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Beretta Position Concerning "Smart Gun" Technology

Friday, August 10, 2001

The following release was issued in January 1999 by Beretta in response to inquiries from news organizations regarding the feasibility of "personalized" or "smart gun" technology.

Beretta Announces Position Concerning "Smart Gun" Technology

January 4, 1999
As the leading designer and manufacturer of high-quality firearms in the world, Beretta has recently been asked by several news organizations about the feasibility and advisability of making handguns that include so-called "smart gun" technology or "personalized" internal locks. Beretta has considered this issue for several years and has concluded that existing design concepts of this type are neither advisable nor feasible. Although the concept of a "smart gun" or "personalized gun" has received public attention recently, we believe that careful consideration has not been given to potentially dangerous risks associated with these concepts. In our opinion, such technology is undeveloped and unproven. In addition, Beretta strongly believes that "smart gun" technology or "personalized" guns (hereinafter also referred to as "smart gun" technology) could actually increase the number of fatal accidents involving handguns. To understand our concern, it is necessary to first understand the purpose of "smart gun" technology. "Smart gun" technology was first seriously studied a few years ago in conjunction with law enforcement use. Approximately 17% of police officers killed in the line of duty are killed with their own firearms, usually when the gun is taken away during a confrontation. The Sandia National Laboratories and others have expended significant effort and funds in studying and trying to develop a gun which would not function when taken away from the police officer to whom it belongs. The resultant technology has been dubbed "smart gun" technology because of the notion that a police officer`s handgun would not fire unless it was being used by its owner. The fact that "smart gun" technology was developed for law enforcement use is significant because it is designed for a situation where the owner of the gun has a gun within their control and intends that it be loaded. Beretta has grave concerns about the suitability of such a device for home use for the simple reason that civilian owners of such guns, who would not currently do so, might believe that their weapon is now childproof and could leave their guns loaded and accessible to children, trusting the "smart gun" feature to prevent an accident. The current storage practice recommended by Beretta and all responsible firearm manufacturers, if a child is present or might gain access to a gun, is to unload the gun, lock it, and store the ammunition in a separate location. We believe that "smart gun" technology represents a step backward from this prudent storage practice. Devotees of "smart gun" technology have, in fact, touted the notion that the technology allows the owner to store their gun loaded. (One company which sells a type of mechanical lock actually prints "Lock It Loaded" on its packaging.) Amazingly, even the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, which is the legal action arm of Handgun Control Inc., argued in a recent court case in California that internal locks should be included in handguns to allow owners to leave the gun locked and loaded, even if children might gain access to the gun. Support for the notion that a "childproof" gun could increase unsafe storage practices is found in a recent study conducted by a gun control organization which found that up to 11% of persons who do not now own a handgun would do so if they knew that their handgun was "childproof." Beretta`s concerns about this potentially risky situation might be assuaged if we knew that "smart gun" technology was reliable, but it is not. The Sandia National Laboratories study found that police officers rejected "smart gun" technology because it was unreliable. Similarly, Beretta has studied "smart gun" concepts for several years now and has found the designs currently under consideration to be potentially unsafe and unreliable. Examples of "smart gun" technology include handguns which have fingerprint sensors on the trigger which are coded toone person`s trigger finger print, revolvers in which a magnetic ring worn on the hand of an authorized user de-activates an internal locking mechanism, a semi-automatic pistol which only fires if it is in close proximity to a radio-frequency generating transponder, a revolver which operates only in response to a pre-programmed pressure from the hand of an authorized user, a handgun which is activated by voice recognition technology and combination locks built into the gun. If one carefully considers these devices, their limitations become immediately apparent. A lock which depends on reading fingerprints, for example, would not work with a gloved hand, requires exact placement of the finger on the trigger (which might be missed in a life-threatening confrontation), and prevents use of the gun with either hand or by more than one authorized user. Moreover, such a device would require the purchaser to travel to the manufacturing site in order to have the gun personally programmed. Voice recognition technology is unreliable, especially if the owner of a gun is being attacked and must try to match the normal speaking voice with which their firearm is familiar. Someone being stalked or a homeowner with an intruder present may also not want to reveal their location to a potential attacker by having to speak to their gun to get it to function. A handgun that must be programmed to an owner`s handstrength, again, would require factory programming and might not work when the owner`s handstrength was altered by duress or injury. Another concern is that a child with similar handstrength could still use such a gun. Magnetic devices are internal to the weapon. If, after use, the lock does not return to its "locked" position, this failure of the device is not apparent, thus leaving the gun unlocked when the owner believes it is locked. The magnetic rings used for these devices erase credit cards and cassette tapes. One police department in Ohio experimented with the devices and found that police officers routinely left their rings at home because they did not like them. Most troubling is the fact that the magnetic lock is non-discriminating, meaning that any magnet can release it. This means that a child could unlock and use the firearm using a magnet from their kitchen refrigerator. We understand that Colt`s Manufacturing Company has spent a considerable amount of money and effort during the past few years attempting to develop a "smart gun". In our opinion, that device, which is in the prototype stage only, is conceptually flawed. The Colt invention activates the firearm only if a radio transmitter is in close proximity. This would require that the owner of the firearms wear a radio transmitter at all times. Since 71% of all gun owners own more than one gun, these owners would have to wear several transmitters at all times, or one for each gun. If all transmitters were set at the same frequency to avoid this problem, the locking mechanism would suffer from the same problem as a magnetic lock, meaning that many people could activate it, including children who might gain access to extra transmitters. For both civilians and police, the use of a transmitter would mean that, if an attacker obtained your firearm, your proximity to the gun would, ironically, activat
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