'Electronic firearm tracking technology' in bulls-eye of state lawmakers

PHOENIX -- Calling the technology a method of gun control, a Senate panel voted Wednesday to preclude any mandate that Arizonans have to purchase "smart'' guns.

HB 2216 says the state many not require any individual to use "electronic firearm tracking technology.'' It also bars disclosure of any disclosure of information gathered from such technology that would identify the gun owner or the the person's firearm.

Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, said he heard a presentation at a conference that suggested the best way to regulate who can own and fire a gun is "block chain technology.''

In essence, the technology can sense and log when a smart weapon has been fired, even sending notices to emergency personnel. It also can send out notifications if an unauthorized person tries to fire the weapon.

"And that's what I'm concerned about,'' Boyer told colleagues.

"The right to defend oneself existed before government,'' he continued. "It'll exist long after government is gone. And so every citizen should have the right to defend themselves.''

Beyond the tracking, Boyer said HB 2216 will ensure that Arizonans are not forced to purchase weapons that are designed to fire only by the authorized owner or user. He contends they are "unreliable.''

Various forms of the technology are being developed.

Some involve having trigger or grip programmed to recognize who is authorized to fire it. Others used radio-frequency chips that the authorized owner would wear to allow the gun to fire, similar to devices that allow cars to start -- or not start as the case may be -- depending on the presence of the owner and the proper chip-enabled fob.

"No one's been able to tell us if you drop the gun (if it will work) with the technology,'' Boyer told members of the Senate Government Committee. And there are other issues, like what happens in extreme heat "which we can imagine, it gets a little hot here in the summertime in Phoenix,'' extreme cold, switching hands for holding the gun or even wearing gloves.

"There's a possibility that it could be hacked so it could be remotely disabled,'' Boyer continued. "So the point is, when you need it the most that when you should be able to utilize it and not have to worry about whether or not your gun is going to work.''

Boyer said there's a basis for fears of such a mandate.

A 2002 New Jersey law spells out that only "smart'' guns can be sold in that state.

But it is worded to be effective three years after personalized handguns are available on the retail market. And while there are some such weapons offered for sale, New Jersey has yet to declare that the law has been triggered.

Boyer said that New Jersey law -- if and when it ever takes effect -- exempts police from having to use smart weapons. He said that makes sense and goes to the issue of reliability of the technology.

"Law enforcement needs it at the moment they need it,'' Boyer said. "There's no reason why a private citizen should have this imposed on them as well.''

Dave Kopp of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, a supporter of the measure, pointed out that nothing in the legislation precludes an Arizonan who wants such such a weapon from getting one.

The version of the bill approved by the panel on a 4-3 vote does spell out that law enforcement officials can take advantage of a weapon's tracking technology if they have a search warrant. It also can be used by pawnbrokers to file reports required by law with the sheriff.

HB 2216, which cleared the House on a 34-25 vote, now goes to the full Senate.

On Twitter: @azcapmedia

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