Smart guns get a new look from entrepreneurs
Biometrically controlled firearms in the United States are again a topic of conversation. Much stands in the way of a thriving market in smart guns, but not the technology.
A pair of stories this week, one by Reuters and the other by USA Today, took a look at a small group of companies developing biometrics-enabled weapons that can only be fired by people authorized by software to use them.
On-gun sensors record and match fingerprint biometrics, palmprints and grips to block or enable a gun’s firing pin. Some designs depend on RFID technology to accomplish the same thing.
Two things prevent the LodeStar gun from being fired: a fingerprint sensor on the firearm and an NFC token tied into a phone app activated via a PIN.
Another company, Biofire, also uses fingerprint biometrics in its weapon, which is in development.
Start-up gunmaker SmartGunz is preparing to sell an RFID-protected civilian gun for $2,200 and another for law enforcement for $1,800.
Building fingerprint recognition into gun holsters has also been examined by entrepreneurs.
The immediate goal behind smart guns is to prevent children from firing weapons that they find around the house. Close behind is stopping the hundreds of thousands of guns that are lost or stolen every year.
A very highly charged issue in the United States, it is difficult to ascertain how many firearms stray from their owners. Beyond private guns there are military and law enforcement weapons that disappear as well.
Non-profit investigative news publisher The Trace in October estimated that about 300,000 privately owned guns were reported stolen (or “fell out of circulation”) in 2020. The article notes that researchers have found that 380,000 privately held guns are reported stolen each year.
In any case, those totals would be higher if they somehow included unreported losses and thefts.
If smart guns can be made reliable and attractive, some percentage of guns would not be a danger in the wrong hands.
It is a global concern. Police in India’s central government, for example, was looking for biometric weapons safety systems in 2020.