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DEMAND A PLAN TO STOP SMART GUNS
Could Obama pass an Executive Order to introduce the large-scale manufacture of smart guns? If so, the claim will be made that the Second Amendment has been protected, and that gun owners can now be responsible. Last week, Vice President Joe Biden voiced his approval of smart guns, as he prepares to report his recommendations to President Obama regarding potential gun control measures this week. These ‘personalized weapons’ use either biometrics, or RFID+microchips, to identify the user, so as to allow, or deny, the gun to be fired. Without mentioning VeriChips, or the ability of a third party to remotely disable the gun, the U.S. Administration might argue that smart guns ‘satisfy’ all parties in the gun control debate – the people get to own guns, but they are held to be ‘safe’.  Claims that the guns are safe and childproof cannot be guaranteed .
This article will examine the development of smart gun technology, and the movements of Biden as he compiles his report for Obama, as well as the large base of support for smart guns amongst the gun control lobbyists.
The problem: regular shooting sprees in supposedly safe zones
The reaction: tragedy, grief, and a lot of fodder for the media
The solution: yet to be announced (note, however, that solutions always need to be seen to reflect the so-called ‘consensus’ – the ‘middle ground’. All controversial proposals are either a total distraction, or an ‘over-bid’ in the bargaining process, such that the final solution appears to be a compromise which is then called a consensus.)
‘Childproof’ smart guns are weapons which are ‘personalized’, because they will only fire when used by the person authorized to use that particular gun. Some designs use biometrics, such as checking the unique finder grip of the user, and other designs which require a second device (i.e. a microchip) to be worn in or on the hand, in order to activate the gun. Using radio frequency, the chip in the gun reads the chip in the hand, to validate the identity of the user and (de)activate the gun.
Joe Biden has been on a whistle-stop tour to demonstrate how he is ‘listening to all sides’, and is about to make his recommendations to Obama. Towards the end of the series of meetings, Biden announced his support for smart guns:
“... a lot could change if, for example, every gun purchased could only be fired by the person who purchased it…. That technology exists, but it's extremely expensive. But if that were available with every weapon sold, there's significant evidence that ... may very well curtail what happened up in Connecticut. Because had the young man not had access to his mother's arsenal, he may or may not have did what he did," Biden said.
He has also said that Obama may make an Executive Order which would be passed without the approval of Congress. There’s certainly an air of hurry.
There has also been a flurry of articles about smart guns in general, all invoking the communitarian meme of responsibility towards the collective: to protect the children of gun owners, to avoid further massacres, to thwart the ‘mentally ill’, and to stall the market for illegal weapons. It is also said that many policemen are killed or injured each year when criminals turn their weapons against them.
Most of the articles written recently describe Triggersmart, a technology reviewed by Biden as part of his discussions last week. It’s underfunded but ready for market, and includes a design with a chip implanted in the hand of the user (this is not mentioned in the articles, but is shown in the video the company has uploaded to Youtube). It also allows for remote controlled deactivation of the gun, such as in ‘safe zones’ like schools and airports.
Fox news featured video footage of Biden endorsing smart guns, and interviewed Max Slowik from Guns.com , who maintained there are too many problems with the technology; someone could steal your ring, for instance, and there is a time lag upon firing (this could be up to a second for biometrics). He also claimed, as have several journalists, that the technology is not yet ready for market. However, two smart gun designs are said to fully developed and simply waiting for funding, and participation by gun manufacturers and retailers.
Jeremy Shane, writing for CNN, is advocating the introduction of smart guns, describing features such as the gun broadcasting its location, and sensing who it is being pointed at, so that it could not be aimed at a child, for instance. Shane asserts:
“Voices across the political spectrum are debating how to prevent mass shootings such as the one in Newtown, Connecticut. Familiar ideological lines are being redrawn. Some want to renew the ban on assault weapons and expand waiting periods to buy a gun. Others want to place armed guards in schools. And then there is the challenge of preventing guns from falling into the hands of the mentally ill.
While the debate rages on, it's worth thinking out of the box for a moment. What if we could design guns to be smarter and safer -- with hardware and software? The right technology could neutralize the killing capability of an assault weapon, even in a madman's hands.
