The National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the US Department of Justice, has released guidelines on the development of new “smart” handguns for law enforcement. The guidelines are intended to help firearms manufacturers produce firearms with integrated electronic safety features that still meet the standards that have been refined through the modern, highly effective all-mechanical handgun. You can find the guidelines at the link here.
Historically in the firearms industry, and among consumers in particular, there has been a tremendous amount of concern regarding “smart” guns. Most consumers do not like the idea of an electronic element to their firearms that could potentially allow a remote agent to disable the gun, or that could malfunction and disable the firearm at the worst possible time. These concerns are valid, however, there is another side to this coin. Reliable, durable, environmentally hardened “smart” gun technology, besides its obvious benefits if a gun falls into the wrong hands, could also pave the way for further applications of electronics in small arms. This could lead to a whole host of improvements, such as Aliens-style round counters (including a “gun odometer” function), electronic fire control groups (reducing lock time, simplifying and shrinking a gun’s mechanism, and allowing repositionable firing groups), and powered rails.
For law enforcement, the promise of a gun that is keyed to a user or department carries a lot of attraction, too. Unlike civilian concealed carriers, cops put themselves in harm’s way routinely, and carry their firearms in an open holster. Retention devices help reduce the risk of snatching somewhat, but an electronic prevention method would be, in theory, safer still.