Markey bill alienates potential personalized gun consumers with mandates.
Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey introduced legislationrequiring that "all handguns manufactured or sold in, or imported into the United States" in three years be "personalized" guns (more commonly referred to as "user authenticating guns" or "smart guns") – the kind of gun seen most recently in the James Bond movie, Skyfall that incorporates biometric and/or radio frequency technology (RFID) and would only allow authorized users to fire a gun. Such guns have the potential of dramatically curtailing gun accidents, particularly among children who end up victims from the unauthorized use of guns.
While we in the high technology firearms industry laud Massachusetts Senator Markey for speaking out about the virtues of this technology, the legislation that he is suggesting that would mandate all guns incorporate this technology is ill-advised at best and ultimately is a disservice to the very technology he wishes to promote.
We in the high tech firearms industry speak from experience. The proposed legislation would require gun manufactures to begin producing a product they do not have any core competency in and harkens to legislation enacted in New Jersey in 2002 with similar mandates. The result had a chilling and devastating effect on advancing personalized guns.
For years, traditional gun manufacturers and the high tech industry have been working on user authenticating/personalized guns. This included notable companies such as Colt and Smith & Wesson, among others. However, when New Jersey passed its mandate law, gun manufacturers interested in the technology for their own business pursuits abandoned the tech and business relationships with personalized gun innovators, fearing that such involvement might put their own conventional gun business out of business. Misinformation, skepticism and fear festered among gun advocates that such guns were just the stuff of movie fantasy, which in turn, caused investments, grants, partnerships and business opportunities to all but dry up – clearly the opposite intent of those pushing for personalized gun mandate legislation.
If Senator Markey is truly desirous about promoting gun safety through personalized gun technology, then he should not repeat the mistakes of New Jersey. The place for government is to encourage free markets, but that will never happen with mandates clouding things. Markey's bill should eliminate all references to mandates and concentrate on encouraging consumer markets. Legislation cannot risk alienating the very consumers needed to buy personalized guns for the industry to thrive.
In this regard, the one redeeming part of the Markey bill would be to provide grants for personalized gun R&D – but this does not go far enough. Senator Markey should borrow a page from recent history. It was not too far in the distant past when law enforcement fully transitioned from revolvers to semi-automatics handguns. It took the acceptance by law enforcement that semi-automatics were reliable, which provided the validation necessary to pave the way for predominant consumer acceptance. The same can be true for personalized guns.
General William Marshall (ret.) who has expertise in personalized guns and has both a military as well as a law enforcement background (former municipal police chief) recently said, "As time goes on and manufacturing techniques are perfected the reliability of (personalized gun) systems will exceed the current mechanical standards that have been around for years."
We should encourage military and law enforcement to embrace the technology that will lead to consumers buying personalized guns. Besides R&D, grants should be awarded to state and local law enforcement to test and adopt personalized guns to validate the tech in order to stimulate the market.
We in the personalized gun industry know that the technology is not something of fantasy or the movies. It is viable technology, but unless there are people willing to put their money down to buy the product – because they want to – not because of government mandates, it will never advance. That is called free markets. A lesson our politicians need to learn.
Alan Boinus is the CEO and founder of Allied Biometrix.
In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions from outside writers, including our Board of Contributors. To read more columns like this, go to the opinion front page or follow us on twitter @USATopinion or Facebook.