SD48 - Personalized Handguns

Executive Summary:
In 1999, the Virginia General Assembly passed Senate Joint Resolution 337 (Howell) and House Joint Resolution 679 (Almand) directing the Virginia State Crime Commission to study and evaluate the technology known as personalized handguns. Specifically, SJR 377 and HJR 679 requested that the Crime Commission:

• Review the status of present technology to develop personalized handguns; and

• Present the future accessibility and availability of personalized handguns; and

• Determine the feasibility of developing future legislation regarding personalized handguns.

Interim Findings

The Crime Commission found:

• Personalized handguns are firearms that, by definition and design, cannot be discharged by anyone other than the gun's owner or his or her authorized designee.

• According to data available from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Institute of Justice, and the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unauthorized handgun shootings result in death or injury to numerous Americans each year. Specifically, six (6) of the sixty-one (61) police officers feloniously killed in 1998 (approximately ten percent (10%)) were shot with their own service firearm after it was taken away by a perpetrator. In 1996 (the most recent year for which data is available) 259 people ages 19 and under were unintentionally killed by a firearm in the United States. Furthermore, fifty-one (51) Virginians ages 19 and under committed suicides with a firearm in 1996 (the most recent year for which data is available).

• Currently, fourteen technologies exist that are either being used or may be suitable for use in personalized firearms. Each technology identified is in a different stage of development.

• While some low-tech, mechanical versions of personalized handguns are already available, most high-tech electronic and biometric personalized handgun technologies are in the prototype or concept stage of development.

• Staff identified four (4) personalized handgun technologies currently commercially available. Three (3) rely on the user to wear a magnetic ring to authorize the firearm to discharge. One requires the user to enter a combination on a set of toggle switches prior to shooting the gun.

• Staff identified three (3) personalized handgun technologies in the prototype stage of development. One relies on the user entering a combination on a built-in lock; one requires the user to wear a small bracelet that emits a radio frequency code to authorize discharge of the handguns; and one discriminates between authorized and unauthorized fingerprints.

• Staff identified seven (7) concept technologies that may be appropriate for use in personalized handguns. These technologies range from remote control to voice recognition to capacitive sensors.