For your hands only: James Bond’s smart gun becomes a reality

It has been a decade since James Bond was issued with a futuristic biometric "smart gun" that he alone could shoot.

As "Q" explained in the 2012 blockbuster Skyfall, Bond’s Walther PPK was fitted with a microdermal sensor encoded to his palm print, meaning it was for 007’s hands only.

But now the hi-tech weapons could become widely available in the United States after a company unveiled a new firearm set to hit the market this year.

Bond’s life was spared in Skyfall when a thug grabbed the secret agent’s gun and tried to kill him, but it didn’t work.

Instead, the villain was memorably dragged off by a Komodo dragon, leaving Daniel Craig to die another day.

Daniel Craig from a Skyfall scene set in Shanghai

Credit: Film Stills

For years since that science fiction scene, gun manufacturers have been trying, and failing, to replicate the technology, and to make it affordable and hack-proof.

They have also faced opposition from the National Rifle Association, the influential lobby group, which believes the advent of smart guns would lead to new government regulations and bans on traditional guns.

But now, a company in Idaho has unveiled a 9mm smart handgun that can be unlocked using a fingerprint reader.

It hopes to make the gun commercially available this year for $895 (£657).

Gareth Glaser, co-founder of the company, LodeStar Works in Boise, Idaho, said: "We finally feel like we’re at the point where, let’s go public. We’re there."

Mr Glaser was inspired not by James Bond movies, but by seeing news stories about children getting shot while playing with their parents’ guns.

The 9mm smart gun, which works only for the designated user

Smart guns would mean a child being unable to fire weapons disabled for use by anyone but their parents.

The new guns could also help prevent suicides, and make criminals unable to fire stolen weapons.

It could also have safety implications for police officers as suspects grabbing their guns in a struggle would not be able to use them.

There have been other attempts at commercial smart guns, some using radio-frequency identification [RFID].

Those can only be fired when a chip in the gun communicates with another chip worn by the user in a ring or bracelet.

A fingerprint recognition sensor activates the firearm

In 1999 Smith & Wesson started investing in trying to make smart guns following the Columbine high school massacre.

But the National Rifle Association accused the manufacturer of "selling out" and "craven self-interest," and supporters boycotted the company.

In 2017 a hacker publicly demonstrated how to bypass the technology on a German weapon, which had been marketed as the first commercial smart gun.

The .22 caliber pistol was only supposed to shoot when linked to a radio signal from the owner’s watch. But the hacker showed a conference of fellow hackers in Las Vegas how to block the safety technology using $15 worth of magnets, a piece of wood and a screw.

Another US company, SmartGunz, has said police forces are testing its RFID smart weapons. The officer squeezes the grip and the weapon reads a chip in a glove on their hand to enable firing.

Another company called Biofire in Colorado is also developing a smart gun with a fingerprint reader.

However, sceptics contend that smart guns remain too risky for use by police, or for home defence by civilians.

Lawrence Keane, senior vice president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said: "If I had a nickel for every time in my career I heard somebody say they’re about to bring us a so-called smart gun on the market, I’d probably be retired now."

At a recent demonstration the LodeStar smart gun was fired at a range for the company’s investors.

A Reuters journalist who watched reported that the weapon was discharged "without issue."

According to Giffords, the campaign group led by former congresswoman and gun violence survivor Gabrielle Giffords, smart weapons could save lives.

The group said 380,000 guns are stolen each year, and up to 90 per cent of weapons used in school shootings, youth suicides, and unintentional shootings among children, are acquired from the homes of family or friends.

"However, the gun lobby has staunchly opposed development of gun safety technology, preventing it from becoming commercially available," Giffords said.

Meanwhile, James Bond script writers have always been ahead of the curve when it comes to smart guns.

"Q" issues Timothy Dalton with his "optical palm reader"

Credit: AP

Back in 1989 Timothy Dalton’s James Bond was issued with a "signature" sniper rifle featuring an "optical palm reader" in the grip, so only he could use it. The gun was also disguised as a camera.

Over 30 years later there is still unlikely to be a commercial version soon.

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