Guns and Gear

Obama Plan Calls For Computer Chip Technology To Track Guns

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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President Barack Obama released a proposal on Friday that will expedite the development of a type of “smart” gun technology that will utilize computer chips that can track the location and use of firearms in real-time.

Police officers will be the first to try out the technology, according to a report submitted to Obama by the Departments of Justice, Defense, and Homeland Security.

Obama tasked the agencies to come up with ideas on how to develop and implement “smart” gun technologies as a way to make guns safer. Besides chipping firearms, the proposal also calls for investments in traditional “smart” technology such as those that allow a gun to be fired only by its owner.

The proposal is part of Obama’s larger gun control executive actions, which he announced earlier this year. The action will increase certain types of background checks.

But the computer chip proposal is likely to cause concern among some gun rights supporters who fear the technology will eventually be used to monitor guns owned by private citizens.

“In recent years, another type of gun safety technology has emerged: real-time data collection involving the location and use of law enforcement firearms,” reads the government report submitted to Obama.

“The technology is relatively straightforward: a computer chip, embedded in a law enforcement firearm, that transmits information about its location and use. In its simplest form, the chip can provide real-time location data, making it easier for officers to recover a weapon if it has been lost or stolen.”

The report cites technology being developed by Beretta, an Italian gun manufacturer, and Yardarm Technologies, which is based in California.

Beretta’s “i-PROTECT” system utilizes motion sensors which transmit data to users’ smartphone when a gun is drawn, armed, or fired.

Yardarm uses a sensor that includes a “programmable microcontroller, magnetometer, accelerometer and gyroscope” which feeds data to a Bluetooth transmitter which is paired with a smart phone.

Some gun rights supporters have expressed concern that federal or local law enforcement agencies could use the technology to monitor private gun owners or disable them remotely.

While the National Rifle Association has said that it supports “smart” gun technology in principle, it opposes the government mandating the technology or using it to “prohibit the manufacture of traditional handguns, raise the price of handguns that would be allowed to be sold and, presumably, to imbed into handguns a device that would allow guns to be disabled remotely.”

To develop the “smart” gun technology and test its real-world application, the administration will partner with law enforcement agencies interested in taking part in the pilot program. Federal funding will be available, though it is unclear how much.

The Department of Defense will also work with gun manufacturers to test “smart” guns in real-world conditions. According to a blog post by Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s senior advisor, the tests will be held at the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland. Manufacturers are eligible to win cash prizes, according to Jarrett.

During Friday’s White House press briefing, press secretary Josh Earnest dismissed the notion that gun owners should far that the federal government wants to force law-abiding gun purchasers to mandate that they buy “smart” guns.

“I think this is consistent with the kind of wild-eyes conspiracy theories that we’ve heard on this issue for years now,” Earnest said.

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