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Local News

May 16, 2013

Tierney unveils bill calling for smart handguns

High-tech innovation would allow guns to be fired only by their owners

SALEM — In the most recent James Bond thriller “Skyfall,” 007 packs a pistol coded to his palm print that fires only when he holds it — a high-tech feature that saves his life when the gun falls into the wrong hands.

Yesterday, Congressman John Tierney introduced a bill that could make that technology a common feature of handguns in the next two years.

The bill would not restrict gun ownership or infringe on a gun owner’s Second Amendment rights, Tierney said in announcing the legislation during a conference call with advocates of gun violence prevention.

It’s a move meant to make gun ownership safer, he said.

“The bill itself just seeks to personalize handguns,” Tierney said.

John Rosenthal of Gloucester, chairman of the nonprofit group Stop Handgun Violence, said Tierney’s bill has the potential to revolutionize gun ownership without infringing on citizens’ right to bear arms.

It has the potential, he said, to cut down on the 11,000 gun homicides last year, many of them committed with stolen weapons. The nation also saw 19,000 suicides carried out with guns last year, something smart-gun technology could lessen. And, he said, it could cut down on incidents of young children accidentally shooting themselves or others.

Rosenthal said 17 percent of law enforcement officers killed by a gun have had their own weapon turned on them.

Proponents only touched on the technology that would prevent anyone other than the owner from firing the weapon, mentioning in passing radio frequency ID in which one wears a bracelet or ring coded to the gun; biometric sensors; and unique ID numbers on the guns themselves.

This bill, called the Personalized Handgun Safety Act of 2013, was unveiled against the backdrop of a heated debate in Washington over gun control following the massacre of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. last year. Most recently the debate has focused on universal background checks.

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