Würkner-Personal-Weapon-Lock (short: WPW-Lock) is a new method for personalization of weapons, thus binding the functions of a weapon to a person (smart gun). The special of this solution is, that it can be done in a purely mechanical manner, thus reliability is entailed as it is generally valid for weapons, as no electronics is needed. In addition, the safety of the everyday use of the weapon is increased significantly as any dropped weapon is always secured and locked automatically..



The political environment and opinions concerning the securing of weapons through personalization on the occasion of the availability of WPW-Lock

Feedback gathered and published by Ing. Mag. Gerald Würkner from december 2012 until march 2013


United States of America

It has already been mentioned in other publications and writing that the USA and Europe are the most important markets for WPW-Lock. The situation in the USA seems to be clear, as 2 states (New Jersey, Maryland) have already issued laws for the personalization of weapons precautionarily that will become effective as soon as a reliable system is available on the market, and as there have already been identical initiatives up to congress level.


Vice-President Biden for Smart Gun

It is therefore hardly surprising that new initiatives in this direction have been created again after the last shooting rampage in Newtown and the political debate that followed – as has incidentally been prognosticated in my market study. Hence, Vice-President Joe Biden who has been entrusted with the management of the taskforce for weapons safety by President Obama is clearly in favor of technologies of this kind (published inter alia on businessinsider):

"A lot could change, for example, if every gun could only be fired by the person who purchased it," Biden said at a meeting with members of the video-game industry on Friday. According to the pool report, Biden also "noted that might have changed something in the case of the shootings in Connecticut."


President Obama’s Executive Action 15

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Obama’s „Executive Action 15“ of January 16th 2013 which resulted not least from the Vice-President’s preference is without a doubt of greatest importance to WPW-Lock, which reads as follows: 

"Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies."  





 

Hence, the interest in such techniques could hardly be any greater and this point in time could hardly be more ideal for this solution to appear on the market. Such developments are accelerated and demanded by the most significant political side particularly in the market that is by far the largest and most important.

 

The European Union and Germany as its representative

Due to the fact that the circumstances and the basic conditions in the EU are less clear and obvious, I have closely examined the situation in Germany which is the most important and leading country in this market, representative for the EU. In this context, the opinions of the political forces are without any doubt very relevant, because they determine the basic conditions for weapons, their ownership and their safety devices on a legislative level. Therefore, I have invited the spokespersons of the parties that are represented in the German Bundestag to give their opinion on the personalization of weapons, possibly by taking the availability of the new technology WPW-Lock into account. In fact, not one of the politicians was opposed to such techniques, only the explicitness of how clearly such solutions would be advocated and whether they would even be required varies from person to person.

Primarily the spokespersons for the weapons law in the Committee on Internal Affairs of the German Bundestag gave their opinions, representative for their fractions:

CDU/CSU delegate Günter Lach 
FDP delegate Serkan Tören 
SPD delegate Gabriele Fograscher
BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN delegate Wolfgang Wieland
DIE LINKE. delegate Frank Tempel

Delegate Stefan Mayer additionally took a stand only for the CSU, which - as is known - is having a parliamentary partnership with the CDU, but he naturally represents his own position as well.



The opinions of the political groups in detail:


CDU/CSU delegate Günter Lach, Member of the Bundestag

The CDU is open to technical possibilities and a personalization of weapons achieved e.g. by WPW-Lock and points out that the costs must remain reasonable. The fraction does not see any current need for a legislative amendment. (In fact, such an amendment is not necessary, on account of the possibility that is already laid down in the weapons law § 36 paragraph 5 point 3.)

"In principle, I am open for technical possibilities which increase the safety in the handling and storage of weapons. This can occur in the form of weapon locks, or also – as in the case of the system WPW-Lock – by means of a personalization. In this connection, an important condition for a successful implementation is that the created safety standards do not entail an impairment of the functionality of the weapons. Moreover, the costs should be within an acceptable range."



CSU Stephan Mayer, Member of the Bundestag:

For the CSU, the availability of several different offers and the related costs is of great importance:

"A legally determined personalization of weapons can surely represent an additional profit in safety for the general public. However, I believe that such a personalization must be proportionate to the connected effort for the owner. Therefore, I think that a corresponding stipulation by the legislator may be considered only if the interested weapons owner can choose from several comparable and reasonable offers and if these naturally also consider the other technical requirements for weapons (e.g. in police operations) which need to be met."



