RFID Tags in Guns: Another Bad Idea

Published by the LearnAboutGuns.com Author on September 23, 2008 at 12:28 am
LearnAboutGuns.com > Pro Gun Rights Articles > RFID Tags in Guns: Another Bad Idea

I read an interesting blog post discussing a proposed New Jersey law that would require each gun sold to contain a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip with the owners personal information.  Tagging guns with RFID chips is a rather bad idea, as discussed below:

Background information on RFID Tags
As Wikipedia states, a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag is an object that can be applied to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person for the purpose of identification and tracking using radio waves. Such tags can easily be read from yards away, and with more powerful equipment, one can read such tags from a great distance.  These tags are currently used to prevent theft at retail stores, to track and inventory packages, to allow for the identification of lost dogs, and in US passports.  While incredibly useful, RFID tags pose a huge privacy problem, as anyone with an RFID scanner can read the tags at a distance – allowing criminals to commit identity theft.  After the US government began placing RFID chips in passports, there was this concern about privacy, as well as the possibility of terrorists targeting US citizens abroad for abduction, after reading their passport RFID information.  Concerned parties went as far as to put together guides on blocking or destroying RFID tags.

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The problem with putting RFID tags in guns
As discussed above, RFID tags can be read at a distance by anyone with an RFID tag reader.  Such readers are not all that expensive, and can readily be purchased online.  A gun with an RFID chip could be read at a distance by a criminal, allowing that criminal to learn the name, address, or other personal information of the citizen.  It could also be used by criminals to identify who is lawfully carrying a concealed firearm.
Also note that the supposed goal of putting RFID chips in guns -having gun easily tied to owners – can be accomplished without the use of RFID tags.  The existing serial numbers, or even a small chip that could be read only after being connected to a specialized machine, would allow for gun identification without the huge privacy and safety risks inherent with the use of RFID chips that contain personal information.

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  • Tony

    You are not very intellectual about these things and that is usually the problem today, have you ever heard of encryption? The system will work something like this, the gun is fired, the energy used to ignite the gunpowder in the bullet is also used to power a small RF circuit which will broadcast by GPS or similar the location co-ordinates of the fired weapon, a serial number and the date/time to a monitoring station, in the event of a gun crime the monitoring station can match the gun owner (by serial number) to the gun that was involved in the crime by the location co-ords at the time of the murder. If their was no crime meaning people using gun to hunt then the information is not acted on. Think about it from a social and law enforcement point of view tagging weapons to murderers makes sense.

    • BINAL


  • http://www.learnaboutguns.com LearnAboutGuns.com


    I disagree completely, and your suggestion has many technical flaws. Firstly, building a GPS receiver, and radio transponder that can tolerate the recoil produced by a gun would add greatly to the cost and size of the gun, if it can really be done well at all. Note that passive RFID (which you seemed to have in mind) is too short ranged unless there would be such monitoring stations every 30 feet, requiring the sort of active RFID system I described. Having such a system scavenge energy from the burning powder, without harming the gun's reliability, would also be quite an (expensive) technical challenge.

    Just as importantly, do you really think that criminals wouldn't just disable such a system in their guns?

    Finally, as a law abiding citizen who respects his rights to be free from unreasonable government intrusion into his life, I don't think it would be constitutional to mandate such a system, any more than the government could install security cameras in my car or in my house.

    Finally, regarding encryption, I'll say that cryptography has been an interest of mine for years. I majored in Computer Science, and took several courses dealing with security and cryptography. However that is not really relevant to the instant discussion, as the other technological and constitutional issues are the real problem with your idea, not the need for encryption.

  • Tony

    RF circuits have been around a long time, so they are cheap and reliable, they are solid state devices which gives them a high level of reliability under shock. The technology can be derived/compared from the circuit found in the most basic of mobile cell phones and even much simpler meaning that they are micro and cheap. Multiple mechanisms can be employed to ensure fail-proof operation even tampering detection additions to the circuit design.

    I am not an expert in physics but a simple system would be when the hammer ignites the gun powder the explosion that delivers the bullet is also channelled into a chamber that spins a magnet in a coil, charging up a capacitor and switching the circuit into action. Physics may employ a higher method.

    Effectively any problem can be resolved through human intelligence in the design and improvement over time.

    I can understand your concerns but common sense must come first. Law enforcement agencies should not have to run around guessing who murdered who when their are a possibility of acquiring the definite answer automatically through RFIDing the crime weapon to the owner of the weapon or a better way. Murder victims also have the right not to be murdered or the right to live without fear of being shot by guns.

