Smart Guns and Gun Safety: Guns could be safer, but you can't get them

6:23 PM, Dec 21, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Walk into any gun store, and ask to buy a gun that uses technology to keep kids and criminals from using it.

They'll tell you the same thing. That "smart gun" technology does exist. But no one makes a gun that includes it.

10 News set out to find out why.

It plays a starring role in Skyfall, the newest James Bond movie. Bond is issued a pistol that fires only when it recognizes his hand on the grip.

The technology in 007's hands is real.

Watch this prototype. It's from researchers at Georgia Tech's campus in Ireland. They've coded the gun to fire only when a ring with a special chip is right next to it. That tech is called TriggerSmart.

Chips and pressure sensors embedded in the grip are what makes another smart gun work.

A gun with Dynamic Grip Recognition learns the holding style of its authorized users. If an unfamiliar hand tries to squeeze the trigger, the gun won't fire.

On one awful day in 1998, a smart gun could have saved the lives of two Tampa Police detectives and a state trooper.

A suspect stole a gun from one of the two TPD officers, then used it to kill them. As he fled, he shot and killed a Florida Highway Patrol trooper.

TPD's Randy Bell and Ricky Childers, along with FHP's James Crooks, could all be alive today, loving their wives and raising their combined seven children, had that stolen gun failed to fire.

But you can't buy a smart gun in any store. Why aren't these smart guns available -- even as an option -- for gun buyers?

The man behind Dynamic Grip told me via Skype on Friday, he's run up against politics and our country's struggle to talk honestly about guns.

"We immediately slide from discussion about improving gun safety to broader issues of gun control that are not about technology... they're about policy," said Donald Sebastian of the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

"We have yet to find a safe haven or a middle ground where the two extreme positions can come to some meaningful solutions."

And one of the developers of TriggerSmart told Reuters there's another concern among gun manufacturers: smart guns wouldn't stay optional forever.

TriggerSmart developer Robert McNamara said gun makers are worried if they put the technology into one gun, new laws or lawsuits will force them to put it into every gun.

Smart gun designers are the first to acknowledge their technology may not stop mass shootings. The Newtown shooter was an adult. He may have been an authorized user of his mother's weapons or legally bought his own.

But the designers say in so many cases of accidental tragedies, officers' guns turned against them, and teenagers committing suicide, their designs could save many lives.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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