Smart guns, equipped with fingerprint readers, passcodes and a way to lock and unlock them from a smartphone, could finally hit the U.S market this year, ending two decades of waiting and opposition.
LodeStar Works, a Pennsylvania-based company, unveiled its 9mm smart handgun last Friday, according to Reuters. On its website, the company hyped the pistol as the "most advanced" ever made to "ensure you’ll always have safe access to the firearms you count on to protect those who count on you."
"We finally feel like we're at the point where ... let's go public," LodeStar co-founder Gareth Glaser told Reuters.
Attempts to develop smart weapons in the United States have so far met stiff opposition. When manufacturer Smith & Wesson SWBI tried to promote smart guns in 1999 it quickly faced a boycott, sponsored by the National Rifle Association (NRA), that led to a drop in revenue.
SmartGunz, based in Kansas, completed the first sale of its 9mm 1911 Sentry, a weapon similar to the LodeStar gun, but simpler, to a law enforcement agency last year, according to a statement published on its website on Dec. 16.
But the company has not named which law enforcement agency bought its weapons, and did not respond to a request for additional comment.
SmartGunz weapons are secured by radio frequency identification technology, which allows the gun to fire only when a chip in the gun communicates with another chip worn by the user in a ring or a bracelet.
"Select law enforcement agencies can purchase the pistol at a significantly discounted price in exchange for providing objective operational feedback on the firearm," the company says in a statement on its website.
"The 9mm Sentry pistol is the company’s flagship smart gun technology firearm for use in prisoner transfer/transport as well as civilian home defense applications."
Smart guns are weapons that utilize technology, like a fingerprint scanner, to prevent an unauthorized user from firing them.
That advanced fingerprint sensor is outfitted on the grip of a gun.
When you pick up the gun, it scans the user’s fingerprint and if it’s a match with the gun owner’s, the user is free to fire. If the fingerprint does not match, the trigger locks. The sensor is designed to prevent children from picking up a misplaced weapon and discharging it.
Smart gun proponents claim these weapons could stop tragedies, reduce suicides and render stolen and lost guns useless.
Gun groups are watching
The price of the LodeStar gun would be $895, while SmartGunz developed a model selling at $1,795 for law enforcement and $2,195 for civilians, according to Reuters.
Biofire, a Denver-based company, develops a smart gun with a fingerprint reader that can only be used by its authorized owner or owners.
Skeptics say they worry that the commercialization of smart guns could trigger a 2019 New Jersey law requiring all gun shops in the state to offer smart guns after they become available. The 2019 law replaced a 2002 law that would have banned the sale of any handgun except smart guns.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association, says it "is opposed to mandates on the use of this conceptual technology due to product liability concerns and unintended safety consequences."
The industry's biggest lobbying group and member organization, the National Rifle Association, has taken a similar stance.
"[The NRA] doesn’t oppose the development of +smart+ guns, nor the ability of Americans to voluntarily acquire them. However, NRA opposes any law prohibiting Americans from acquiring or possessing firearms that don’t possess 'smart' gun technology," it said in a statement.