Smart guns could be coming to the US this year

Morning In America

(NewsNation Now) — Personalized smart guns, which can be fired only by verified users, may become available to Americans after more than two decades of questions about reliability and concerns about potential government regulation.

This kind of gun has been promised for years and it has the potential for a big industry shakeup, particularly in the states with tighter gun laws that might only support smart guns. 

“A firearm is a tool, but if it what falls in the wrong hands, they’re gonna be deadly tragic consequences,” said Tom Holland, the founder and president of SmartGunz LLC.

Smart guns could potentially stop gun-related tragedies by using technology to authenticate a user’s identity and disable the gun should anyone else try to fire it. There are three ways the gun could work for its owner: fingerprint recognition, smartphone pairing or a keypad.

“I’m not saying that this is the answer for every firearm owner, right. I do believe there are certain firearm owners out there, say if they have children in the home or if any chance of despondent teenagers in the home if you’re afraid about getting your firearms stolen,” said Holland. “You know, from a civilian perspective, they make a lot of sense if you have to really be careful if he was around that gun, when you’re not managing.”

Holland, also a Kansas state senator, is working to make smart guns commercially available to Americans this year. Select law enforcement agencies are set to begin beta testing SmartGunz products in February. Other companies working on a smart gun include LodeStar and Colorado-based Biofire, which is also developing a smart gun with a fingerprint reader.

LodeStar co-founder Gareth Glaser said he was inspired after hearing one too many stories about children shot while playing with an unattended gun. They could also reduce suicides, render lost or stolen guns useless and offer safety for police officers and jail guards who fear gun grabs, Glaser said.

The ideological war in the United States over gun control has persisted throughout the recent decade. Mass shootings in stores, schools and spas have overtaken headlines, intensifying conversation over whether legislation should be passed. Last year, President Biden announced a series of executive actions aimed at addressing gun violence including a new rule combating “ghost guns” and publishing “red flag” legislation for states to adopt.

Throughout 2021, Biden has urged Congress to tackle a number of issues, including expanded background checks and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Gun-rights advocates seeking greater access to weapons and robust self-defense provisions worry that the states with tighter gun laws might only support smart guns, limiting overall access to guns. However, firearms associations warn that smart guns may not even make it to market.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association, says it does not oppose smart guns as long as the government doesn’t mandate their sale. But Lawrence Keane, senior vice president of the NSSF, said he is reluctant to see this happen.

“If I had a nickel for every time in my career I heard somebody say, ‘We’re about to bring a so-called smart gun on the market,’ I’d probably be retired now,” he said. “We’ve heard this many, many times. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Glaser acknowledged there will be additional challenges to large-scale manufacturing, but expressed confidence that after years of trial and error the technology was advanced enough and the microelectronics inside the gun are well-protected.

“We finally feel like we’re at the point where … let’s go public,” Glaser said. “We’re there.”

“Any firearm can fail, whether it’s whether it has a cordless smart gun technology or not,” said Holland.

The LodeStar gun, aimed at first-time buyers, would retail for $895. The SmartGunz gun for civilians would cost $2,195.

Editor’s Note: Holland is also a Kansas state senator.

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