The root of the problem is that guns are "dumb." Pull the trigger and they discharge bullets mindlessly, regardless of who is doing the aiming or where they are aimed. Guns should "know" not to fire in schools, churches, hospitals or malls. They should sense when they are being aimed at a child, or at a person when no other guns are nearby.
Hardware fixes alone -- such as a ban on extended clips -- may mitigate carnage in an assault, but they will not change the risk that an event happens at all if the person holding the gun wants to harm others. Addressing that challenge with reliable precision requires a hardware and software solution.”
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence also advocates smart guns, and believes the U.S. Supreme Court decision, “… in District of Columbia v. Heller … created a radical shift in the meaning of the Second Amendment, but it doesn’t prevent smart gun regulations,” and even claims that, “… courts are finding that smart laws aren’t just constitutional – they’re also critical to keeping our communities safe from gun violence”.
These sentiments are echoed by a non-profit organisation which wants to retrofit all weapons with biometric features:
“In the USA, the Biomac Foundation supports the 2nd Ammendment of the Constitution, and a citizen’s right to bear arms …. RESPONSIBLY!”
The Personalized Weapon
In 1996 the National Institute of Justice commissioned the Sandia National laboratory to explore the possibilities of smart gun technology, leading to a report which concluded that police officers would only want to use personalised weapons if they felt sure they were reliable.
Five years later, National Defense Industrial Association sponsored the TACOM-ARDEC Support of the Personalized Weapons Program published a report summarizing the issues identified in developing smart gun technology for civilian and law enforcement use, defining the gun as,
“A firearm whose capability to be fired is biometrically, mechanically, or otherwise safely rendered “authorized” user(s)-only operational.”
Then in 2003, the National Academy of Engineering (with support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation) organised a workshop to discuss “Owner-Authorized Handguns”. The meeting brought together academics and government officials with members of various gun interest groups.
The NRA has been opposed to smart gun technology over the years, but appears not to have made statements on the issue of late.
The early research , in the ‘noughties’, involved grants from the National Institute of Justice to fund both Smith & Wesson, and Colt, to develop smart guns, but the projects never came to fruition. A subsidiary of the Mossberg group developed the iGun, though according to an article at ComputerWorld.com, “(t)here is no indication from the iGun website that that effort continues, and officials at iGun Technology could not be reached for comment.”
New Jersey introduced legislation in 2002, specifying that three years after smart guns become commercially available, all handguns sold in the State must conform to the new technology.
In 2007, the ‘Legal Community Against Violence’ (LCAV) crafted a model law for personalized handguns.
Jump forward to 2013 and we find that three guns are said to be ready for market, but do not yet have the funding, or the support from gun manufacturers, that they need to fully commercialise their products. The fingerprint recognition guns you may have heard of are not a successful design:
“While several technologies can be used to recognize fingerprints, such as infrared, optical scanning and pressure sensors that can determine the grooves of a person's fingerprints, Sebastian argues they're too kludgy to use, and not always reliable.
"At best, we found that they were 75% reliable, and that's under laboratory conditions," he said. "And there are all kinds of ways they can be confused and not work: Dry fingers on capacitor systems cause problems; leaving behind the residue of your finger print can cause problems; cold hands; gloves, no gloves. There are a lot of reasons just as a technology that it is flawed.
"Then you get into where do you put it on the gun, so that your finger falls in a natural way. It's very difficult...to find one place that fits for all."” .
The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) has been developing a gun which works by detecting the biometrics of the user’s grip pattern – literally, the unique way they hold the gun. NJIT has been funded millions of dollars over the years with federal and state grants and has developed Dynamic Grip Recognition, with a 99% or better success rate. in 2007, the Association of Chief Police Officers in the UK said they were keen to test the gun , which uses an array of 32 sensors in the gun's grip, to recognize the grip pattern profile of a particular user, and thus establish authentication. Partnered with Australian company Metal Storm, the O'Dwyer VLe smart gun “… uses a 64-digit electronic keying system to prevent it from being fired by unauthorized operators. It is designed for specialist police teams and for the military.” “vLe” stands for “variable lethality”.
