New 'Smart Gun' Technology Looks To Address Safety Concerns

Two companies are developing personal authentication technology for handguns so they can only be fired by authorized users.

New 'Smart Gun' Technology Looks To Address Safety Concerns
AJ Mast / AP

You've heard about smartphones and smart cars, but what about smart guns?

Gareth Glaser is the co-founder of LodeStar Works, a company working to introduce U.S. consumers to a handgun that can only be fired by the authorized user.

Handguns are displayed at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas

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"What we've developed is technology that will lock and unlock your firearm internally and it does it using actual personal authentication technology," Glaser said. "We're all familiar with fingerprint [technology]. That's good for some circumstances. It's very fast. On the other hand, if your hand is wet, dirty or you're wearing gloves it won't work so well. So we've got two more technologies that can lock and unlock the gun as either backups or priorities depending on how you set it."

These additional options include a PIN pad in the grip of the gun and a chip that connects to a smartphone app. Glaser says technology like this could play a huge role in reducing unintentional shootings and help stop the trafficking of stolen firearms. LodeStar Works isn't the only company exploring authentication technology in firearms.

Tom Holland is the founder and president of SmartGunz LLC, a Kansas-based company working on its own version of a smart gun. Holland's gun utilizes radio frequency identification (RFID) technology through a ring the user wears.

"Once that ID reader is on and it finds the specific ID of that ring, then it basically unlocks and the gun is operational," Holland said. "If the reader cannot find the specific ID that it has been programmed to look for, it never releases and so the gun is inoperable."

Holland says this gun is undergoing beta testing with the help of sheriff's departments and could protect law enforcement from having their weapons used against them.

Both Glaser and Holland say they hope to make their guns available to consumers this year, but the National Shooting Sports Foundations says it has some concerns, specifically how reliable the technology is.

"We're talking about having to use a firearm to defend yourself in a life-or-death situation," NSSF public affairs director Mark Oliva said. "It has to work each and every time the way it's designed. There is no room for point failure."

Oliva is also worried about whether the new technology will lead to mandates.

"We've never been opposed to technology, but we are opposed to mandates to technology," he said. "We don't want to have states coming out saying that this is the only type of firearm that you must own."