Update on ‘smart guns’ & 3D printing of firearms

A new “smart gun” prototype and a crackdown on sharing of designs for 3D-printable firearm components mean it’s time to update my gun-tech story of several weeks ago.

A Capitola-based company unveiled a new smart-gun prototype today at a trade show in Las Vegas – a firearm that lets owners remotely engage or disengage the trigger safety from anywhere in the world, using a smartphone.

yardarm-solution-final-chartYardarm Technologies says its Safety First system revolves around a sensor that can be installed on any firearm to enable wireless, real-time control of the trigger safety; it also serves as a motion detector and a geo-locating device. Gun owners are alerted via a mobile device applet if their firearm is picked up or handled by an unauthorized person, and the owner, using a mobile app or secure website, can instantly engage or disengage the trigger safety.

“Suppose you and your family are on vacation in Las Vegas, and your firearm is back at home. Wouldn’t you want to know in real time if an intruder, or worse, a child is handling your gun?” company CEO Bob Stewart asked in a news release. “With Yardarm, you could immediately disable the firearm, notify local law enforcement and maintain location awareness. We want the gun owner to stay connected to their firearm, no matter what the circumstance.”

The Yardarm sensor prototype was developed in partnership with New Jersey-based DataOnline, and was unveiled this morning at DataOnline’s booth at the 2013 CTIA Expo.

Meanwhile, the website at which Cody Wilson of Texas has been sharing his designs for gun components that can be made with a 3D printer now carries a message that reads:

DEFCAD files are being removed from public access at the request of the US Department of Defense Trade Controls. Until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information.

To clarify, that would be the U.S. State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, which controls the export and temporary import of defense articles and defense services covered by the United States Munitions List.

Wilson provided Betabeat.com with a copy of a May 8 letter he received, informing him that he may have released technical data controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations without the required prior authorization from DDTC. The letter asks Wilson to file determination requests for the data files, and until those determinations are made, to “treat the above technical data as ITAR-controlled. This means that all such data should be removed from public access immediately.”

Wilson told Betabeat he thinks he’s immune because his company is a nonprofit and the blueprints are in the public domain, but he complied nonetheless. Even so, he said, his designs already have migrated to other places on the internet.

“I still think we win in the end,” he said. “To think this can be stopped in any meaningful way is to misunderstand what the future of distributive technologies is about.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.