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Tierney bill urges ‘smart’ technology for firearms

Rep. John Tierney’s proposal has called more attention to so-called smart gun technology.

Globe Photo/File

Rep. John Tierney’s proposal has called more attention to so-called smart gun technology.

James Bond avoided death in the film “Skyfall” when his handgun, outfitted with technology that recognized him as its owner, became inoperable after falling into the villain’s hands.

It wasn’t just the stuff of Hollywood fiction — such technology is being developed by several companies, and Massachusetts Congressman John Tierney would like it to be built into new guns.

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Tierney, a Democrat, earlier this week introduced a bill in the US House of Representatives that would make it mandatory for all guns to be “personalized” within two years — meaning only the lawful owner of a weapon could fire it. Given the debate in Washington over anything that would tighten gun laws, Tierney’s legislation probably doesn’t stand much of a chance. But his proposal has called more attention to so-called smart gun technology, something Michael Recce, an associate professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, has been working on since 1999.

Recce and colleagues at the school have developed a range of firearm prototypes using what they call dynamic grip recognition.

“When the trigger of a gun is pulled, the shooter’s hand applies a pressure pattern to the grip of the gun that is based on his or her bone structure, hand size, and behavior patterns,” Recce said. “This grip pattern differs from individual to individual in much the same way as a signature does.”

The characteristics of a person’s grip on the gun are captured by pressure sensors around the handle that are similar to those on the touchpad of a laptop computer.

“We’re not saying that any individual’s grip is different from the other 6 billion people in the world, but this will make it so most other people cannot fire your gun,” Recce said.

The product is ready to be used, according to Recce, but the school hasn’t struck any partnerships with gun manufacturers.

Another player in this emerging field, Safe Gun Technology, or SGTi, uses a fingerprint recognition system to make sure a gun can be fired only by its owner. “Our technology is designed for two things; to retrofit guns through licensed gunsmiths only and to be incorporated into the manufacturing process,” said Charlie Miller, chairman of the Columbus, Ga.-based company.

Miller said the goal is to produce a retrofit kit that costs less than $150, including installation.

Miller said SGTi is raising money to conduct testing and expects to have a product to release to market in under a year.

Other companies are also working in the field.

Kodiak Industries, based in Salt Lake City, sells a gun called the Intelligun that uses a fingerprint reader that allows only the owner to discharge bullets.

And Trigger Smart, based in Ireland, has a gun that uses Radio Frequency Identification technology that allows a gun to be fired only by its owner, but it is not available for sale in the United States.

Daniel B. Kline can be reached at daniel.kline@boston.com. Follow him on Twitter @dbkbdc.
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