New ‘smart gun’ venture seeks funding for prototype development

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A Seattle-based gun control proponent has announced a new venture that he and his colleagues hope can get funding for a prototype “smart gun” that will use RFID (radio frequency identification) technology, according to a report from KIRO-TV, the local CBS affiliate.

Ralph Fascitelli, LodeStar Firearms. (Dave Workman)

Ralph Fascitelli, who led the Washington Ceasefire effort for two decades, is now co-founder of LodeStar Firearms.

The pistol will use technology that embeds a small chip in a ring or bracelet that matches with electronics in the gun to allow its operation. Without that RFID chip, the gun would be nothing more than a paperweight because it would be inoperable.

The purpose, Fascitelli explained to KIRO, is to prevent school shootings, accidents and suicides. He explained that this new technology will hopefully be more reliable and successful than previous “smart gun” efforts that have relied on biometrics (fingerprint identification) to operate. Requiring fingerprint identification would be essentially nullified in situations where the user is wearing gloves.

He wrote about the project in the Orange County Register.

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The effort has support from two former Seattle police chiefs, including Gil Kerlikowske, who famously lost his personal handgun to a thief when it disappeared from his parked department vehicle on a downtown Seattle street the day after Christmas in 2004. The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms offered a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thief and recovery of Kerlikowske’s pistol, but that reward has never been collected.

The other former top cop is John Diaz, who succeeded Kerlikowske.

According to LodeStar’s website, the company “is working to develop a personalized 9mm RFID handgun.” It will operate with a “personal digital handshake between a computer chip in the gun and a chip embedded in a ring or wristband.”

It’s not the first try at user-only “smart guns” which have never taken hold with law enforcement or armed citizens. The problems expressed toward such firearms include the inability of a police officer’s partner to use his/her gun in an emergency. The technology, itself could fail if there is a loss of power to the system, or if the firearm is somehow dropped or hit in such a way as to render the electronics useless, while an otherwise functional firearm would still be able to be used.

“By ensuring that personalized guns can only be used by their authorized owner,” LodeStar says on its website, “we can help prevent accidental shootings, gun crimes committed using the 350,000 guns stolen annually and the estimated 8,000 to 10,000 suicides using someone else’s gun.”

It could be a tough sell. Past “smart gun” ventures have failed to capture the public’s fancy, despite some reports that at least some gun owners would buy such firearms. The idea will be made or broken in the marketplace, while in the background gun owners would be concerned that the arrival of such a working firearm might jeopardize their possession of classic firearms that have been around for generations. Would all guns without the technology be banned, or would they be required to be fitted with RFID chips, a mandate that would destroy the value of such guns as the Colt Python, Model 29 Smith & Wesson, Colt Model 1911, Ruger Blackhawk and Redhawk, and any number of other firearms.

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