Smart guns: Guns that feature fingerprint locks, pin codes and more

After two decades of questions about their reliability and concerns they will entail a new wave of government regulation, personalized smart guns may finally become available to US consumers.

Let's see what features these smart weapons offer and evaluate how useful they would actually be:

Smart guns offers higher security

In Boise, Idaho, LodeStar Works unveiled its 9mm smart handgun for shareholders and investors on Friday. Kansas-based SmartGunz LLC reports that law enforcement agents have begun beta testing its product, a similar but simpler one. Both companies hope to have a product commercially available this year.

Gareth Glaser of LodeStar said he was inspired after hearing too many stories about children being shot by unattended guns. Smart guns could prevent such tragedies by authenticating the identity of the user and disabling the weapon in the event that anyone else tries to fire it.

They could also reduce suicides, render lost and stolen guns useless, and offer security to police officers and jail guards worried about gun grabs.

(Photograph:Reuters)

A fingerprint lock

Early smart gun prototypes used either fingerprint unlocking or radio frequency identification technology, which allowed the gun to fire only when its chip communicated with a chip in the user's ring or bracelet.

LodeStar integrated a fingerprint reader as well as a near-field communication chip activated by a smartphone app and a PIN pad. Designed for first-time buyers, the gun will cost $895 and can be authorized by more than one user at once.

The fingerprint reader may not work when wet, so a PIN pad is a backup. The near-field communication signal also acts as a backup, allowing users to open the app on their phones as quickly as they can unlock the gun.

(Photograph:Reuters)

SmartGunz security measures

SmartGunz weapons are protected by radio frequency identification. SmarAccording to Tom Holland, a Kansas Democratic state senator who co-founded SmartGunz in 2020, the company developed a model that sells for $1,795 for law enforcement and $2,195 for civilians.

Another firm, Colorado-based Biofire is developing a smart gun with a fingerprint reader.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Scepticism surrounding smart guns

Sceptics claim smart guns are too risky for people trying to protect their homes or families, or for police in the field.

Smart guns could trigger a 2019 law in New Jersey requiring all gun shops there to offer them once they become available. The 2019 law replaces a law passed in 2002 that banned the sale of all handguns except smart guns.

A trade association for the firearms industry, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), says it isn't opposed to smart guns as long as the government doesn't mandate their sale.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Will smart guns actually decrease number of mass shootings?

Undoubtedly, these smart guns will offer many benefits and safety features, however, recent mass shootings wouldn't have been stopped by most smart guns, owing to the fact that most shooters in recent history owned their weapons.

Of the 143 guns possessed by mass shooters since 1982, 75% were legally obtained, according to Mother Jones' first-of-its-kind open-source database documenting mass shootings.

In 2014, German company Armatix released a smart .22 calibre pistol, but it was withdrawn from stores after hackers discovered a way to jam the gun's radio signals and, using magnets, fire the weapon when it should have been locked.

(Photograph:Reuters)

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