“The 100% electronic O'Dwyer VLe "Smart Gun" is to incorporate biometric authorising technology that should enable it to meet new US requirements for "personalised" handguns according to a joint release from Metal Storm and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).Legislation passed last year in the State of New Jersey requires that "three years after it is determined that personalized handguns are available for retail purposes, it will be illegal-. for any dealer or manufacturer to sell, assign or transfer any handgun unless that handgun is a personalized handgun". The States of New York, Ohio and Tennessee as well as the US Congress, are understood to be preparing similar legislation.The Dynamic Grip Recognition (DGR) biometric authorising technology recently patented by the NJIT will enable the creation of a 'personalised' handgun that is both childproof and personalised to the owner so that absolutely no one else can use it.”
Donald H. Sebastian, NJIT's senior vice president for research and development, claims that his project is out of money, and that although the technology has received some interest from investors, there has been none from gun manufacturers.
"There are a lot of things that conspire against that," Sebastian said.
According to Stephen Teret, the founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Policy and Research,
" Politics got involved and the gun companies came under pressure not to change… CEOs of major gun companies were fired because it was believed they were bringing in safety technology."
Robert McNamara, the founder of TriggerSmart, has already tried to get some U.S. gun makers, (which he hasn’t named) to license his technology, but none of them want to make the first move:
"The attitude is, 'We understand this technology is coming down the track and we'll deal with it when we have to,'" he said. "They're concerned about the liability aspect. When you put it in one gun you'll have to put it in every gun."
A company in Ireland called TriggerSmart has teamed with the Georgia Institute of Technology to develop a smart gun with an RFID chip in it, which activates the gun when it receives a high frequency radio signal from a second chip located in or on the user’s hand; the chip can be incorporated into a ring, or it can be implanted in the hand.
When the two chips are only 1cm apart, the gun will be unlocked and able to fire. It is powered by a small rechargeable battery that can hold up to a week's worth of power. http://www.cio-asia.com/mgmt/legal/could-smart-gun-technology-make-us-safer/?page=3
Infowars reported on this technology back in 2004, citing Verichip president (at the time), Keith Bolton:
““If you let your mind wander to other potential uses, you can imagine the lives that could be saved”, he said.
Verichip, which has marketed similar microchips for security and medical purposes, announced Tuesday a partnership with gun maker FN Manufacturing to produce the smart weapons. The companies have developed a prototype and are working to refine its accuracy, Bolton said.
Similar developments are under way at other gun manufacturers and research firms. The New Jersey Institute of Technology and Australian gun maker Metal Storm Ltd. are working on a prototype smart gun that would recognize its owner's individual grip.”
Another highly significant feature of the TriggerSmart gun is that it can be remotely disabled – in public places, like schools and airports. This feature is known as Wide Area Control, or WAC. The weapons' safety devices have been patented in the U.S. and 47 other countries.
In the video for Triggersmart on Youtube, McNamara says,
“Representative Peter King, of the Department of Homeland Security said he’d introduce a new bill that bars anyone from carrying a gun within 1000 feet of a federal official. … King believes legislation could have prevented the January 2011 Arizona shootings.”
He also says that the US Government has agreed to sign the United Nations Small and Light Weapons Treaty, which aims to control the illegal gun market.
Triggersmart uses the internet banking encryption standard (AES-256) and is therefore claimed to be ‘safe’ – although, of course, complete security cannot be guaranteed. As with all ‘benefits’ of technology, there will always be, to put it mildly, drawbacks.
McNamara claims he could bring TriggerSmart to market within a year if he were given just $500,000 to finalise development.
Another gun design is manufactured by a company called Armatrix; their gun also works by syncing with a chip worn by the user, but in a watch worn on the wrist. The company claims it is “currently involved in advanced licensing negotiations with several gun manufacturers. In addition, Armatix offers a tried and tested smart system in the form of a development of its own: the iP1 pistol (.22 LR caliber) and the iW1 active RFID watch.”
Biden’s been busy
The numerous horrific shooting sprees have been used as a springboard on which to introduce measures to gun ownership in America, and Joe Biden is leading a taskforce to address the issue, and to present a report of his conclusions and recommendations to President Obama by Tuesday. The group was formed in December last year, after the massacre in Connecticut, when twenty children and six adults were killed. Biden has just finished a hectic week, meeting with groups representing various different interests, including the National Rifle Association (NRA) which is America’s biggest gun rights group; after their meeting with Biden, NRA representatives commented,
“We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment.”
