Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), along with Senator Jon S. Corzine (D-NJ), today announced at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) that their offices have advanced a $1.146 million federal appropriation to accelerate the development of a safer and more secure personalized handgun.
“We routinely require that toys, medicine bottles and automobiles meet safety standards to protect the lives of our children," said New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey. “As Governor, I was proud to make New Jersey the first state in the nation to extend those safety standards to handguns. Thanks to the leadership of Senator Lautenberg and Senator Corzine, New Jersey will continue to lead the way in this critical safety issue. The new federal funds will enable NJIT to continue developing and testing a most promising technology to allow manufacturing of childproof and accident-proof handguns.”
NJIT has spearheaded efforts to develop a personalized handgun that can recognize instantly and reliably recognize one or more preprogrammed authorized operators since spring of 2000. The project has come to be known as “smart gun.”
“We all know too well that accidental shootings, teen suicides, unauthorized use of firearms by family members and illegal trade of weapons cause thousands of senseless deaths in America," said Senator Lautenberg. “We also know that these deaths can be prevented through technologies that render a gun inoperable in the hands of the wrong user. That is why I worked to secure this funding that will allow NJIT's pioneering research to continue to make firearms safer and save thousands of lives,” says Lautenberg.
“We are both pleased and proud that NJIT has played such a key role in the development of a practical personalized handgun,” said NJIT President Robert A. Altenkirch, Ph.D. “In addition to the central issue of ensuring the safe use of firearms by authorized individuals, the cooperative effort that produced this technology exemplifies how universities, industry and government can interact in many fields to improve the quality of life for the people of the United States and other countries,” says Altenkirch.
“The next step is to produce a commercial-ready prototype and conduct field tests and evaluations,” said Donald H. Sebastian, Ph.D., vice president for research and development at NJIT. “We are on target to complete these tasks within two years.”
The funds are part of Congress’ 2004 omnibus appropriations bill. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill last month; the Senate will consider it later this month. The bill wraps up all the unfinished fiscal year business for 2004 into one package and includes funding for higher education, science research, homeland security and more.
The federal dollars follow a year of important developments for smart gun. This past fall NJIT joined forces with two commercial partners to speed up developing the gun. The first agreement, signed in September of 2003, married the developed and patented Dynamic Grip Recognition technology owned by NJIT with the patented handgun Electronic Firing System owned by the Australian-based research and development company Metal Storm Ltd.
Metal Storm’s O’DwyerTM VLe® system is a unique, patented approach to firing projectiles. Entirely electronic, the system utilizes preloaded barrels holding multiple projectiles that are fired by electronic ignition. For the first time, interchangeable and multiple barrels can be made available to fire a range of both lethal and less-than-lethal projectiles of varying caliber from the same handgun.
NJIT and Metal Storm signed an agreement with Taurus International Manufacturing, Inc., Florida, and Forjas Taurus, Brazil, to provide the platform integrating the NJIT and Metal Storm technologies. The platform will create a firearm using on-board electronics to recognize the operator and to fire the projectile while using a minimum of moving parts.
These collaborations built upon the work of associate professor of information systems Michael Recce, Ph.D., who received a patent last spring for his behavioral biometric, Dynamic Grip Recognition. Recce’s invention enabled NJIT researchers to embed multiple small electronic sensors in both sides of a gun’s handle to identify the user. Recce sees his invention someday being used in other applications--perhaps the yoke of a plane or the steering wheel of a car. Timothy Chang, Ph.D., professor of electrical engineering at NJIT, has also been involved in the smart gun project. Chang and a team of postgraduate doctoral students have worked on integrating the electronics and computerized parts of the gun.
“NJIT is involved in important life-saving research,’’ Senator Corzine said. “There is no question that manufacturing handguns with advanced technology to limit operation can save lives. No child could pick up a gun and pull the trigger. The gun just won’t work, and that’s how it should be.’’
NJIT has led the smart gun initiative throughout the nation since the spring of 2000 when the university received the support of the New Jersey State Legislature. To date, NJIT has received $1.5 million in funding from the legislature for the project. In December of 2002, New Jersey became the nation’s first state to pass legislation specifying that three years after it is determined that personalized handguns are available for retail sale, dealers and manufacturers will not be able to sell, assign or transfer any handgun legally unless it is personalized.