    People are afraid of going for casual evening walks due to the crime elements in many American cities, that to me is critically unacceptable.

  • http://www.learnaboutguns.com LearnAboutGuns.com


    Cell phones and many electronics are durable in everday use, but not when attached to guns, which experience tremendous G forces when fired. Even the best scopes and electronic sights for guns, which cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, can rarely last for the lifetime of the gun, especially on higher powered weapons. I've heard of high quality electronic scopes failing after just a few thousand rounds sometimes – and these are scopes that cost upwards of $1,000.

    Your idea of scavenging energy from the firing of the gun to power this system is fraught with reliability concerns, that could render a self defense gun non-functional at the worst possible time.

    It is also worth noting that for GPS and similar systems to work, they must be on for anywhere from 15 seconds to a few minutes. Even assuming that your power generation idea made enough power to run a GPS receiver, radio transmitter, and other related equipment (which I doubt it would), having the system on for that fraction of a second as the gun fires would not be enough time for the GPS system to determine its location.

    Also, such systems that scavenge energy from the burning powder (such as is done in a gas operated semi-auto gun) require cleaning and maintenance to remain functional. Surely you don't expect criminals to be good citizens and clean/maintain the systems they know are there to catch them. Indeed, criminals can certainly disable such a system, either by destroying the antenna, electronics, power generation system, etc.

    You also suggest that your ideas are "common sense," when they are quite the opposite. They are poorly thought out plans that would make guns unreliable for self defense, while failing to deter crime. They are a violation of some of the most basic rights that protect against government intrusion into the lives of those who have not been convicted of any wrongdoing.

    The fact is that crime has been around since long before the advent of guns, and blaming guns for the acts of human beings is misguided. If you want to deter crime, then considering encouraging more people to carry guns for self defense, as these people have done: http://www.learnaboutguns.com/tag/self-defense-ex

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    Also, here is another great article on the subject: http://www.examiner.com/x-2581-St-Louis-Gun-Right
    and see http://www.examiner.com/x-1417-Gun-Rights-Examine… too.

  • Padraig's Ghost

    RFID Tags have many legitimate uses in industry, science, government, criminal control, receiving the "mark of the beast" (just kidding…), etc. However, just like taggets in explosives, they are very fragile and well are liberal collectivists well intentioned communitarian police state road to hell ideas, may not work well in the real world in RF intensive enviornments. The are also easy to defeat with EMI/EMP, etc. You may find them being inplanted in your drivers licenses, gun licenses, and the like in the very near future. I feel that aside from tagging people like criminal sex offenders, the resistance to their implanting will be to great for the near term to be effective for official IDing, such as national healthcare. By then they will develop an even better technology and we will all be assimulated into the Obama Borg! (Resistance is futile…)

  • Thomas

    If it were made into law in New Jersey I propose that the probable outcome would only be many gun manufacturers simply deciding the cost of producing specially RFID'd guns for only NJ would be too high and just wouldn't sell in that state (legally, but then again this law like most other gun control laws are only designed to limit those of us who try to follow the laws criminal's would have no problem with smuggling in illegal "untagged" guns).

  • Lance

    Has anyone thought of the possiblity that an allegedly 'benevolent government' could use this RFID technology to make sure that ONLY those who work for THEM would have the right to keep and bear arms?

  • Greg

    I was researching this topic but my thoughts would be to put an RFID chip in every gun that transmits a signal letting readers know that there is a gun in the area, not send out all a persons info.. A simple system could be put around schools and will notify staff when a gun with a chip comes on the property throwing up the needed red flags.. Obviously this can be done to all new firearms but we still have the existing.. I think if there was a free program to input this into firearms that most responsible gun owners would get it done.. I would venture to say that most mass shootings are committed with a weapon either stolen from grandpas arsenal or just purchased or stolen which could be your GUN! Simple system, buys time for the staff at locations where this is implimented and may help to overall curb these psycos from doing it in the first place.. Just a thought.

    • http://www.learnaboutguns.com LearnAboutGuns.com

      RFID chips can be easily disabled using a hot needle to poke a hole in the chip.

      Even without disabling them, it is easy to use a Faraday cage to block the outgoing signal. Building such a Faraday cage is easy, or you can buy them online. For example, the $20 wallet that I bought on Amazon uses a Faraday cage (just some wire mesh) sewn in to the wallet to block the RFID chips in the credit cards in the wallet.