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    Posted December 16, 2012 by
    Nashville, Tennessee
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Newtown school shooting: Thoughts and tributes

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    Could "Owner-Authorized" Firearms Prevent Another Sandy Hook Tragedy?


    In 2003, The National Academy of Engineering reported that fingerprint-read, “smart” or “personalized” firearms technology was available for what are known as “owner-authorized weapons.” In 1994, BAFTA released a statement suggesting "if all the handguns in America were replaced by Smart Gun technology, it would surely cut down on black market sales and the urge for thieves to steal your weapon."


    In fact, O'Dwyer introduced their personalized weapon in June of '99, but that organization is contracted with our Department of Defense. Smith Wesson had reportedly been on the literal brink of development at an earlier point in time as well -by a decade before yesterday’s shocking events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.


    An "owner-authorized/ personalized firearms" refer to firearms that have a permanent programmable biometric or other permanent programmable feature as part of the original manufacture that renders the gun incapable of being fired except when activated by the lawful, registered owner or other users authorized by the lawful owner, and that cannot be readily deactivated.


    These “personalized” firearms, also known as “smart” guns, are firearms that can only be fired by authorized users. Personalized guns are designed to prevent shootings, both intentional and unintentional, by children and other unauthorized users. A 2003 study analyzing data from seven years of unintended firearm deaths or deaths of undetermined intent found that 37% of the deaths could have been prevented by a smart gun. Personalized guns also render firearms useless to thieves and criminals who gain access to law enforcement weapons during the course of an arrest or other encounter.


    Personalized guns incorporate a variety of design technologies, including magnetic devices and radio frequency transponders. Fingerprint identification and other biometric technologies (i.e., those that rely on the authorized user’s unique physical characteristics) are also being developed.


    However, there are a number of concerns about these weapons.


    Foremost, is the concern by gun manufacturers that the weapons may result in failure of the gun to authorize, leading to accidental deaths and civil liability. Many programmers and biometrics engineers of past years have determined scientific feasibility and even cost estimates (about 50% higher than current weapon costs) and the current successes in Information Technology is aimed at this precision of applied technology, particularly so within the computer applications boom of the last few years and rapid-release of new and improved versions of all technology.


    Another concern is the reported fears by citizens about the loss of personally-identifiable data, specifically DNA and/or fingerprint information being used for reasons apart of the personalized weapon registry of their guns.


    As such, this technology remains on the literal shelf for individual gun owners.


    The problem with moving these weapons to the shelf is not a technological one; rather, it is a financial and legal risk.


    Who will carry the civil liability of any failure rate (if any) of these weapons?


    Or, the more immediate question about whether this owner-authorized gun technology had been available before the morning events at Sandy Hook Elementary.


    What if Adam Lansz’ mother had purchased a personalized gun in favor of the requirement in Connecticut to purchase a locking device with the sale of her handguns/rifle? Was that lock in use? We may never know.


    Still, we must ask if people are locking up their weapons once that device is home? Can we assume all gun owners are educated about locking devices, options for personalized weapons, or the risks inherent to special populations?


    Ultimately, we ask if this biometric personalized firearm technology could have prevented the killing of 20 beautiful, innocent children, 6 adults and the shooter. If indeed the answer is “yes.”, please, let us commence to the development and adoption of some new safety measures. The black and white options of gun control laws are not likely to be resolved in real time but technology and better education measures could be implemented and evaluated as a part of the current debate.


    Conceptually, this could work. Constitutionally, perhaps we begin by offering this as an optional safety net for parents or caregivers to the young, mentally or emotionally challenged. Maybe a Grandfather Clause is in order to address the concerns of weapon manufacturers to not be liable to retrospective litigation where impending civil liability may be the primary hold-up in manufacturing. I don't know, but I think we can all recognize that unless there is some movement toward mandating or incentivizing new initiatives like this, gun manufacturers will continue to withhold this advancement.


    At the end of this day, yesterday, and tomorrow, many of us wish there had been some way to protect those children and adults. Adam Lansz' mother owned those weapons legally. Might she have opted for the smart gun if she'd had the choice?

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