In the next push for gun control, on Wednesday Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) proposed the Personalized Handgun Safety Act of 2013. The proposal begins, “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. This technology, however, isn’t just for the movies – it’s a reality.” While molding legislation around a glitzy action film seems far fetched, it is in fact plausible due to already existing technology. The main challenge to passing legislation lied in mustering support amongst a divided Congress.
When introducing the bill, Tierney retold the horrific incident of the 6-year-old New Jersey boy who shot his 4-year-old playmate in the head accidentally after obtaining his father’s gun. His father was arrested on Monday, and charged with five counts of second-degree child endangerment and one count of third-degree childhood endangerment. If convicted, he could be sentenced up to 50 years in prison.
Sadly, cases like this are not unique. Tierney claims that passing this legislation will mandate that newly manufactured handguns need to be personalized and will only be operable by the authorized user within two years. These measures aim to reduce the frequency of events similar to the incident in New Jersey, prevent accidental misuse of guns and reduce charges against an owner if someone else takes and uses the gun.
Co-sponsor of the bill Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D- N.Y.) assures,“Technology now exists to ensure a gun is used only by the actual authorized user of a weapon.” Researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology have been developing a grip-recognizing gun for over a decade. These biometrics and grip pattern detection technologies sense if the owner is using it. For example, the Mossberg Group iGun can only be fired when the owner wears a ring with a chip that activates it. Without already existing legislation in place, the demand for this technology is low, even though manufacturers insist it is inexpensive.
Tierney sounded relatively optimistic when asked about the turbulent road he faces to channel his bill through congress. But if last month’s attempt to pass universal background checks on gun purchases was any indication of what is to come, he may need to brace himself. The Democrats received quite the blow when they lost 54-45, which indicates it is highly unlikely Tierney’s bill will garner bipartisan support.
Congress needs to get past this contentious nonsense, and find a common ground to save the 30,000 lives lost to gun violence yearly.