Archive for May, 2013

Gun Safety Via Embedded Engineering

Friday, May 17th, 2013 Mike Ficco

This was originally posted a few months ago. Due to a database maintenance error it was inadvertently deleted. Here it is again. There were a few comments, but they have been lost too.

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I recently saw a short TV special on electronically keying weapons, especially handguns, so they are useable only by the registered owner.  I first saw this concept in the 1987 movie RoboCop (Peter Weller).  His weapon was designed so that no one else could fire it.  At the time I thought this was a cute movie prop.  Now, fast forward a couple of decades and a bunch of horrific shooting sprees and bingo, real-world technology has surfaced to accomplish this.

This technology has gun control advocates and marketing VPs salivating.  This is exactly the kind of safety technology in which municipalities, congress, and the TSA seem likely to invest billions.  As a compromise, Second Amendment proponents may accept this since who could rationally argue that anyone who happens to find or steal a gun must be allowed to use it.  Just think, after a few billion dollars and some years, every new gun legally sold and every weapon used by a badge carrying policeman would be configured so only the legitimate owner could fire it.  We are safe at last from random gun violence.

Wait, nothing is ever that easy…

All the technology I saw on the TV special was based on Near Field Communication (NFC) – a ring or pocket dongle enabled the weapon.  This is the same general technology used for car entry key dongles on newer cars, RFID readers, and “swipe” security badges where you work.  A few years ago I also heard about fingerprint scanners on the trigger but that seems to have been abandon.

Now if you look over to the side, in the dark shadows, the bad guys are also salivating.  Here’s why…

>>> Begin Imaginary Story <<<

To much fanfare Metropolis announces they are the first city in the country to have 100% tagged weapons useable only by the designated officer.  They proudly point out Gotham City is lagging and has only recently awarded a $50,000,000 contract to re-arm their officers with this new technology.

Breaking news – a bank robbery went bad and three responding officers were killed.  The thieves got away uninjured.  Investigators are amazed that the officers drew their weapons but for some reason did not fire.  Several more incidents in the coming weeks result in more than thirty policemen injured or killed, but the injuries are fortuitous.  The survivors explain they tried to fire their weapons but they would not.  It turns out the bad guys had acquired jamming technology that prevented the security technology from working.

Fortunately, the provider of the secure weapons volunteered to provide an anti-jamming fix for only $8,000,000.  Note that about one year later the bad guys had upped the game and were able to jam the jam-free technology guns.

>>> End Imaginary Story <<<

Of course the bad guys could always jam plain old mechanical guns, right?  Well – they would have to be smarter than me.  After thinking about this quite a while (maybe 30 seconds) I decided I could jam a steel handgun with a big honkin magnet (with a small nuclear power supply attached) and I could jam a composite handgun by…  Well, I couldn’t think of a way.

So, gun safety via embedded engineering?  Get ready boys and girls.  There’s gonna be $ billions $ spent on this.