As Obama Exits, DOJ Cements ‘Smart Gun’ Requirements


The NIJ finalized their requirements for personalized firearms for agency use. (Photo: NIJ/DOJ)

Earlier this year the National Institute of Justice, (NIJ) part of the U.S. Department of Justice, (DOJ) published a potential list of requirements for the personalized handgun or “smart gun.” After several months the NIJ has published hard requirements that any smart gun must meet before it can be considered for department use.

Smart guns are pistols that scan users for some type of identifier, like a radio I.D. or fingerprint. If the identifying marker isn’t present, the gun won’t function. Smart guns lock out any users that don’t have permission to use them.

Under pressure from the Obama administration, the NIJ put together a set of smart gun requirements for agency use. If a company can make a personalized firearm that meets these requirements then participating departments may adopt it for duty.

If this happens the smart gun concept will take a large step from the fringes of science fiction to use in the real world. Although many individuals and companies have worked on smart gun tech for decades, to-date no one has succeeded at making a viable product that’s suitable for duty or self-defense.


One “biohacker” has been working on a smart gun microchip system implanted in the hands of authorized users. (Photo: Vice)

The fact remains that no electronic locking system built into guns has been fast enough or reliable enough for serious users. No one wants a smart gun that doesn’t unlock correctly in a life-or-death situation.

The drive for a smart gun system also has a political element. Smart gun mandates can be used to prevent the sale of conventional firearms to the general public. A smart gun mandate limits the public’s options and drives up the cost of firearms ownership.

And, in theory, some smart gun systems may be disabled remotely, regardless of what the user wants. This is a real concern even among those in law enforcement. Any technology that uses radio to identify authorized users can be jammed, spoofed or otherwise interfered with.

For these reasons and more the NIJ has put together an explicit set of smart gun requirements. These requirements include hard performance, security, and even size specifications.

Personalized firearms must pass a series of performance tests before any agency may consider adopting them for service. Tests include working two-handed and one-handed with both strong and weak hands, unlocking and firing from a holster 250 times without malfunction, and no failures or breakages over the course of 10,000 rounds.

The guns need to function with or without gloves and survive drop tests and environmental testing, including functioning after a salt water bath.

Any gun that exceeds a mean round count between failures greater than 1 in 2,000 rounds will be disqualified. The baseline includes the protocols for agencies to perform any testing on their own and agencies aren’t required to adopt any smart guns even if they pass the tests.

armatix smart gun

The proof-of-concept Armatix “Smart System” pistol would not meet the NIJ requirements for government issue. (Photo: Armatix/Facebook)

See Also: Armatix Plans 9mm ‘Smart Gun’ Over New (And Old) Concerns

“This … is not a procurement action,” explains the spec sheet. “Any manufacturer’s claim of meeting the specifications herein does not obligate the Government to award a contract.”

As part of the baseline, agencies are urged to consider whether or not it would even be appropriate to adopt smart gun tech. “Agencies that acquire firearms should take appropriate steps to consider whether including such technology in specifications for acquisition of firearms would be consistent with operational needs.”

As far as the guns themselves the NIJ isn’t looking for anyone to break the service pistol mold. The requirements specify full-size and compact double-stack striker-fired service pistols chambered for 9mm Luger or .40 S&W.

Any potential duty-grade smart gun will still have to fit in the same general size and weight package as a conventional gun and work just as predictably.

These requirements are not subtle. The NIJ seems to have taken feedback from the original outline to heart.

Whether or not a company will submit any designs for testing is yet to be seen. Even as this tech becomes more feasible, passing these tests will prove to be difficult. And it will be especially hard for any company to develop a smart gun that passes muster with the gun rights community.

About the author: Max Slowik is a writer with over a dozen years of experience and is a lifelong shooter. He has unwavering support for the Second Amendment and the human right to self-defense. His ambition is to follow Thomas Paine, as a journalist by profession and a propagandist by inclination.

{ 26 comments… add one }
  • BUURGA January 3, 2017, 2:45 am

    The only smarts for a gun worth anything is between the ears. Most of these ideas tend to be toward eventual government surveillance of as many firearms as possible.

  • Ed Sunderland November 25, 2016, 6:07 pm

    The DOJ does not make law. That is held for congress only. We do need to roll back and cease all regulations not observed by congress and authorized by congress after a healthy debate including input from the owners of this country——the citizens.

