Jersey law, the technology will be required in all new handguns sold three years after the state attorney general determines a smart gun prototype is safe and commercially available. Weapons used by law enforcement officers would be exempt. [emphasis added]

Allow me to humbly suggest that until this (or any) sort of "smart-gun" technology is widely adopted by the vast majority of law enforcement agencies nationwide, and has been proven to work under real-life combat conditions and stress in, say, one hundred thousand real-life gunfights, then you, dear reader, don't "need" it, because it won't make you "safer", or seem so "smart" in your next gunfight.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Even if they somehow perfect it to reliably detect the user's grip under differing conditions and with both hands...what happens if the user is injured during an encounter?

I would imagine that a knife or gunshot wound to the hand or muscles of the arm would have a significant impact on one's grip pattern.

It seems to me that this technology would be the most prone to failure exactly when it is the most needed.

Not to mention the whole "programmed at a gun shop/police station" thing.