Continuing down the road of making a working "smart gun" for the U.S. market, two companies are making some noise this week. 

In exclusive interviews with Reuters, Kanas-based SmartGunz and Pennsylvania’s LodeStar Works say they are taking a stab at the controversial practice. The former says law enforcement agents are beta testing its product, while the latter tells Reuters it just unveiled its 9mm smart handgun for shareholders and investors. 

"We finally feel like we're at the point where ... let's go public," LodeStar co-founder Gareth Glaser said. "We're there."

Smart guns, typically employing some sort of authorized-user technology like a fingerprint or passcode to unlock a firearm, are not a new concept. Perennially “just a couple years away” for over two decades, few attempts have made it to commercialization. One, the $1,200 German-made Armatix iP1, was introduced in 2014 but failed to make headway on the market. The .22 LR pistol, which required an RFID-equipped wristwatch to be able to fire, could allegedly be hacked with a $15 magnet and jammed with radio waves.

This has left a bad taste in the mouths of gun owners who are reluctant to trust such unproven technology. A survey published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2019 found that 70 percent of gun owners asked would have a concern about whether the tech would work when needed and only 5 percent would be very likely to buy such a firearm if it added significantly to the gun’s price.

Firearms industry trade groups have long had a position that they are not opposed to authorized user recognition technology being applied to a firearm or to the further development of smart guns – as long as it is not made a requirement by lawmakers. However, gun makers stress the market for such guns doesn’t exist. Two years ago, a Ruger shareholder report said that customer feedback showed “very little interest” in smart guns while American Outdoor Brands Corporation, owners of Smith & Wesson, issued their own shareholder report that explained the company “does not believe that current authorized user or ‘smart gun’ technology is reliable, commercially viable, or has any signi´Čücant consumer demand.”

The National Shooting Sports Foundation points out that “Gun owners already store their firearms to prevent their access by those who should not have them. They follow safe handling and storage practices which are set forth in the owner’s manual provided with each firearm. They don’t see a panacea in smart gun technology, nor should proponents or policymakers.”

Banner image: Patent USD168972, Schaible, for Toy Pistol

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