  • Richard Murphy November 25, 2016, 12:21 pm

    Most of the gun violence has been committed with guns that were bought legally. This technology would not have prevented anything. What it would prevent is a child killing another child thinking it was a toy. That would be a very good thing. It would/could eliminate home burglary because what they look for are guns and prescription drugs. The cost of the R&D? Who cares, if it saves the life of 1 child or keeps your home safe.
    I would not approve a radio frequency device. The government could be on one frequency and us on another. Thus they could jam our guns leaving theirs operable. It would have to be a physical device.

    • David Donley November 25, 2016, 1:32 pm

      The underlying presumption is that one child would be saved. In order for that construct to work, you must also eliminate the possibility the status quo on the negative side remains unchanged. That is, that no one would be killed because a proper user was repudiated from proper use and resulting in a death.
      That’s a pretty big presumption.
      And we’ve not even begun to discuss proper alignment of a smart gun with Constitutional provisions for, say, privacy. As well, we’ve completely ignored the possibility of the insertion of sinister intentions by either manufacturers, administrators, or third-party criminals and all the unintended consequences brought on by this idea.
      So in order to get to the conclusions reached here, all second order effects must be eliminated or reduced to get to the theoretical no-child’s life lost presumption and its other Utopian promises.
      But then again, that’s how statism works: it promises the world, then demands more more money and control when the plan fails.
      No thanks, I’ll find another way to keep my children out of harm’s way,

      • Richard Murphy November 25, 2016, 4:14 pm

        “No one would be killed because a proper user was repudiated…” What do you mean? This happened: My friend was taking care of his friends’ house and cat while they went on vacation. Home owner had no children. My friend took his 2 boys with him and while busy his boys found a gun in a drawer. You know the rest. He now has only 1 boy. I have no children and have many guns which I keep 2 locked and loaded, and in the open. I am more afraid of the police on a “no-knock raid” to the wrong address then a burglar.
        How does smart tech violate privacy? It’s just an additional feature to the gun. According to the article here there are fairly steep requirements to be fulfilled. There is no more a lose of privacy then having a background check to buy a gun.

        There are no promises made here. Only the possible reduction of incidents. Like background checks, they haven’t eliminated gun violence, only reduced it. Without it ex-cons,stalkers ,etc would have guns. Smart tech will not eliminate either child on child death or burglary, only reduce it.

        • David Donley November 25, 2016, 8:36 pm

          You’ve asked a couple of questions, so let me take them in order.
          When I proposed repudiation of a proper user, I was proposing that no tech solution offers to perfectly reject those who should not operate and perfectly allow those who should. Remember, in the case of this article, we’re talking about LE and other professions that are properly armed and presumed to exercise deadly use only under proper conditions. Seems to me if the tech solution cannot guarantee non-repudiation to those who need it when they need it, you’ve possibly if not likely traded a child’s life for life of another. I therefore find no rational benefit to the solution if this outcome is a real possibility, as it appears that it is.
          Second, privacy. I’ve yet to locate a source of bio-metric pairing that itself doesn’t rely on a foundational vetting source. Who’s going to do that? Certainly not you, me or any private interest. That just leaves the government. I don’t think I need to draw a picture here to make the point this solution results in de facto gun registration. The reason most Americans reject gun registration is for privacy issues.
          To your third point, you side with the presumption that ‘steep requirements’ translate into reduction of unintended loss of life as the sole consequence. I don’t. Any solution, regardless of simplicity or rigor has collateral consequences. To me the greatest and most obvious of the consequences here is the commutation of individual liberties to the government in the name of public interest. I think history clearly shows that the willful surrender of individual liberties to a (supposed benevolent) government authority has always led to larger problems, usually involving the same consequences you wish to avoid.
          Finally, my heart aches for your friend who lost his son, I personally experienced the loss of a child so I’m sympathetic to the range of emotions that follow. Nature is cruel. Accidents happen, And in the end, most normal folks will at least entertain the thought of various constraints that, having been in place at the time of tragedy, would have averted it. I did. I will end by saying that attempting to trade fate for regulation only leaves a tyrant in charge. Meanwhile, bad things still happen.
          I’ll give you the last word.