FDP Serkan Tören, Member of the Bundestag:  

Of all fractions, Member of Parliament Serkan Tören is the representative who is the most careful when formulating a response. He, too, stresses that the costs are an argument and is not certain whether the hindered firing of the weapon may not be a problem when it comes to the system’s use in police service weapons. (This is further elaborated in the section on police.) Moreover, Serkan Tören would like to know whether WPW-Lock can be adapted to long weapons appropriately, which is possible, of course.

“Additional safety systems for weapons can certainly constitute a contribution to an increase in the safety of the population. However, it must be kept in mind that there must be a reasonable relationship between the costs of the additional safety system and the gain in security. … For a positioning of the FDP parliamentary group, it would be helpful to know whether your safety sys-tem could also be developed further for the area of long weapons.”



SPD Gabriele Fograscher, Member of the Bundestag:

The SPD is open to any kind of innovation which leads to a greater safety of weapons and states unequivocally that a large majority of the Interior Committee of the Bundestag advocates the personalization of weapons.

“The SPD parliamentary group is generally open for every innovation which results in an increased safety when handling weapons and reduces possibilities for abuse. As you have rightly commented, there was a vast majority in the hearing of the Interior Committee of the Bundestag on weapons law which was for the personalization of weapons. However, we were hitherto not aware that a technology is available that performs safely and reliably. The principle which you have developed sounds very interesting.”

Subsequently, Mrs. Fograscher asked some questions regarding the technology which indicate that an interest in an additional biometric function exists. I explained that WPW-Lock can also be complemented with this function without having to install the necessary electronics in the weapon. Further details inter alia on the accordingly updated webpage!

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In this context, Gabriele Fograscher’s statement shall also be supplemented with Daniela Kolbe, Member of Parliament (Member of the Interior Committee) who comments on the issue as follows:

"You are right that there is a general approval of a personalization of weapons within the SPD fraction, provided that the technical implementation can take place without any problems."





Parliamentary Party Alliance 90/Green Party Wolfgang Wieland, Member of the Bundestag:

Generally, the Greens question the private ownership of weapons. Apart from this, however, they are very open-minded concerning proposals for the technical securing of weapons:

“The individualization of a weapon with technical means sounds promising, with regard to a protection against the abuse of firearms that is as effective as possible…… As a result, approaches for making firearms technically safe so that an abuse by third parties is almost impossible are very welcome and are also sustainable in the future, in certain contexts. I am thinking mostly about people who carry weapons for professional reasons. Unfortunately, these approaches are not a panacea that makes further weapon considerations obsolete in view of the private possession of weapons. This should not diminish your inventive achievement and your commitment in any way. On the contrary, the Green parliamentary group is very open-minded about proposals for the technical securing of weapons.”



The Left Party, Frank Tempel, Member of the Bundestag:

The rejection of weapons also seems to have first priority for the Left Party. Apart from this, however, every measure which increases safety as well as personalization technology are fully en-dorsed and supported.

“For years, the push-back of the threat of weapons has been a concern of the Left Party fraction. Our proposals advocate a reduction of the availability of weapons in society. Among other things, we aim at a considerably more difficult access of weapons and ammunition by unauthorized persons. Our efforts meet at this point. Your idea of a personalized, mechanical securing of weapons should be extensively tested, in order to fathom the implementation possibilities. ..... Subject to a successful practical test, your proposed solution would constitute a significant gain in safety for police and security forces. It is often the case that legal weapons fall into the hands of unauthorized persons before rampages (mostly family members of marksmen). The concept of a personalized, mechanical securing would make sense for such cases, if the holsters and weapons were stored separately, because the unauthorized use would thereby be impossible. I could imagine that the weapon modules are stored separately: the holsters or mountings in the clubhouses, the weapon at home. ..... I could also imagine your concept to be valuable for the prevention of the sliding off of either stolen or lost weapons into the black market. I would be pleased if you continued to keep me informed about the progress of your work. I wish you success in your en-deavors!”



