What The Tech?: Warren Tolman Wants Guns to Have Fingerprint-Only Access

People couldn’t fire a weapon without verifying who they are first.

Screenshot via Vimeo

Screenshot via Vimeo

If there is fingerprint access technology for smartphones, to keep the wrong person from using a device, why not do the same for guns?

That’s what Warren Tolman, a candidate for Attorney General, has in mind as a solution to lowering gun thefts and shooting deaths in Massachusetts.

“It’s time we use the power of [the] law to protect the health and safety of our citizens to do what Congress can’t—require gun manufacturers to utilize existing personalized gun technology for all new weapons sold in the Commonwealth,” Tolman said in a statement.

Under his proposal, Tolman said he could leverage existing laws, using Chapter 93A, the consumer protection statute, in order to regulate firearms with the new technology.

Tolman said by having guns equipped with a feature that would require the shooter to place a finger on a pad that would recognize them, before the gun could be shot, it would “take the guns out of the hands of criminals who steal them,” and keep children that get a hold of weapons safe.

Tolman’s suggestion comes at a time when a task force at the State House has been mulling over ways to reduce gun violence statewide, and has heard proposals from both pro and anti-gun advocates.

In an Op-Ed he wrote for the Boston Globe this week, Tolman said the solution to gun violence is “right at our fingertips.”

“Just as your fingerprint can be used to unlock your iPhone, fingerprint technology can be used to operate firearms. Doing so would ensure that a firearm could be operated only by its rightful owner or designees. Gun manufacturers have the technology to do this today,” he wrote. “All this could be done without impinging on Second Amendment rights. It’s about improving safety, and restricting access to prohibited users. It’s a sensible response, using technology that’s readily available today.”

Turns out, Tolman isn’t the only one thinking about the future of technology, and how it can shape the gun violence debate.

A group called Safe Gun Technology, or SGTi, wants to improve gun safety “exponentially” by bringing to market a proprietary technology for user-authorized firearms.

“SGTi technology focuses on making guns safer through biometric technology. This technology can be incorporated into any user authorized small firearm. This includes a shotgun, rifle, pistol, or handgun. Our technology is unique in its design, disabling mechanism, and increased capacity for weapon safety,” according to the group’s mission statement. “Once enabled, you can effectively “lock” a gun, and preventing any unauthorized user from firing the weapon.”

Below is a video demonstration, posted by the group, of the early generation Safe Gun Technology prototype installed on a Remington 870 pump shotgun:

  • robert gould

    What a stupid idea. When seconds count it is no time to have to reboot the gun. All this will do is make the streets safer for criminals. But then that is the objective of liberals.
    It’s time to use the power of the vote to keep gun control idiots out of office.

  • Dan Dan

    Comparing phones to guns is illogical. Phones are electronic devices, incorporating a lock is easy. Guns are mechanical devices, incorporating an electronic lock mechanism is not easy or practical. It is like adding a fingerprint device to a screwdriver. Also, people usually don’t depend on immediate access to their iTunes in order to protect their lives. There is a reason that law enforcement always demands exemption to these laws.
    Another issue is that criminals would probably have no trouble removing or disabling the electronic device. Since the gun is a mechanical device with electronics tacked on, returning the gun to its original mechanical operation would be easy.
    Also, notice the bulk of the device on the shotgun. Imagine carrying a concealed pistol with that contraption on the side. Concealment pistols need to be as small and reliable as possible to be practical.
    This technology is so far from being practical, jumping to make it required is not only ridiculous, it is probably unconstitutional since it places onerous restrictions on a protected right. Think of voter ID laws if you think that making a right difficult to exercise is going to be allowed by the courts.

  • Ed

    This is ignorance at best. There are no commercially viable options for this technology available as of yet.

    • Chipsterr

      And even if there were commercially viable options, the answer would still be not until the Police require them on all of their arms.

  • John W. O’Brien III

    another moron who knows nothing about firearms trying to make firearms laws….. eff him and the horse he rode in on….

  • asdf

    Problems with this:

    1) This could more than triple the price of the average firearm. Making your local police force far more expensive, as well as of course your own collection.

    2) If a firearm is stolen, this tech is easily removed and replaced with a more normal mechanism (cheap to buy online, shipped to your door). A company like Ruger that sells millions of firearms will not devote R&D to a low volume market, the only solution is small retrofitting company’s.

    3) Watch for a police exemption. As stated police are the ones most in need of this because they open carry around people who hate them. Police have repeatedly refused to use this new tech because it can also be a point of failure in a high stress situation where an officer needs to defend himself or his community.

  • Barry Hirsh

    Three points:

    First, all technology can fail, particularly the electronic variety. This potential is unacceptable in a self-defense weapon.

    Second, what happens if your wife or other household member needs to access the weapon for self-defense? Fail.

    Third, if you can convince the police to accept that technology on their armament, then we can talk. (See: “First”) Until that point, the answer is “No.” The police have more incidents of being disarmed and shot with their own weapons than do ‘civilians’, therefore they should be prime candidates, right?



    Fail, fail, FAIL.

  • DrMichaelSBrown

    Civilian gun buyers take their lead from the military and police. If it works for them, ordinary people will buy it.

  • engjin

    Safe Gun Tech does not have anyone’s safety in mind, just their pocket book. Snake oil salesman hooked Tolman and he’s trying to get everyone else to drink the kool aid

  • wysoft

    So when someone steals the gun, they have someone who knows how to work on guns remove the fingerprint device. All guns are mechanical devices, and all electronic safeties are still mechanical safeties in one way or another, and can therefore be removed or defeated.

    Now you have a normal old-fashioned stolen gun that any gang banger can shoot.

    Oh, but removing the device will be illegal. So what?

  • Wayne Cummins

    I will be willing to accept this technology, right after law enforcement and the military do.

    • BuckMark

      I will accept this technology when law enforcement, military , and criminals do

  • Chipsterr

    Neat idea! When is the military going to start using them? Or the police? I mean they face so many more bad guys than your average citizen so if it’s true for us it must be doubly true for them, right?

  • djstucrew

    Q: How can you tell a crap “gun safety” idea from a good one?
    A: If police/law enforcement will accept it. If they ask for an exemption, KILL IT! KILL IT QUICK!

  • Davis Thompson

    I guess I know who got a copy of Skyfall as an early Christmas present.

    If this tech is ever mandated, you can be sure I will rip it out of any gun I buy and send the pieces back to Mr. Tolman.

  • Davis Thompson

    Let me know when this tech reaches a 0% error rate. I’ll wait. For a long time, I suspect.