This is because the meeting, and the media at large, has had its attention directed towards such proposals as mandatory background checks for people who want to buy a gun, and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines – not smart guns. Perhaps this will be the ‘solution’ whipped out at the last minute. But if it’s on the cards, it should have been discussed with all groups at the meetings Biden has held. Especially when it could advance the introduction of VeriChips.
In an open admission of the desire to control the content of films to represent the government’s ideology, Biden has also met with chief figureheads who represent the entertainment industry as part of his negotiations, to discuss the use of guns and violence in movies. The industry asserted they will not agree to government legislation regarding content of films and programs, but back a plan to make sure viewers are fully informed. They understand, however, that the government can “strongly urge filmmakers to make voluntary changes”.
On the 9th of January this year, Vice President Biden voiced his support for smart guns, noting that they would have prevented the Connecticut shootings (the gunman would not have been able to fire his mother’s weapons.)
Biden has also indicated that President Obama may use his presidential powers to bypass Congress:
McNamara, the founder of TriggerSmart, posted on a forum, just before Christmas, that he had been contacted by the Vice President’s Office and asked to attend a meeting with him, to discuss his smart gun design. He also posted an email which Mitch Barker, Executive Director, WA Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs had emailed to Biden, lamenting the massacres and endorsing the use of smart guns:
“The various technologies have never been brought to fruition and so the concept has languished. I have corresponded recently with one of the principals of TriggerSmart and suggest that they be brought into the conversation at an early stage.
If this technology can be brought to the market place in a coordinated manner, I believe it will be a key element in saving lives that otherwise would be lost to gun accidents or criminal violence. I would encourage public funding of the research, development, and planned marketing of technology such as TriggerSmart. The ideas of creative entrepreneurs, and our support for them, should not be limited to the arena of information technology. Base support for such enterprises are essential in reducing gun deaths in our nation.”
Writing for the Huffington Post, David Shuster last month proclaimed:
“Congress and the President should begin their new effort at preventing mass shootings by mandating something that might have made a different in Newtown, Conn. -- require smart gun technology in all weapons. Just as our nation insists on basic quality standards for cars, houses, tools, air, water, and etc, insisting on basic features for all weapons that may be "fired" is perfectly reasonable.
It's not about taking guns away. It's about making sure that guns can't be fired by anybody but their lawful owners.
Is that too much to ask?”
Jonathan Lowy, director of the Legal Action Project of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, says the simplest way to get personalized guns to the market would be to place firearms under the purview of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which handles safety-related oversight of everything from cribs to power tools.
Guns and the U.N.
The United Nations held a Review Conference last Summer for organisations interested in halting the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and to further the UN ‘Programme of Action’, using “national, regional and international measures for full implementation of the Programme of Action adopted in 2001”. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson echoed the communitarian ethos of the Programme, when he told participants of the meeting:
“Our collective responsibility is clear: to prevent the flow of small arms into post-conflict areas and into the hands of warlords and traffickers.”
Belinda Padilla, President of Armatix GmbH was present at the conference as an NGO, with the support of IANSA (the International Action Network on Small Arms), although Armatrix is not a member of IANSA.
“[Padilla]… said the corporation was helping to lead efforts in using smart technology to make weapons safer and preventing their diversion to unauthorized users. Its technology had enormous benefits for law enforcement. Emphasizing the enormous challenges and risks associated with stockpile management, storage and transfer of small arms, she said it was in the best interest of a responsible industry to enhance effective measures in those areas, and to provide the means by which significant benefits could be achieved in reducing those risks. Smart personalized weapons and technologies such as microchips, GPS tracking and smart locks, among others, could assist with safety, smart storage and smart transport, she said.”
Walmart is the biggest retailer of consumer guns (firearms sold at gun shows are also a substantial part of the market) and had originally declined an invitation to meet with Biden last week, although at the eleventh hour, they decided to send a representative According to the L A Times, “the company has worked with Bloomberg’s group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, on the Responsible Firearms Retail Partnership, an initiative to adopt stricter gun sale practices”, showing clearly where the company stands in the gun control debate.
