“Smart guns,” weapons that can be fired only by the owner, so as to reduce shootings by children, by suicidal people or by a criminal who wrests away a cop’s sidearm, were the topic at a symposium Wednesday at the Washington Athletic Club in Seattle.
So-called smart-gun technology isn’t yet ready for sale to the public, but that day is coming soon, three entrepreneurs told a Seattle symposium Wednesday.
Their aim is to develop weapons that can be fired only by the owner, so as to reduce shootings by children, by suicidal people or by a criminal who wrests away a cop’s sidearm.
Of the 32,000 gun deaths yearly in the U.S., 18,000 to 19,000 are suicides. In half of those suicides, the gun used doesn’t belong to the person who ended his or her life, said Ralph Fascitelli, president of Washington CeaseFire.
“Potentially, we can save 9,000 lives, as soon as this technology is available,” he said.
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The event, the Seattle Smart Gun Symposium, held at the Washington Athletic Club, was sponsored by Washington CeaseFire and the Washington Technology Industry Association, whose chief executive officer, Michael Schutzler, hopes this tech-savvy state can be a hub of smart-gun development.
“We wouldn’t put our product out to market now,” cautioned Alan Boinus, CEO of Allied Biometrix of Orange County, Calif., which is developing gun handles that sense the owner’s grip. Smart guns must be tested first by independent users — such as the U.S. Army, which has offered to do so for the state of California, he said.
Three companies presented distinct ideas:
• Omer Kiyani, founder of Sentinl, said he was shot in the mouth as a child. His firm is developing a small device that can recognize the owner’s fingerprint.
“We have a biometric trigger lock that, if [investor] funding can be achieved, can be delivered by Christmas 2015,” he said.
• TriggerSmart, whose co-founder Robert McNamara says has patented a method using wireless RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology. Owners would carry a tag that would unlock the chip-equipped gun.
• Allied Biometrix is testing its “dynamic-grip recognition,” which can activate firearms, even semi-automatic types, in a quarter-second. Children wouldn’t be able to activate such a handgun, said Boinus.
“It allows an authorized user to have immediate access to their lawful gun, and that’s what it’s about,” Boinus said. “Your reflexes are a personal signature to you. We’ve far advanced beyond the fingerprints of the 1860s, in knowing that.”
Dave Workman, a magazine editor for the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue, said the group doesn’t take a position about smart guns — except that it would oppose government mandates.
Poll results presented at the symposium showed that 40 percent of gun owners would trade their guns for smart guns.
Boinus said the gun business differs from businesses where high-tech firms race to win early adopters.
“First to market is not necessarily the best,” he said. “We can’t afford what folks in the digital space can afford. We can’t afford a digital ‘404 error code,’ everybody. This is not something we can monkey around with. This is a serious product, and my company would, frankly, rather be last to the market and do it right, than be first in the market.”
He wouldn’t estimate how soon the grip-activated firearms will be proven and ready to sell.