News & Politics

Are 'Smart Guns' a Smart Idea?

Here at the SHOT Show, the firearms dealers are showcasing the latest innovations in the industry. One developing technology that breaks into the mainstream media from time to time is the “smart gun.”

A “smart gun” has some kind of technology embedded in the gun that prevents it from being used by someone who isn’t “authorized.”

At least $12.6M in funding from the Department of Justice has been dedicated to research on “smart guns” but the technology is still at the prototype stage.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation is not opposed to “smart-gun” technology, but they are opposed to mandated use of this technology. I think we can easily imagine the government mandating this type of thing in the name of “sensible gun reform.”

Some of the issues with technology concern liability. Any new emerging product must work as least as well as current technology, but questions remain.  So far all of the smart-gun technologies use a battery, but what happens when the battery fails? Is the firearm inoperable? Could it cost a life? Would the gun become accessible to anyone? One can see the stakes are high if the glitches are not worked out or if there is failure during deployment.

Another issue with “smart guns” has to do with the reliance on certain firearm-safety protocols.  Gun owners are trained and habituated to handle a firearm in a certain way Wold users become comfortable and lazy with a “smart gun” lying around, relying on technology to replace safe gun handling?

Do consumers even want “smart guns”? Is there a demand to continue research and development on “smart-gun technology”? Not exactly. Sixty percent say they would not trade their firearm for “smart technology.”

The NSSF reports that fatal firearms accidents are at “near-record” lows since record-keeping began in 1903, down 57% in the last 20 years. So while it might be a nice addition to the firearms marketplace, we don’t necessarily need “smart technology” to keep people safe from firearms accidents.

So are “smart guns” the future of firearms or just a feel-good trend “to stop gun violence”?