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How Close Are We to Smart Guns?

July 13, 2016, 4:33 PM UTC
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Sig Sauer Inc. handguns are displayed in a shop window in Lugano, Switzerland, on Thursday Nov. 19, 2015. The franc is still too strong and the economy not yet back to full health, Swiss National Bank Governing Board member Andrea Maechler said. Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Akos Stiller—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Although smart guns are hailed as potentially a more effective way for gun safety, the commercialization of these devices could still be decades away.

Smart guns, also called “personalized” guns, come equipped with technology so that the guns can only be fired by a specific person or authorized user.

But Margot Hirsch, president of gun safety organization, Smart Tech Challenges Foundation, said she believes smart guns would cut back on gun violence, but she said these guns are still a long way from coming to market. “Gun deaths will take over automobile deaths in 2016,” she said at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech on Wednesday.”But in the past few decades, automotive companies have added more safety features in cars. It will likely also take decades to make a change with guns.”

Kai Kloepfer, the founder of smart gun developer Biofire Technologies, also spoke at the conference. He said he is working on a way to use biometrics or fingerprints to ensure that only gun owners and authorized users would be able to use a gun. Kloepfer has been developing the technology for three years but has not released a product to market yet.

Larry Keane, Senior Vice President of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said Wednesday that he personally doesn’t like the term “smart guns,” and believes that these new types of guns should be called “personalized guns.” That’s because these guns aren’t necessarily more intelligent; they just provide better ways to secure the device.

He also said the large gun manufacturers have considered making smart or personalized guns and encountered major technology hurdles. Market research has shown there is not a lot of demand for smart gun technology, he added.

Still, he says he’s not opposed to smarter guns.

It’s also important, Kloepfer said, to differentiate smart guns from gun control because these technologies aren’t necessarily reliable. “There should be a way to divorce the two topics,” he said.