Members of Community and Law Enforcement Demo Prototype of Lifesaving User Authentication Retrofit Kit for Firearm
COLUMBUS, GA —Two years after the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman used a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle to take the lives of twenty first-grade children and six educators, Safe Gun Technology (SGTi) is unveiling new technology to prevent future gun tragedies. The Columbus-based firm invited members of the community and law enforcement to begin user testing of an AR-15 Bushmaster rifle equipped with a fingerprint-activated sensor. The sensor is part of SGTi’s unique retrofit kit which allows a firearm to fire only when activated by an authorized user’s fingerprint and renders the firearm inoperable for anyone else.
With the help of a $100,000 grant from Silicon Valley’s Smart Tech Challenges Foundation, a nonprofit organization spurring innovation in firearms safety technology, the company has fully integrated a biometric sensor onto the live firearm and is inviting feedback from the firearms community to refine and improve their Alpha prototype. SGTi was awarded funds from the Foundation as part of the first-ever $1 million Smart Tech for Firearms Challenge.
“As a father of young children, I was deeply saddened by the tragedy that occurred nearly two years ago in Connecticut. I’m committed to furthering this technology and getting it ready for the consumer market no matter what,” said Tom Lynch, CEO of SGTi and grantee of the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation. “I believe that if we can get firearms equipped with personalization features on the store shelves, gun owners—fathers with young children like me—will want to purchase these technologies. Responsible gun owners take great care in maintaining and safely storing their firearms. This technology is just one more feature that ensures that no child can ever accidentally harm themselves or another, and if a firearm does fall into the wrong hands, it will be inoperable.”
A total of 15 innovators who are working to improve firearm safety by developing personalization features in firearms, locking devices, and ammunition systems have been awarded funds by the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation. Lynch’s application was selected from more than 200 submitted to the Challenge.
The user testing was hosted by Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman at the marshal’s firing range in Columbus. “When it hits the market, the Marshal’s office will be the first to use the technology,” said Marshal Countryman. Muscogee County marshal’s deputies assisted in testing the rifle, which gathered live data on fingerprint scanner placement and accuracy, and battery performance in live conditions. The Muscogee County Marshal’s Office routinely hosts marshal’s deputy firearms training, civilian firearms courses, and crime prevention courses.
Members of the community are already talking about the prototype rifle. “I was able to shoot live rounds from the Safe Gun prototype AR-15 at a shooting range, and I was impressed,” said Ben Stahl, a local businessman. “As a firearms owner and hunter who keeps guns in my family home, I would like the option to own a firearm that I can access at a moment’s notice, while being secured from anyone who I have not authorized to use the firearm.”
“User authentication technologies hold unique potential to make firearms safer by blocking unintended use and preventing accidental death and injury, especially among children, people attempting to commit suicide, and people untrained to use a weapon,” said Smart Tech Challenges Foundation President Margot Hirsch. “While it is still in development, the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation hopes to spur advancement of the technology by awarding innovators grants to research, build, and test prototypes that can eventually scale to market.”
The 15 STCF grantees participating in the Challenge span three phases of technological readiness. The Foundation is awarding $10,000 to early innovators for research and development, $50,000 to developing innovators to begin applying user-authentication technologies to a firearm, and $100,000 to experienced innovators for the development of a prototype of technology on a firearm. With $100,000 in grant funds, Lynch was able to hire a full-service engineering firm to assist him in refining his tech design and building prototypes to clear the path to market. Before the grant, SGTi was able to build a shotgun prototype but lacked the resources to integrate it.
Lynch, a father of four children, has lived in Georgia for much of adult life after graduating from The United States Military Academy at West Point and serving in the Army for more than a decade. He is a proud member of the National Rifle Association, and earned an MBA from Georgia Tech.
Phase 2 innovator Kai Kloepfer was announced as a Smart Tech Challenges Foundation grantee in October 2014.