While many consumer products like automobiles have innovated towards safety and security, the firearms industry has historically only made its products deadlier. However, a new startup, Biofire, has today announced a handgun that uses biometrics (a fingerprint reader and facial recognition technology) that will ensure that a gun cannot be unintentionally fired by a child, or stolen and used in a crime.
“The introduction of a smart gun to the consumer market is proof that, despite what legacy gun manufacturers may say publicly, the technology to accurately detect an authorized gun user is not only possible, it’s here already,” said Nick Suplina, Senior Vice President of Law & Policy at Everytown for Gun Safety, who recently tested the firearm. “Smart guns can ensure that guns are accessible by their owners and no one else. Gun manufacturers now have a viable road map for innovating towards safety — and it’s on them to act. ”
A smart gun — which Everytown has long called on the gun industry to create — is a personalized firearm that can only be operated by an authorized user. Smart guns are not new inventions. Several companies have been designing and developing smart guns for decades using various unlocking or activation methods. But none have successfully entered the marketplace — in part because past developers faced stiff opposition from the gun lobby. In fact, in the past year, the head of the firearms trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, penned an article entitled “Don’t Believe the Hype, Smart Gun Tech Still Not Ready for Primetime.”
Smart guns may help address several key issues, including unintentional shootings, suicides, and thefts. In 2022, there were at least 324 unintentional shootings by children across the U.S., resulting in 145 deaths and 193 injuries, and firearms are now the leading cause of death among children and teens. If a child discovered a smart gun, however, they would not be able to activate it — a failsafe that could save hundreds of lives annually.
Smart guns may also help reduce the number of firearm suicides, especially among youth. More than 3,100 young people die by firearm suicide each year, a figure that has grown by 53 percent in the past decade. Owning a firearm doubles and triples everyone in your home’s chances of dying by homicide and suicide, respectively. But if a parent or guardian owned a smart gun instead of a conventional firearm, their children or teens would not be able to operate the weapon.
Every year, an estimated 380,000 firearms are stolen from people before entering the illegal market and, in many instances, ending up at crime scenes.
Smart guns are only one solution for keeping guns out of the wrong hands. Addressing our country’s gun violence epidemic requires many solutions, including robust, more comprehensive gun laws and continued support and resources for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), for example. But smart guns — like more traditional safety mechanisms that can be used to prevent guns from being fired or accessed, including manual safeties, loaded-chamber indicators, and magazine disconnects — should be embraced by the firearms industry, not spurned. Instead, the gun industry has spent decades creating deadlier weapons, marketing them in irresponsible ways, and selling them through gun dealers known to be tied to guns that are bought to be used in crime.
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