TriggerSmart technology makes safer guns possible

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Gun violence is an undeniable antagonist in our society. Thirty thousand people die each year in the U.S. as a result of gun violence and gun-related accidents. As the numbers of school shootings has risen dramatically over the past year, gun owners, proponents of stricter gun regulations and opposers to the second amendment alike have all looked to technology to help regulate and control these violent situations.  

Now, we’ve all seen the clip from the latest James Bond movie. Before he’s dispatched out to do the bidding of MI6, the ever popular character, played here by Daniel Craig, is issued a handgun with a palm scanner embedded in the stock. A few scenes later, this technology proved to save the life of everyone’s favorite British agent, when an attacker gets his hands on Bond’s gun and is unable to fire.

This got people thinking: What if we had a way to limit gun usage to their owners only? This notion has spurred a lot of discussion between lawmakers, gun manufacturers, as well as the NRA.

“Fingerprint scanning just wasn’t cost effective, or realistic for that matter,” said an NRA spokesman

“When the movie came out, all eyes were pointed to searching for a viable alternative to this idea, and that’s where RFID came into play”

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. In layman’s terms, they are small chips that emit a short range radio signal. When the signal is caught by a receiver, it can allow the user to complete a task. One of the main commercial functions for this technology in today’s market is door locks. Schools, business, and even some homes are now equipped with receivers on the locks that are opened by these small chips.

But what if we put one of these receivers in the stock of a gun? What if the gun was unable to fire unless a corresponding RFID chip was within a very small distance? Once these questions started getting asked, a number of companies began exploring the reality of this product. Among these companies is a company called TriggerSmart. TriggerSmart began embedding RFID chips for the purpose of childproofing guns in 2013, just a year after the release of Skyfall, the latest Bond installment.  

Robert McNamara is the founding partner of TriggerSmart. His vision goes beyond the installation of chips, to creating what he calls a “smart gun”.

“Really what I was seeing every time I turned on the news was another gun safety issue after another, and I saw an opportunity to come up with a solution and make some money in the process.”

McNamara’s initial inspiration for this product came from the idea of protecting law enforcement. He wanted to limit the ability of criminals to fire a weapon that was obtained from a police officer. When he began brainstorming the idea, he originally thought of using biometrics, or fingerprinting, as the lock. “The biggest criticism of biometrics is speed and reliability,” McNamara said. “It takes time to analyze biometrics, and those seconds are considered too long in a crisis situation.” McNamara also discovered a few other drawbacks to biometrics that he hadn’t anticipated when he first got the idea. First would be cost effectiveness. He needed a product that wouldn’t increase the price of a firearm too drastically if it were going to be a viable option for law enforcement to issue to its officers. He then discovered that the power needed to run a biometric system would be difficult to equip a 9-millimeter pistol with.

With biometrics off the table, McNamara went back to the drawing board. “I began doing some research and I came across a couple scientists from Georgia Tech University. They were said to be the foremost experts in all things RFID, so I got into contact with them and they said ‘Yeah, that’s probably doable,’ so we retained them and they came up with a lot of the R&D, and eventually the initial prototype.”

When asked about the idea of this product being standard issue for police, an unnamed NYPD officer said, “I think it’s an interesting piece of technology in order to keep police officers safe and prevent them from being wounded or killed with their own weapon. I think the issues they may find is how this technology will be used.” He expressed a concern for failure in the technology. “When we’re trained to use our weapons, we get extensive training and do countless drills on how to clear a jam or correct a misfire or what have you. With a technology like this, I worry about being able to troubleshoot a faulty piece of equipment in the field in a timely manner, especially in a combat situation.”

TriggerSmart has no plans of stopping at chips;  they want to release their own line of Smart Guns. McNamara’s plan is to first produce and market the nine-millimeter handgun, and then start developing rifles and shotguns as well. He boasts that his technology, once established in the market, would only add $60 to $100 to the cost of the same weapon without their chip in it. This seems a small price to pay to ensure safety in the use of firearms.