Custom smart guns, which can only be fired by verified users, may finally become available to US consumers after two decades of questions about reliability and concerns they will usher in a new wave of government regulation.
Four-year-old LodeStar Works unveiled its 9mm smart handgun to shareholders and investors in Boise, Idaho on Friday. And a Kansas company, SmartGunz LLC, says law enforcement officers are beta testing its product, a similar but simpler model.
The two companies hope to bring a product to market this year.
LodeStar co-founder Gareth Glaser said he was inspired after hearing too many stories of children being shot while playing with a gun unsupervised. Smart guns could stop such tragedies by using technology to authenticate a user’s identity and disable the gun if someone else tries to fire it.
They could also reduce suicides, render lost or stolen guns useless, and provide security for police and prison guards who fear gun seizures.
But attempts to develop smart weapons have stalled: Smith & Wesson was boycotted, a German company’s product was hacked, and a New Jersey law to promote smart weapons sparked controversy. anger of Second Amendment advocates.
The LodeStar pistol, aimed at first-time buyers, is reportedly priced at $895.
The test firing of the LodeStar pistol in front of Reuters cameras has not been reported elsewhere. A gunnery officer fired the weapon, a third-generation prototype, in its various settings without issue.
Glaser acknowledged that large-scale manufacturing will pose additional challenges, but said he was confident that after years of trial and error the technology was advanced enough and the microelectronics inside the gun were fine. protected.
“We finally feel like we’re at the point where… let’s go public,” Glaser said. “We are here.”
Most early smart gun prototypes used either fingerprint unlock technology or radio frequency identification technology which allows the gun to fire only when a chip in the gun communicates with another chip carried by the user. in a ring or bracelet.
LodeStar has integrated both a fingerprint reader and a near-field communication chip enabled by a phone application, as well as a PIN pad. The pistol may be authorized for more than one user.
The fingerprint reader unlocks the gun in microseconds, but since it may not work when wet or in other adverse conditions, the PINpad is there as a backup. LodeStar didn’t demonstrate the near-field communications signal, but it would act as a secondary backup, enabling the gun as quickly as users can open the app on their phones.
SmartGunz would not say which law enforcement agencies test its weapons, which are secured by radio frequency identification. SmartGunz has developed a model that sells for $1,795 for law enforcement and $2,195 for civilians, said Tom Holland, a Democratic state senator from Kansas who co-founded the company in 2020.
Colorado-based Biofire is developing a smart gun with a fingerprint reader.
Skeptics have argued that smart weapons are too risky for someone trying to protect a home or family during a crisis, or for police in the field.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry trade association, says it does not oppose smart guns as long as the government does not mandate their sale.
“If I had a dime every time in my career I heard someone say they’re about to bring us a so-called smart gun on the market, I’d probably be retired by now” , said Lawrence Keane, senior vice president of the NSSF.
Guns hitting the market could trigger a 2019 New Jersey law requiring all gun stores in the state to carry smart guns once they become available. The 2019 law replaced a 2002 law that would have banned the sale of any handgun except smart weapons.
“The other side bowed their hand because they used smart weapons to ban anything that isn’t a smart weapon,” said Scott Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs. . “It woke up gun owners.”
When Smith & Wesson pledged in 1999 to promote the development of smart weapons, among other gun safety measures in an agreement with the US government, the National Rifle Association sponsored a boycott that led to a drop in income.
In 2014, the German company Armatix brought a smart .22 caliber pistol to market, but it was pulled from stores after hackers discovered a way to jam the pistol’s radio signals remotely and, using magnets, to fire the gun when it should have been locked.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Donna Bryson and Leslie Adler)
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