Connected pistols, which respond only to pre-selected people, may be marketed this year in the United States, where lawmakers face a dead end over firearms regulation.
The interest in incorporating electronic chips into certain weapons, and the reliability of these, has been debated for years. The goal is to prevent children, criminals and suicidal people from pulling the trigger.
But there is no evidence at this point that armed self-defense enthusiasts are not ready to adopt them, or that these so-called “smart” pistols do not perform as well as they should.
“I don’t have a crystal ball to know if it will be mostly positive, mostly negative, or ultimately the same failure as other connected guns in the past,” says Adam Skaggs, legal counsel at Giffords, a firearms regulatory association.
SmartGunz has used RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips, such as those used for electronic graphic badges, for example. The user must wear an attached ring in order to fire.
Chief Tom Holland targets police officers who fear the person being arrested will point their gun at them, or parents who fear their children will find their gun.
“People who want a ‘safer’ gun can make this choice if they feel they need lethal protection in the home,” he explains.
His products are already being tested by police units across the country, and he hopes to market them to the public in the spring.
– digital printing –
About 40% of American adults live in homes with guns, estimates the Pew Research Center company.
Nearly 23 million units were sold in 2020, a record number, according to Small Arms Analytics and Forecasts, which forecast 20 million for 2021.
The pandemic and protests against racial discrimination contributed to a sharp rise in homicides in 2020, although levels remained below the peak of the 1990s.
American tragedies in schools or public places regularly make headlines, but more than half of the 40,000 gun deaths each year are suicides.
Ginger Chandler, co-founder of manufacturer LodeStar Works, sees authentication systems as a physical but also psychological barrier to accidents.
“In a moment of tension, the authorized person will take up the weapon but there will be this extra step,” she notes. “Maybe that will give them time to think, ‘Do I really want to do this?'” “”.
His company plans to market 9mm in 2023 that can be activated via a mobile app, directly using a pin code or even via biometric fingerprint recognition.
– Smarter, but still deadly –
Companies may not be able to count on lawmakers to adopt their new equipment. The subject divides the electorate to the point of preventing any development of laws.
In 2000, American manufacturer Smith & Wesson and the Bill Clinton government agreed that connected pistols would be part of reforms to reduce violence, but the project did not hold, in the face of opposition from a powerful gun lobby.
Similarly, in 2002, a New Jersey law that would have banned guns without an authentication mechanism sparked outrage. It’s never really implemented, and the technology isn’t ready.
This law was finally converted in 2019 into a simple obligation for state arms stores to sell these new generation weapons when they are marketed.
The failure loop of the German company Armatix did not help this technology either: in 2017, a hacker bypassed their identification system using a magnet.
Above all, this concept is not even unanimous among proponents of firearms regulation.
Because these weapons are connected or not, they remain lethal. And “few owners or families at risk will buy these guns at a higher price than others. They will particularly appeal to those who were already concerned about security,” said Daniel Webster, a researcher on the topic at Johns Hopkins University.
Gareth Glaser, co-founder of LodeStar, is unwilling to get involved in political discussions: “We’d rather the government not get involved and let the consumer choose.”