The German Federal Ministry of Interior and the police

Naturally, I contacted the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the representatives of the police to collect corresponding statements, suggestions and objections.

The Police Union GdP merely expressed doubt as to whether the state of a weapon with such a system can always be clearly perceived by the police officer in the currently presented version. Of course, this objection is correct regarding the presented version, after all, it serves particularly for the illustration of the principle. It is clear that a long stroke of the grip lever is necessary for a version that is designed for police use so that the grip ever cannot snap into place involuntarily and can be felt clearly, whereby its system status is also visually marked. However, these are details which play a role in the development to serial production which I have not yet mentioned separately, in order to avoid an overload of the already comprehensive information materials.

First, the Federal Ministry of the Interior of the Federal Republic of Germany presents the current status quo which consists in the fact that there are no currently intended weapon securing systems. This is clear. The Ministry of the Interior will surely not act on its own without cause within the framework of § 36 section 5 point 3. A corresponding provision can only be expected if appropriate systems are available and if the public and politicians demand it as soon as the next spectacular incident of weapon abuse occurs which will then seem inevitable. After all, this paragraph was primarily created in order to act quickly after the next incident in the case of corresponding framework conditions.

In addition, the response of the German Federal Ministry included that the interest is so great that I was promptly invited to present my idea and that I was informed that they would like to test a prototype. However, given that I did not wish to anticipate the future manufacturer and that a prototype that is ready to go into production naturally doesn’t exist yet, I asked the Federal Ministry to be patient. I referred to the fact that, as far as humanly possible, a renowed manufacturer or renowed manufacturers will introduce the corresponding prototypes with such a securing to them in the forseeable future. Objections have not yet been expressed by this side at this point of time, from which it can be concluded that the principle – subject to a test on the real object – is considered at least as generally suitable.

The central statements of the response of the Federal Ministry of the Interior on behalf of the Federal Minister of the Interior in the wording:

"It is presently not intended to make weapon securing systems mandatory for the area of weapons of hunters, marksmen and private security companies. In the area of police weapons, it cannot yet be assessed on the basis of your transmitted documents whether the employment of “WPW-Lock” is possible and functional for police pistols. I cordially invite you for a visit to the Federal Ministry of the Interior of the Federal Republic of Germany in Berlin for a presentation of your idea, a demonstration of a prototype and to discuss open questions. "

Moreover, I have contacted the PTI (Institute for Police Technology of the German Police University), where I was also promised an assessment. However, the PTI is currently completely overburdened, because 2 employees are carrying out the work of 6 posts. It is therefore appropriate to remain patient. For this reason, I am currently unable to estimate when this assessment will be available.

Despite this overall very positive impression on the part of security authorities, attention must also be called to the fact that resistance is certainly to be expected of individual parts of the civil servants regarding a personalization of service weapons. Yet such a defense behavior towards innovations is normal and should not come as a surprise to anybody. It has indirectly reached my ears that some parts of this side bring up the argument that the impossible transmission of weapons that is determined by the system and the impossible manual change respectively could constitute a problem in police operations. In this context, the examples were given that an officer could be shot in the shooting arm and would consequently have to change his shooting arm, or that a potential victim of an amok would not be able to defend him/herself with the pistol of a killed police officer. By means of the absurdity of these arguments which obviously try to create situations which may happen in TV crime series that are completely out of touch, but hardly ever occur in reality, it is more than obvious that the aforementioned opponents are in dire need of arguments against such safety systems. A very experienced insider in the police, Detective Chief Superintendent Olaf März, Vice-Chairman in the Federation of German Police Officers Saxony-Anhalt and responsible in the state criminal police agency of Saxony-Anhalt especially for crimes involving weapons, who has also dealt with the personalization of weapons for the BDK , has assured me that he is not familiar with a single case in which the system WPW-Lock would constitute an obstacle for the police officer, nor with a case in which a manual change would have been necessary.