Will Wal-Mart actually team with the Obama White House on gun control?’, pointing out, in agreement with Bill Scher, that Walmart needs to maintain its broad consumer reputation and is also partnered with the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition. Could it be, then, that Walmart would agree to stock smart guns? That would be enough to make the others follow suit.
Derren Brown’s ‘The Assassin’ is a Channel4 OD program available on Youtube and is well worth watching, because it shows how the CIA could have trained people to kill against their will as part of its notorious MK Ultra program. The man who shot Kennedy, Sirhan Sirhan, was known to be a kind and gentle person, who has consistently denied shooting the presidential candidate. Brown says that eyewitnesses of the shooting reported that Sirhan Sirhan was in a trance-like state during the shooting, and that under hypnosis,
“… he said he thought he was firing at a target in a rifle range, not a human being, and that a mystery woman in a polka dot dress pinched him on the shoulder to send him into this range, or marksman mode.”
The program is about Derren Brown training somebody to shoot Britain’s ‘national treasure’, Stephen Fry. Hypnosis and cues are used to both train the man to be a good marksman, and to react to a given signal. It is also crucial evidence to weigh up in the light of some of the school shootings in America, especially in Aurora, where James Holmes looked very dazed and confused; the New York Daily News reported,
In January, 1999, Beretta published their conclusions on smart guns after several years of research. Their report criticises the idea that these guns should be ready to shoot – currently, parents store their ammo separately from the weapon, but smart guns sell on the idea that they are safe, child-proof even.
“Support for the notion that a "childproof" gun could increase unsafe storage practices is found in a recent study conducted by a gun control organization which found that up to 11% of persons who do not now own a handgun would do so if they knew that their handgun was "childproof."
We can all testify to experiences with technology that illustrate how it can make life harder at the same time it makes life easier. This is the way of life: with the good comes the bad – and reliance on technology just brings in a new set of problems for the old ones cleared away. Biometrics and RFID are not infallible – in fact, that is why identity management and digital financial transactions are always covered by several ‘layers’, or methods, of asserting authentication. There is a higher chance of secure encryption when a combination of RFID and different biometric readings is employed – the technique is ‘multi-modal’. Smart guns lack these layers of security, and even the ‘dynamic finger grip’ design was combined with the RFID-chip design - the stark fact remains: relying on a piece of jewellery to make your gun work in an emergency is ridiculous - it’s obvious that people would start choosing to suffer a quick prick for the VeriChip rather than have to (remember to) wear that damn ring. Or get it stolen, or lose it. After a while, what with all the ‘health’ chips and ID chips, getting an implant would start to seem normal. So to introduce smart guns would surely advance this horrific trend – no matter what we think of our present governments, we must not build the framework which would enable tyranny-with-ease. It’s clear that if guns and their owners have to be given permission to be fired, the power lies in the hands of those who grant permission, and smart guns would allow the authorities to disable weapons, which is the same as taking them away.
The media campaign – especially the ‘Demand a Plan’ video, rests on little else than appeals to emotion. No-one would belittle the harm that has been caused by the mass shootings, but a balanced case must not rest on emotion alone. All the evidence must be considered, and be seen as part of the larger picture – an essentially political one, since it decides the balance of power between the government, and the governed.
 There’s a lot more to ‘smartness’ than science: it is part of the global communitarian zeitgeist which insists that we are responsible to the collective, and individual accountability is key – many people have been led to absorb these values, and believe all measures that enhance national security are implicitly right. This argument has become so prevalent that it is becoming a commonplace mechanism to trample on individual freedom. But for a society to function well, people must be free to choose their own course of moral action – not have their behaviour controlled by governments.
 99 times out of 100, the gun won’t fire – but there are other problems too; please read through to the conclusion.
 The website for the Biomac Foundation only appears to have been active in 2009. It has a for-profit arm which claims to be able to retrofit existing guns with biometric security mechanisms, while the Foundation exists to plough profits into helping “victims of global violence”. Note also: “While the technology can be retrofitted to guns, the process requires a pistol grip change as well as the motor install, making it better suited to integration during the manufacturing process.”
 The whole program is worth watching, but if you just want to see a few minutes, start watching at 16 minutes and 30 seconds.