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Smart gun company aims to begin production soon

Lucas Mearian | April 30, 2013
Smart gun company SGTi is ready to begin production of a new prototype technology that would use a fingerprint scanner to enable a weapon to fire. But like similar ventures, the company is struggling for financial backing.

Safe Gun Technology (SGTi) co-founder Charlie Miller has a message for people who think smart-gun technology wouldn't have stopped Adam Lanza from killing 26 in Newtown, Conn. last December.

"There was a zero percent chance of stopping him because this technology was not available," Miller said. "Let's think about if Miss Lanza had our technology on her weapon."

Adam Lanza, who murdered 20 children and six Sandy Hook Elementary staff on Dec. 14, used his mother Nancy's guns to do it.

According to Miller, had smart gun technology been available to Nancy Lanza, she could have programmed her guns so that only her fingerprint could have activated them; she could have enabled her son to shoot them at a firing range and disabled them upon returning home, or she could have enabled them for her son to use all the time, Miller said.

"So without the technology, we went from zero percent chance of preventing the shootings to having the technology and a 66% chance of preventing it," Miller said. "Those are much better odds."

Development of smart gun technology that -- through biometrics or RFID chips -- can limit who can use a gun, has been slow to evolve because of little interest from venture capitalists. In fact, current prototypes are based on five- to 10-year-old microprocessors because of a lack of funds for development.

Miller is hoping he can begin production on his version of a smart gun within the next two months. His company has been working on it for 10 years, and has relied solely on private investments to date. The company hopes to get additional funding to create an updated prototype that ould be available to gun manufacturers, and for retail in the form of a retrofit kit, within the next year.

Columbus, Ga.-based SGTi's technology uses relatively simple fingerprint recognition through an infrared reader. The biometrics reader enables three other physical mechanisms that control the trigger, the firing pin and the gun hammer.

Miller declined to detail how they work, saying it would expose his company's intellectual property.

Once an authorized user places his or her finger on the scanner, which is located in a natural position on the gun's grip, it activates the gun's enabling mechanisms in about one-third of a second, he said.

A secondary "tape switch", commonly used by police and military to turn on gun-mounted flashlights, is also depressed by the shooter, which keeps the gun in active mode. If a shooter releases the tape switch for any reason, the gun deactivates and a shooter must again place their finger on the scanner before the gun is enabled.

An example of a tape switch. A flat pressure pad that, when depressed, turns on a gun-mounted flashlight


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