We have had several terms in smart appear in recent years — smart card, smart house, smart phone — all indicating that a device has been augmented by adding in a microchip to create a system capable of making decisions. The term is little more than marketing-speak, because the intelligence that’s exhibited is pretty basic. This example refers to a handgun which can only be fired by its owner, something which several US States are considering making a requirement for all new weapons sold. Some of the techniques that have been proposed rely on biometric measures such as detecting the owner’s fingerprints or hand size. The one which is nearest reaching market requires the owner to wear a wrist strap containing a low-powered radio transmitter that broadcasts a unique identifying code. The hope among weapons manufacturers is that smart guns will reverse the decline in gun sales in recent years, and make their possession more acceptable to critics of the gun lobby.
Fulton Arms, Houston, says it will have a smart gun on the market in a matter of weeks that unlocks by reading a magnetic code, similar to the magnetic strip found on the back of a credit card.
Philadelphia Inquirer, June 1998
In political circles, the prospect of a smart gun is quickly turning the gun policy debate on its head. Gun-control advocates find themselves supporting a weapon that promises to make gun owners of millions more Americans.
Los Angeles Times, Oct 1998