"SMART" GUNS: A TECHNOLOGICAL FIX FOR REGULATING THE SECONDARY MARKET
Philip J. Cook
James A. Leitzel
A "personalized" or "smart" gun will not fire unless it is being used by an authorized individual. Such guns have the potential to reduce the negative externalities of gun ownership while preserving the benefits. Ongoing efforts to develop practical "smart" designs make it timely to consider regulations that would favor or mandate them in the market for new guns. The likely consequences would depend on the design details, in particular the costs of transferring the "key" to firing such guns. With an "ideal" design, transferring the key would require special equipment that could be monitored by appropriate authorities. The result would be to block thefts and other transfers of such guns in the secondary market and, in the long run, reduce access by individuals who are proscribed from possessing a gun. Personalized guns, therefore, could make existing firearms regulations more effective and reduce the social costs associated with gun misuse. Though personalized guns have advantages relative to standard guns in a wide variety of situations, some of the potential benefits of personalized guns could be captured through alternative policy measures. Copyright 2002 Western Economic Association International.
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