Smart guns are firearms that include a safety feature or features that allow them to fire only when authenticated by an authorized user. Smart guns being developed for today’s market use primarily biometric or RFID technology. These advanced safety features can help prevent suicides, accidental shootings, and use of the weapon against the owner, as well as disrupt the market for stolen guns.
Additional “smart” gun safety technologies come in the form of safes, trigger locks, and detection and notification devices.
Smart guns and next-generation gun safety technology can help prevent unintentional shootings, youth suicides, and violence committed with stolen guns. Recent studies show that 42% of American households own guns, and four in ten gun owners keep a gun that is both loaded and easily accessible to them at all times when they are at home . This means 4.6 million children live in homes with guns that are loaded and unlocked, despite the danger of an unintentional shooting or threat of suicide . Each day in the US, 18 children and young adults (24 years of age and under) die from firearm injuries . While gun safety technology is certainly not a catch-all solution, it could make a difference in many of these cases.
Parents underestimate the extent to which their children know where their household guns are stored and the frequency with which children handle household guns unsupervised. A Harvard survey of children in gun-owning households found that more than 70% of children under age 10 knew where their parents stored their guns—even when they were hidden—and 36% of the children reported handling the weapons . If left unsecured around children, the presence of a firearm can lead to tragic outcomes. More than 75% of guns used in suicide attempts and unintentional injuries of children ages zero through 19 were stored in the residence of the victim, a relative, or a friend .
Suicide by firearm is among the leading causes of death for young people. Suicides make up the bulk of gun deaths, with over 23,000 firearms suicides out of 39,000 firearm deaths in 2017 . Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 15–34 years old .
Many suicides are committed with guns not owned by the victims. Smart guns cannot be used in these situations.
In a 2019 market research study, over half (54%) of gun owners who were informed about this technology say they definitely or probably would buy it. Other market research has yielded similar findings: according to a 2016 poll, 59% of Americans and 43% of gun owners would be willing to buy a smart gun if it were available on the market. Despite gun manufacturers’ attempts to downplay the market viability of smart guns and other gun safety technology, there is clearly growing interest and demand for these products from the public. Gun safety products such as Reach and Identilock have garnered great interest from gun enthusiasts and consumers who are trying to keep their guns secured at home.
The NRA does not oppose the development of smart guns, nor does it oppose the ability of Americans to voluntarily acquire them. However, the NRA opposes any law prohibiting Americans from acquiring or possessing firearms that don’t possess “smart” gun technology.
Smart Tech is not providing grants at this time. However, we continue to identify, incubate, and support new innovators in the gun safety technology space.
Smart Tech is a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of the impact smart gun technologies can have in reducing gun violence. You can support our efforts and innovators with a donation here. Additionally, our innovators are seeking investment capital from investors looking to also make a significant social impact.