Smart Guns are on the cusp of entering the U.S. gun market in force. Media outlets seem to highlight different company solutions on an increasing basis. Yet, with all of that attention there is little distinction drawn between the emerging technologies. In effect, there is a perception out there that a smart gun is a smart gun: One size fits all.
Even legislators have taken a universal approach to smart gun policy. New Jersey passed a law that mandates all handguns sold to have this technology within 3 years of the first company to market. Their stated goal was to encourage innovation but ultimately it had a chilling effect on the market. Regardless, a policy that mandates a product universally is proof of an incorrect “one size fits all” attitude.
Some might argue that this policy was written by non–gun owners who are inherently blind to the different needs of gun ownership. That may be true, but there is also evidence that gun owners are equally uninformed or unaware of smart gun technology. For example, the National Shooting Sports Foundation commissioned a national survey in fall of 2013 to assess gun owner attitudes towards smart guns. This national survey found that most gun owners were not familiar with the technology.
“Asked ‘How familiar are you with efforts to develop a firearm that will only fire for a specific authorized person(s)?,’ only 20 percent of respondents said they were very or somewhat familiar with the concept of smart gun technology,”[i]
Despite this very low level of knowledge, 14% of gun owners in the same survey stated they were “likely” or “somewhat likely” to purchase smart gun technology. If 20% of gun owners reported familiarity with smart guns and 14% of gun owners indicated a buying interest, then doesn’t this market show potential? That does not discount or marginalize real concerns about performance and reliability. Each company carries the burden to prove to customers that their product works to his/her satisfaction. Disclaimer: The NSSF headlines for this study claimed that most gun owners were not interested in this technology. I encourage all who are interested to read the survey directly.
So what is a smart gun? A smart gun is a gun outfitted with a technology application that prevents a gun from being fired without user authentication. A user will not be able to fire without the technology confirming that he/she is an authorized user. A gun can be manufactured with the technology or an existing gun can be retrofitted depending upon the product. For example, Safe Gun Technology will offer retrofit kits, as opposed to iGun who will manufacture their guns with the technology embedded.
Once these products start hitting the market, we will quickly see glaring differences in smart gun designs and technology. As an example, iGun has an great design that features a shotgun embedded with encrypted magnetic tag technology (ultra low radio frequency). The user must wear a ring on the trigger hand that is paired to that particular gun. Once the ring is within approximately 2 inches of the gun, it will authorize the user to fire. If the ring is not detected, the gun will remain locked and will not fire. Cool Design!
Of course, there are outspoken naysayers out there that will criticize this technology as being too restrictive. Requiring the user to have the ring on in order to fire is not necessarily conducive to home defense. If someone kicks in the back door in the middle of the night, you might have to look for a ring. Of course, if you are law enforcement and can wear a ring as part of the uniform, then this could be an excellent product. In fact, 16% of all line of duty deaths are a result of an officer’s gun being used against them.
In contrast, Safe Gun Technology’s product requires user authentication via biometric fingerprints. The fingerprint scanner is located on the pistol grip of the AR-15. A user must pass the fingerprint test before the gun will unlock. Another cool design! However, most law enforcement personnel wear gloves in a tactical scenario, so critics will be quick to point out that this solution is not appropriate for law enforcement.
Yet, in the same home defense scenario above, Safe Gun Technology’s solution would be a perfect fit. In addition, the majority of all accidental child shootings are a result of an unauthorized person (in this case, the child) getting access to a gun the owner never intended for them to get their hands on. Furthermore, the majority of teenagers and young adults who commit suicide by gun used a parent or relative’s gun. It wasn’t even their gun. Safe Gun Technology’s smart gun solution can be used to prevent these types of shootings and deaths.
The comparison between iGun and Safe Gun Technology, two of the market players, illustrates a critical point for all to consider as we learn more about smart guns. Not all smart guns are created the same. Legislators must be more understanding of gun owner needs before imposing universal requirements. Smart gun companies must be laser-focused on which gun owner segment they are trying to satisfy.
The author of this article works for Safe Gun Technology. To learn more about Safe Gun Technology please visit us at www.SafeGunTechnology.com. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions. Thank you to Jonathan Mossberg, iGun.
[i] www.guns.com article, http://www.guns.com/2013/11/13/poll-shows-majority-americans-opposed-smart-guns/