TRIGGERED: MASS SHOOTINGS, SMART GUN TECHNOLOGY AND THE SEARCH FOR SOLUTIONS.

Author:Metzler, Anthony W.
 
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  1. Introduction

    April 2, 2018. (2) Five teenagers are featured on the cover of TIME magazine. (3) They stand for unity of a generation. (4) They stand in defiance of preventable national tragedies. (5) They stand for one, clear message: Never Again. (6) America has more guns than people. (7) Gun violence plagues this country, however, guns remain among the least regulated type of property. (8) In certain jurisdictions, legally obtaining a gun is easier than getting a driver's license. (9) Yet, five teenagers, as representatives of an entire generation, are thrust into the spotlight. (10) Why now, are their voices being heard?

    February 14, 2018. (11) A 19-year-old student steps out of an Uber in Parkland, Florida with a black duffle bag and a backpack concealing a legally purchased assault rifle and ammunition. (12) He walks into Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School and fires the weapon, systematically murdering 14 of his fellow students and 3 of his faculty members. (13) In the days and weeks following the shooter's arrest, the students of Parkland rose up together in solidarity to advocate for increased regulations on firearms. (14)

    October 1, 2017. (15) On the 32nd level of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, 23 high-powered firearms strewn on the floor. (16) Below, fifty-eight people are dead, and over 500 are injured. (17) Each weapon was purchased legally, including the revolver that the shooter used on himself after he carried out the most devastating modern mass shooting in the United States of America. (18) None of the weapons that were used in this mass shooting were smart guns; even if they were, fifty-eight people would still be dead, over 500 would still be injured, and Stephen Paddock would still go down in history as the man who covertly planned and executed the bloodiest mass murder in this country to date.

    November 5, 2017. (19) David Kelly walks into the First Baptist Church in rural Sutherland Springs, Texas. (20) He leaves the house of worship with 26 church members dead in his wake and 20 wounded. (21) Kelly used a semi-automatic assault rifle. (22) These three incidents, although close in time and similar in result, were different in many ways. (23) The one commonality: each tragedy featured destructive weapons that were not smart guns. (24)

    Smart guns are firearms that are equipped with safety technology to only fire when operated by an authorized user. (25) Some smart guns use biometric security measures, which utilize unique characteristics, like a fingerprint, to authorize use of the device. (26) There are also smart guns utilizing radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, which locks the firearm unless it is in proximity to a remote, similar to the iPhone unlocking a user's Apple Watch. (27) Other smart guns are incorporating new technologies like blockchain to keep an electronic record of use occurrences. (28)

    Smart guns have been proposed as a viable solution to curb gun violence in the United States. (29) However, smart gun opponents argue that high-tech weapons constrain their Second Amendment rights, while offering only the illusion of security. (30) These critics claim that the sophistication of smart guns lead individuals into believing the gun is safer than it is. (31)

    Mass shootings are defined as any shooting where four or more persons are killed or injured. (32) While mass shootings are only responsible for 1.5% of gun deaths in the United States, recent events have called for legislators and activists alike to present and fight for preventative measures. (33) The Second Amendment is not an absolute right. (34) However, every state is bound by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution to enforce public safety as a right for its citizens. (35) This balance between limitations and constitutional rights is blurred where smart guns are concerned.

    This Note will examine: 1) smart gun technologies employing biometric security functions, RFID and blockchain security systems on firearms; 2) their impact on mass shootings; and 3) what implications this could have on the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. Part II discusses the innovation landscape of firearms in the United States beginning with Samuel Colt, (36) and ending with recent developments in biometric security. Part III discusses industry perspectives on the use of smart guns and how industry leaders and companies could influence gun control. Part IV analyzes the benefits and consequences of smart gun legislation and its impact on constitutional rights. Part V draws a conclusion calling for change that preserves constitutional integrity with consideration of the right of every citizen to be safe.

