Five years ago, New Jersey became the first state to limit the sale of handguns to those equipped with technology that prevents all but the owner from firing. The law, aimed at reducing the number of children killed by handguns through accidents, suicide or acts of violence, had a big caveat, says the Newark Star-Ledger: It would not go into effect until the state was convinced futuristic “smart guns” actually work.
After gun manufacturers, engineering firms, and universities spent millions competing to perfect the weapon, the quest is on the slow track. The federal government has all but ceased its funding, crippling research. Squabbles over patents shelved promising technologies. Gun manufacturers got out of the business, wary of potential lawsuits and marketing guns that would cost far more. One remaining hope lies at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The school has spent nine years and $4 million in grants to develop a technology that identifies gun owners based on how they squeeze the trigger. Institute officials say their gun works 99 percent of the time; getting it to work all the time could take years and substantially more funding than the university now gets. A university official said said it would take “about two years of steady effort with proper funding” to develop a working smart gun prototype.