Just What Is Smart Gun Technology? Let’s Take a Look…

By: | February 26th, 2017

Does a smart gun stay after school doing extra homework? Is it great at Trivial Pursuit? Or is it simply a high-tech way of keeping a gun safe? It is the latter, and everyone can agree on that, right?

Actually, not so “right.” The National Rifle Association is stridently against the smart gun, and it is purely based on a “slippery slope” argument. That hasn’t stopped many responsible gun owners from adopting this smart technology in their homes. Which side do you come down on? Before you answer, it might help to understand just what a smart gun is.

All About the Biometrics

If you have an iPhone and have activated the fingerprint security, then you know how a smart gun operates. Once an authorized user’s fingerprints have been programmed into the smart gun’s fingerprint scanner, they will be the only one who can unlock that weapon. This all happens internally using the built-in user database. It also happens quite fast. Ironically, smart gun biometrics preceded the iPhone by several years.

Multiple Users

A smart gun can be programmed with several fingerprint access patterns. That allows a gun owner to make sure his responsible family members can also access the weapon. It also allows an entire police department to have everyone on the squad use the same firearm.

This biometric system works on battery, but it is a battery that can last anywhere between two to 10 years. Smart gun designs provide for warning light cues when the battery power gets low. Changing that battery is dependant upon the user.

Can a Smart Gun Be Hacked?

There are misrepresentations of smart guns in the media, much like there are misrepresentations of all firearms. For instance, did you know the AR-15 rifle doesn’t stand for “assault rifle” but ArmaLite, the gun’s inventor?

There have also been misrepresentations of smart guns making it seem like they are linked to personal information that can be stolen by cyber criminals. Technically, there is nothing to hack on a smart gun. All that is being stored is a fingerprint. One feature that authorities and owners alike appreciate is the ability to track a firearm. Again, go to your iPhone and the “find my iPhone” app. Same principle.

That Slippery Slope

Which brings us back to the NRA and their slippery slope concerns. Their fear is that if smart gun technology were to become mandated by law, the next step would be to go back and put smart locks on all weapons. They use the seat belt mandates as their backup support for their theory. In this case, the concern would be that the government could switch them all off at a moments notice.

The counterargument could be made that biometric scanners on all weapons wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. It would certainly render stolen weapons useless and curtail curious youngsters in the house from tragic turns.

As with any type of gun legislation and/or innovation meant to curtail the broadly interpreted Second Amendment, smart guns are facing a lot of opposition. That hasn’t slowed down the development of these biometric systems. Those innovations are still coming, and that’s a good thing because the current price of a smart gun hovers around $1,800. Hopefully, the innovations will help reduce the manufacturing cost and drive down the price. Remember, the first flatscreen TVs were selling for $10,000 a pop.

Whether you support smart guns or not or are simply ambivalent about them, they remain a perfect example of how technology strives to make our lives safer.

About the Author:

Scott Huntington is a writer from Harrisburg, PA who covers all things tech and automotive. Check out his site offthethrottle.com or find him on Twitter @SMHuntington.


Marshall Smith

Technology, engineering, and design enthusiast.

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