          • Richard Murphy November 25, 2016, 11:50 pm

            David, Love our conversation! I see your point of the proper user but that is the point of the article. If not functional 100% the correct way then it’s rejected by LEO’s and then, of course, wouldn’t be offered to us.
            The privacy issue, I still don’t see it and disagree that it would further develop into registration, which I would fight tooth and nail! Before guns had no safeties, now they do. That kind of thing.
            We do agree that any action,no matter what, always has unforeseen collateral consequences but I don’t see the loss of personal liberty as one of them. What shape and form? Who knows. Is that the reason for not pursuing a course of action?
            Bad things do happen and will continue to but what do we do? Say ,”Gee, that’s just too bad! Wished it didn’t happen.”
            I will end by saying again that I loved our conversation and you have given me some ‘food for thought’.

        • Leonard November 26, 2016, 10:10 pm

          Maybe instead of forcing a suspicious technology like a “smart” gun on the American public, maybe your friend should develop “smart” parenting skills, so his kids won’t shoot one another. I’m sorry about the loss of his child, but really, why DID he let his kids run wild in someone else’s home? I grew up in a house that was awash in guns–my dad not only was collector, but also a gunsmith. We were taught that real guns are not toys,and although we had lots of toy guns, we knew the difference and never touched the real thing even when it was within easy reach.

          • Slingblade November 28, 2016, 1:52 pm

            Leonard…you are exactly right..enough said! The whole “if it just saves one child” then I am willing to piss off all our freedoms notion makes me want to vomit! What’s next “smart” toilet bowl lids? At least one child drowns in one every year…NEED I SAY MORE?

        • BUURGA January 3, 2017, 2:50 am

          Sorry to here the death of any child, but it sounds like a lack of parental concern and training here. Kids have to be taught the dangers of firearms, among other situations. And exactly why were these kids going through the belongings of this house unsupervised?

  • Norm Fishler November 25, 2016, 12:13 pm

    Another liberal (NWO) solution in search of a problem. Note that cost was not discussed as the ‘sticker shock’ would scare 99% of the working class away. This is nothing more than an extension of Progressive philosophy that stated ‘Rights’ imparted in our Constitution are in reality nothing more than privileges that are open to be rescinded at any given moment. God save and keep us from such foolishness.

    • JungleCogs November 25, 2016, 12:34 pm

      Agreed. Just another “control” issue for the Marxist-Democrat Party. Now, try to find a military, LEO, sportsman or CC permit holder who wants one. Most firearms makers will not wish to spend the R&D costs, though there might be some wanna-be’s who will look at it as a ticket in. Should the Leftists get control again, they will try; probably subsidizing manufacturers or getting in the firearm business, all with taxpayer dollars. We should never allow government to compete against the private sector anyway.

  • kane November 25, 2016, 12:03 pm

    Why not? We already have self driving cars that get the user killed.

  • Charlie November 25, 2016, 10:43 am

    Smart only for those Dumbocrats who want to destroy our rights to self protection and make us depend on the government Making new laws, NOT ENFORCING the ones that we already have that are given to us by our founding fathers. They intended for the people to have guns equal to those of the government that tried to control them.

  • Carl Dixon November 25, 2016, 9:54 am

    Another concept that may work on paper but has no sane application in real life. How about you show us the documented cases of gun grabs that ended up needing this to prevent it from happening. This sounds like (& if it works ) it could be recommended “option” for law enforcement in direct contact with inmates. I for one will never get any forum of implant that is or could be controlled by anyone other than myself.

  • krinkov5.45 November 25, 2016, 9:17 am

    Smart Gun. About as smart as a drone airliner. I wouldn’t get on board with out a human pilot.

  • SW November 25, 2016, 8:29 am

    This is just step one to get around the 2nd Amendment. First it will be for law enforcement, next it will be mandatory for all armed citizens and firearms that are not “smart” will be confiscated.

    • Luap November 28, 2016, 5:25 am

      Latest stats show that there are 300-650 million legally owned firearms in the USA.

  • Pete November 25, 2016, 8:11 am

    More ludicrous political theater! I would never want one, and I don’t know any sane gun owners who would.