  2. History: A History United Leads to a Country Divided

    "God made men, but Samuel Colt made men equal."--Unknown origins (37)

    Samuel Colt introduced the world to the first successfully mass-produced revolver. (38) Although innovations on the firearm have occurred frequently throughout history, its core function has changed very little. (39) Ultimately, a trigger releases a firing pin, which strikes ammunition, causing a small and contained explosion which launches a projectile, or bullet, down a metal tube at a target. (40) The firearm industry generates a vast economic influence. (41) Gun enthusiasts perpetuate this by developing a culture of praise towards weapon modifications the same way car enthusiasts have developed a culture of praise towards modifying old Honda Civics. (42)

    In 1998, Colt's Manufacturing Company LLC developed a gun that required a radio-frequency prototype, but it was not well received by the American public because of vigorous backlash and organized boycotts by the National Rifle Association. (43) In 2005, the extrinsic pressure from the National Rifle Association led Congress to pass the "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act", which disincentives companies to test and develop smart guns. (44)

    It was not until 2013 that companies began meaningfully investing money in technologically-advanced guns. (45) Smart Tech Foundation, the nation's leading organization supporting the development of innovative solutions to prevent accidental gun deaths and teen suicides, offered $1,000,000 to innovators to research and develop a better smart gun. (46) By 2014, the German firearms company Armatix released "iP1," the first commercially available smart gun on the market which utilizes RFID technology in a smart watch. (47) In 2015, Mossberg, a leader in the market of firearms for home defense, released an RFID shotgun that can only be fired if the gun owner is wearing a ring. (48) Mossberg says that his company, O.F. Mossberg & Sons, the oldest family owned gun company in the United States, is vigorously integrating the RFID technology under his authority in the name of safety for the gun owner. (49) Mossberg and Armatix are not alone, and today, symposiums are being held at various locations throughout the country showcasing the newest technologies in smart guns. (50)

    Several Fortune 500 companies also contribute to smart gun technology. (51) While RFIDs and biometric security functions have been around for some time, some companies are leveraging more cutting-edge technologies. (52) Specifically, in 2016 a group of professionals worked on a project integrating blockchain with a firearm, aptly named "Glockchain." (53) Blockchain is a technology that establishes a ledger that cannot be altered after an occurrence has been recorded. (54) Glockchain keeps a ledger of exactly when and where a firearm is discharged. (55) The advantage of this is the added security and accuracy of the record that is automatically created. (56)

    1. Guns: An Ingrained Constitutional Right

      The Second Amendment is a constitutional right as part of the Bill of Rights. (57) The Bill of Rights is protected under the Fourteenth Amendment as these rights are "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition" and therefore must be shielded from state infringement. (58)

      The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution grants and protects the right of citizens to own firearms. (59) The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed this right in its ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller. (660) Heller enumerates the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment at the federal level. (61) Justice Antonin Scalia authored the opinion stating that to "keep or bear arms" expressly means the constitution grants the right to have the firearm in one's possession. (62) The Court turned to the Framers' intent in drafting the Amendment and decided that the intent in arming the public was to form a "well-regulated militia" to protect against a tyrant's standing army. (63) However, the Court specifically noted that reasonable restrictions may be implemented against individuals obtaining firearms. (64)

      Heller is not the only case that wrestled with gun ownership rights. (65) McDonald v. City of Chicago affirms the rights upheld in Heller, and bans individual states' power to ban firearms. (66) The McDonald court furthers Heller by enumerating the right to bear arms to the states under the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (67) McDonald is monumentally important to gun control because, while states must uphold an individual's right to bear arms, this power to regulate creates discrepancies among the 50 states, leaving some with strict laws and others with loose laws. (68)

      The Supreme Court of the United States has been purposefully quiet on the issue of gun control. (69) only a week after the tragedy in Parkland, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in a case challenging the constitutionality of a 10-day waiting period for firearms purchases in California. (70) This is just one of the several examples of the Court turning away from the gun control debate because the Court has remained silent on the issue since the decisions of Heller and McDonald. (71)

      The right to bear arms has limitations. (72)...

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