New smart gun using chip technology has support of former Seattle Police chiefs

After trying education and legislation, a local advocate for gun safety is turning to technology to prevent gun violence.

Ralph Fascitelli is working to create a smart gun that uses a chip the size of a piece of rice, similar to what's in a key fob.

The chip uses radio frequency identification, or RFID, and can be embedded in a ring or watch. Fascitelli said the gun will only work for the authorized user, when that user is wearing the chip and is in close proximity to the gun.

"It's a very simple, perfect, proven solution," said Fascitelli. "Basically, it involves a digital handshake between the body of the gun and the chip."

Fascitelli is the co-founder of Lode Star Firearms, a smart gun company, and is working to get the funding to make a prototype.

He spent the last 20 years fighting to end gun violence, through Washington Ceasefire.

He joined Ceasefire after the Columbine shooting and became best friends with federal prosecutor Tom Wales. Wales was gunned down in his Queen Anne home in October 2001 by a suspect who still has not been caught.

Fascitelli kept working to reduce gun violence as a way to honor him.

But after decades of focusing on education and legislation, Fascitelli, who works in advertising, said he has determined that technology is the most effective way to save lives.

Fascitelli said the smart gun with chip technology will prevent school shootings, suicides and accidents. He mentioned the case in Stanwood in March 2012, when a Marysville police officer accidentally left a loaded gun in the family van. His 3-year-old son killed his 7-year-old daughter with the gun.

"It just destroys families, obviously. It's not just the horrendous tragedy of the individual. You can imagine, those scars don't leave," said Fascitelli.

He's convinced the new technology could protect kids, prevent suicides and stop mass shootings.

Fascitelli teamed up with two former Seattle police chiefs, Gil Kerlikowske and John Diaz, to work to develop the 9 mm smart gun.

They know reliability is crucial and think Seattle is a great place for the technology to take off.

"In Seattle, in particular, I think the high-tech revolution that has gone on there for a number of years makes people understand the reliability of technology, " said former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske. "You can go back decades and there's very little change to the safety and security of a firearm. This would be the ultimate step. "

Fascitelli said the new chip technology is crucial and that previous attempts at using biometrics, or fingerprints, for smart guns fall short. He said getting the fingerprint to work when there is sweat, blood or rain is impossible.

He said the fingerprint technology also made it impossible for police to use the guns because they often wear gloves.

He said the new chip technology doesn't have those limitations.

The owner of Pinto's Gun Shop in Renton, Diana Pinto, said she is skeptical of the chip technology.

"For me, the worry would be if it fails and I'm relying on that for my firearm to work and it doesn't work. Now, I'm left with basically a rock," said Pinto. "I think it's a good idea in concept and I understand the reasoning behind it, but I don't think it's something that's going to be effective or make a difference that they're hoping that it will."

Lode Star Firearms is looking to gun experts to develop the chip technology smart gun.
Ginger Chandler is the chief product officer and senior vice president of Lode Star Firearms. She worked in product development and innovation at Remington Arms and at Smith & Wesson.

The next step is to create a prototype, which they expect will take $3 million. 
They say police chiefs across the country have already offered to test the smart gun.

The CEO of Dick's Sporting Goods has voiced support for smart guns. "He says, 'If you can prove reliability of a smart gun, I'll distribute it in all 800 of my stores across the country,'" said Fascitelli.

"This is the best approach to reducing gun violence," said Fascitelli.

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