Smart guns are largely popular in European countries and have been considered a different way of approaching guns and gun control. Like James Bond or Judge Dredd, smart guns use biometrics scanners and sensors that recognize their owner, which renders it useless to others.
The latest school shooting in Florida brought gun control advocacy in the U.S. to a breaking point. One part of the gun control debate is rooted in the technology of smart guns. On the surface, smart guns would solve several key problems with standard firearms.
— Bloomberg View (@BV) February 16, 2018
With smart guns, an accidental misfire by a toddler or a child, if a gun is found, could be eliminated. Strangers or robbers would not be able to use a gun they stole, thus destroying the market value of the weapon on the black market. From one perspective, smart guns look to be a “smart,” solution for most gun problems.
As the argument about gun control and regulation continues in the states, let’s look at their capabilities, their opponents, and their flaws.
The Potential of Smart Guns
Several companies are spending millions on smart gun technology. Their slick design and computerized functions project a futuristic cool-factor that is akin to science fiction come to life.
Yardarm Technologies, for example, offers the “Yardarm Sensor” in their smart guns. The sensor connects the firearms to a cloud service and provides real-time geo-location to give law enforcement, private security, the military, and other organizations the ability to monitor their weapons in real-time.
IDENTILOCK, made by Sentinl, is another look at what smart guns can do with biometric fingerprint scanning, which fits securely over the trigger of a firearm to prevent accidental or deliberate misuse.
With so much potential and money being put in the production of smart guns, why do so many Americans hate them?
America and the Anti-Smart Guns Attitude
Not all Americans dislike the idea of implementing smart guns, but organizations like the NRA don’t see it as an equal solution for all. Although there are no official statements that directly reflect the NRA’s contempt for smart guns, there is plenty of evidence that suggests otherwise.
According to USA Today, the NRA has no quarrel with the technology behind smart guns, but what they could replace. Simply put, if smart guns (especially reliable ones) are distributed through retailers, states would eventually pass laws that would mandate all firearms sold to be smart guns.
It would be no different than mandating that all cars have seat belts, and that’s something that also tends to rub gun owners the wrong way. They feel that if the government is mandating this technology on their weapons, then they have the power to control their own guns, which sounds just as scary as taking them away.
Companies like Armatrix are attempting to release the first smart guns in the US, but with little success. Several gun shop owners were putting them on sale, only for second amendment advocates to call their store in protest or intimidate them with death threats. These actions eventually forced smart guns out of many American gun stores.
Gun Hacking: The Safety Risks of Smart Guns
Another point of contention with smart guns is whether there are ways of exploiting them. Can the fail safes and locks of smart guns be “hacked” open?
A hacker who goes by the pseudonym Plore discovers several vulnerabilities in the Armatix IP1. By detecting the frequency that the gun communicated with through a watch (worn to activate the gun) he can essentially jack into the frequency and unlock the gun without the watch. Plore was also able to use $15 magnets with similar results.
These kinks only demonstrate how smart guns have yet to feel like reliable weapons for gun owners. Perhaps in the next few years, as technology continues to grow, the smart gun will be a solution that will please both sides of the debate.