The debate on guns is one of the most divisive in the country, and President Barack Obama’s recent executive action has only deepened the rift between two sides that often seem to be speaking past one another. But on one aspect of the argument, everyone seem aligned — gun safety is important. And now, following Obama’s executive action announcement this past Tuesday, renewed attention is being paid to the notion of “smart guns.”
Some manifestations of this technology has actually been around for decades. In particular, certain authentication systems — those that would only allow a gun to be fired with the right fingerprint, grip, or RFID chip — were first introduced in the 1990s. But clearly, there’s been no widespread adoption of this sort of technology, in part due to opposition from groups like the NRA (which says it’s not against the tech itself, but rather the idea that only smart guns could be sold). In fact, despite numerous attempts from manufacturers, both large and small, to bring firearms with owner-specific safety mechanisms to market, each one has backfired. But could the tide be turning?
The “smart guns” of today are, needless to say, far more advanced than the originals of over two decades past. There’s the Identilock, a biometric gun lock that necessitates a fingerprint match before dropping to the floor to expose the trigger. The whole process is meant to take just under a second, providing near instantaneous access. Similarly, the Armatix smart gun requires the owner to activate the weapon via a wristwatch and PIN, rendering it virtually useless if stolen.
But then, outside of smart guns, there are also other types of security like advanced gun vaults that will keep firearms out of dangerous hands. And if you don’t need a full sized safe, you can also get a strongbox made specifically for a single handgun, all to keep both the weapon and human beings safe.
Of course, conflating gun safety with complete gun control remains a problem for proponents of smart technology. But experts seem confident that these devices will have some effect on reducing the number of gun deaths in the United States.
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