In reality, there is only one primary and very dangerous problem in this connection, namely that potential third-party use of service weapons, as innumerable such cases, partially with an entire series of police officers who were killed with their own weapons, demonstrate (see demand study). It is exactly this problem which is solved by means of a personalization of weapons. Incidentally, it is widely recognized that, especially in individual cases, police officers act in strict accordance with the principle that is applied in WPW-Lock – and have to act in this way, as the weapon must be exclusively in the shooting hand or the holster. Overall, it can thus be expected that it is most likely for an introduction of such systems in the executive in Germany to take place in the wake of a correspondingly spectacular case involving the abuse of a weapon, particularly of police weapons, on account of individual reservations. The reason for this is that irrational, defensive attitudes that are based on sensitivities of individual parts of the body of police officials will ultimately stand no chance against the resulting public outcry due to such an incident which will force politicians to act. Detective Chief Superintendent Olaf März who has already been mentioned in the above is likewise convinced that, provided that it is realizable, the majority of the police will accept such developments.



German Delegates in the European Parliament

I also tried to receive responses from German delegates which are members of the Committee that is responsible for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) in the European Parliament, although I have not vigorously pursued this. Thus, there are only responses of 2 fractions concerning this matter:


Alexander Alvaro (MEP), Vice-President of the European Parliament [FDP, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe]  

"In light of many tragic incidents which you have partially mentioned, every development in the area of weapons safety is very valuable. Your developed system sounds particularly promising, primarily because of the mechanical functionality. Naturally, the subject of weapons safety is in Mr. Alvaro’s interest, not least as a Member of the Committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. We will therefore try to consider your proposition in a later legislation."


Reinhard Bütikofer, Chairman of the European Green Party [European Green Party]  

"I am quite impressed by your mechanical solution of the problem of a personalization of weapons. However, I am by no means a specialist in this field and would like to leave the evaluation of the technical feasibility to the experts. Apart from that, I am willing to support your system politically, provided that is has been tested and qualified by specialists. I would welcome the idea that it could help to diminish the abuse of weapons. .... I would be pleased if your technology would also be successful among experts, and I am thus extremely curious to hear further information concerning this matter."



Jan Philipp Albrecht [European Green Party]

"Mr. Albrecht is open to a personalization of weapons. However, he is not yet certain whether this personalization should be digital or technical, but he is of the opinion that data protection must also play a subservient role in this context, due to the great social interest to ensure that weapons do not fall into wrong hands. However, your arguments for a WPW-Lock sound very reasonable. This could be a good opportunity to prevent the abuse of weapons. Yet I do not take it upon myself to deliver a concluding judgement in this question. I would be more than glad to find out whether there will be parliamentary initiatives for the personalization of weapons in the near future and in what way your model can be considered."



European Commission, Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, Directorate Gen-eral Home Affairs

In conclusion, the response of the European Commission through its Directorate General responsible for the Interior with its commissioner Cecilia Malmström.    


Joaquim Nunes de Almeida [A3] on behalf of commissioner Cecilia Malmström

"The Commissioner, Ms Cecilia Malmström, asked me to reply your letter in which you requested an opinion on proposed techniques on the personalisation of firearms intended to prevent misuse. The Commission considers that it is of high importance to carry out initiatives against the illegal trafficking and internal circulation of firearms. We have appreciated your high interest in adopting technical solutions to reduce such misuse; however the Commission´ services are not in a position to issue an opinion on your proposed techniques. We think that such an assessment needs an in-depth technical expertise which the Commission´ services do not have. Moreover, we believe that your proposal should be evaluated by technical expert bodies at national level and that you should seek such expertise through the competent local authorities."



COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE COUNCIL AND THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

21. 10 2013 the European Commission published a document by commissioner Cecilia Malmström, titled: "Firearms and the internal security of the EU: protecting citizens and disrupting illegal trafficking." Its article 4.2. is:

"4.2. Task 2: Preventing theft and loss

Stronger market controls can make legally-held firearms more susceptible to theft by criminals. The Commission will assess the scope for minimum standards for secure storage by firearms owners in the EU, including the option of mandatory use of safes, as is already required by law in some Member States. The Commission will work with the firearms industry to explore technological solutions, such as biometric sensors where personal data is stored in the firearm, for ensuring that purchased firearms may only be used by their legal owner. It will carry out a detailed cost-benefit analysis on the question of making such 'smart gun' security features mandatory for firearms lawfully sold in the EU."

Thus, it is clear that even in Europe the way towards a personalization of firearms is taken.