  • Frank November 25, 2016, 7:39 am

    Well, in simple terms it’s possible. We have cars now that just need the key fob to be in close proximity then press a button to start. A micro servo in a gun attached to a safety or detaching the trigger/striker mechanism is possible using the same tech. If the battery in your gun goes it might be useless though. I’d want it to fail-safe in firing mode if the battery fails rather than non-firing, but I bet that wouldn’t pass the specs. The fob (or wrist watch) could alert you that the battery in the gun was dead (can’t find it).

    • Pseudo November 25, 2016, 10:11 am

      You get one I will not. If it is designed to fire with a dead battery, then if I am forced to purchase a “smart gun” (that’s an oxymoron right?). I will just remove the battery.

      Then again what is to stop the Gestapo gov-mint from just requiring a disable feature into the “smart gun?” Theirs works yours does not.

      Or how about a chip inserted into the individual and they just disable the individual? Nah how about they insert a chip into the individual and ‘smarten the individual up,’ to realize guns don’t kill, people kill.

  • mtman2 November 25, 2016, 6:55 am

    “The Right of the citizens TO KEEP and BEAR ARMS has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers, enable The People to resist and triumph over them…”
    “There is certainly no danger that indifference may lead to disgust,
    and digust to contempt,
    and thus gradually undermine all the protection intended by this clause of our “Bill of RIGHTS.” – quote from Supreme Court justice Joseph Story
    Who was he…?
    1) Son of one of the original Tea Party
    2) Founder of Harvard Law School
    3) He is called “foremost ot American legal writers.”
    4) Nominated by President James Madison who wrote both the U.S. Constitution + “Bill of RIGHTS” = a really really really BIG DEAL in U.S. history.
    5) During his 34yrs on the court he authored 286 opinions- of which 94% were recorded as the Court’s opinion.
    6) Along with James Kent is titled a “Father of American Jurisprudence”

    Ginsburg in comparison…? …An almost dried dog turd in OUR legal yard.
    ie- A mistake- allowing this unqualified un-American nut on the bench ~!

    • mtman2 November 25, 2016, 7:55 am

      ERROR- in my Joseph Story’s quote.
      It should read-
      “There is certainly no “SMALL” danger that indifference may lead to disgust,”

      IT HAS HAPPENED- reflected in the anti-gun movement w/direct assault-
      *as he further stated-
      “and thus gradually undermine all the protection intended by THIS CLAUSE[the 2nd] of our national Bill of RIGHTS.”

      We’re now seeing this warning unfold; however “WE the People” bear the responsibility for this by NOT voting- which has insured the very incremental creep justice Story warned of- seen today.

      So now socialistic-statism of the big-government system we’ve allowed like the pigs in ANIMAL FARM stating- ” Some are more equal than others.”

      ie- “WE the Peasant’s” must submit to and be ruled by these elist’s that think themselves above us and OUR Founding principles in lew of their elitist oligarchial control and elitist directives.
      Once WE are disarmed they’ll show their true colors w/unequal force ~!

      PS- Some nation’s require citizens to vote or are fined…..
      I’d return that back to 21yrs of age tho age 30 is better; I don’t think under 30 has neither learned nor given enough back to have a say.
      Arguement is “18 is old enough to fight for your country” = OK so those that have been in combat get to vote before 30- others must pay their dues to become responsible citizens first.
      *Once- only property owners could vote(still at 30)- sounds even better, eh?

      Be wise keeping mindless inexperienced youth from affecting outcomes esp in light of the brainwashing educational systems prevalent now.
      Tho president Trump may switch off FedEd+ the NEA/CommieCore in favor of School Choice in vouchers for parents to choose. Hopefully he does…

  • Joe November 25, 2016, 6:26 am

    Hell, if a smart gun can pass those requirements I’d consider buying one to wear on my hip for thugs to grab for while I pull a pocket rocket out of my pocket and drill them with lead.

  • SuperG November 23, 2016, 11:44 am

    Sane minds will think that this will go nowhere, and it pointless, but they will overlook the insanity of the federal government. Plus, don’t forget about corruption at the highest levels too. We have the best Congressmen that money can buy.

  • Will Drider November 22, 2016, 9:18 pm

    This will go far. Anybody know what it the total cost of this usless goat screw was (manhours, travel, lodging, ect..).
    One more bureaucratic knee jerk, feel good, do somthing action that does nothing but waste time anr resources.

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