The first so-called “smart gun” that uses biometrics to unlock for shooting will hit the market at the end of the year.
Biofire Technologies announced this month that it is taking pre-orders for its home defense gun that is intended to prevent unwanted access to children and criminals. This is either a big step forward in gun safety or a gimmick with unreliable technology, depending on who you ask.
Smart guns, otherwise known as personalized handguns, have been in development for many years. The CEO and Founder of Biofire Technologies, Kai Kloepfer, told The Epoch Times in an interview that this is the first “major innovation in how a handgun has been designed or manufactured in 50 years.”
Kloepfer, 26, has been working on designing a smart gun since he was a teenager. “This is a new option for gun owners to give them peace of mind that their children or criminals won’t get their hands on it.”
The Biofire Smart Gun is a handgun that can be stored with fingerprints and 3D facial recognition to unlock it to shoot. The company says unlocking works in the dark. The data is stored in the gun in encrypted form. The gun can have biometrics for up to five total authorized users.
The Biofire gun has integrated infrared sensors in the grip to keep it armed while the user is holding it. As soon as the grip is released, the gun locks. It is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that Biofire says lasts several months with average use and can fire continuously for several hours. The firearm only comes in 9mm caliber, but buyers are given multiple choices for color and style and left- or right-handed.
Kloepfer, who said he owns a lot of regular guns, said his product gives people an option for a “new and better choice.”
Gun rights groups have been leery that biometrics can function perfectly in self-defense scenarios. The National Shootings Sports Foundation (NSSF) represents gun manufacturers. Biofire is a member.
“Firearms are tools that individuals rely upon to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones. That necessitates a firearm to work, as designed, each and every time,” Mark Oliva, NSSF’s director of public affairs, told The Epoch Times. “Additional points of failure, including authorized-user technology, are concerns for gun owners. If that technology fails, that could be catastrophic for an individual depending upon it to save his or her life.”
The National Rifle Association (NRA) warns the stress of real life is different than product testing.
“Firearms have to perform in all situations—not just the predictable and controllable circumstances at a gun range,” NRAs spokeswoman Amy Hunter told The Epoch Times. “Self-defense scenarios are unpredictable and highly volatile, and thus far there have been concerns about the ability of a ‘smart’ gun to operate reliably in those circumstances.”
Hunter pointed out, “That is why even in states that have mandated and imposed smart gun technology, law enforcement has secured an exemption.”
Other considerations for the technology’s reliability are whether the user’s hand is wet or dirty, wearing gloves, sunglasses, hats, and other facial coverings. Biofire says that dual biometrics is designed to address all these issues so that the face or fingers can be used when one is not recognized.
Kloepfer acknowledged these doubts. “Our goal is to prove to the American public that this is a firearm that they can rely on in those unpredictable circumstances,” he said.
Smart Gun Politics
Smart guns have been politically controversial since New Jersey’s 2002 law mandated that only smart guns could be sold by retailers in the state once they were available for sale anywhere in the United States. The law created a huge backlash among Second Amendment rights advocates. In 2019, Governor Phil Murphy changed the law to require firearm dealers sell smart guns when they become available along with regular ones.
President Joe Biden campaigned on making all firearms sold have smart gun technology. He claimed in 2020 that “we have the technology to allow only authorized users to fire a gun,” even though there were no smart guns on the market.
Biden also stated that “the NRA and gun manufacturers are bullying firearms dealers who try to sell these guns.”
The NRA and the NSSF deny this.
“The NRA does not oppose the development of smart guns, nor the ability of Americans to voluntarily acquire them,” said Hunter. “The NRA does oppose laws that mandate Americans exclusively acquire or possess only smart guns, as a New Jersey bill attempted to do several years ago.”
Both the NSSF and Biofire oppose laws that mandate smart gun technology. Kloepfer said he has actively lobbied against laws that mandate smart guns.
About half of gun owners support developing smart guns, according to a Morning Consult poll in March 2022.
Mike Bloomberg Supports
The gun-control group funded by Mike Bloomberg, Everytown for Gun Safety, was given early access to test fire the Biofire firearm.
“The introduction of a smart gun to the consumer market is proof that, despite what legacy gun manufacturers may say publicly, the technology to accurately detect an authorized gun user is not only possible, it’s here already,” said Nick Suplina, senior vice president of law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety, who tested the firearm. “Gun manufacturers now have a viable road map for innovating towards safety—and it’s on them to act.”
Everytown asserted in the statement have not gotten to market previously “in part because past developers faced stiff opposition from the gun lobby.” The group pointed to an NSSF article entitled, “Don’t Believe the Hype, Smart Gun Tech Still Not Ready for Primetime.”
The NSSF does not oppose the development or sale of smart guns. “The customer should be free to evaluate if Biofire’s technology is reliable enough to meet their needs,” said Oliva.
Kloepfer said his smart gun is designed with “high-precision engineering principles to make a meaningful impact on preventable firearm deaths among children,” referring to suicides and accidents.
Accidental deaths of children from guns get enormous media attention because of their tragic nature, but they are rare. A spokesman for the CDC told The Epoch Times there were 153 unintentional firearm deaths of children and adolescents aged 1 to 18 in the United States in 2021, the most recent year of final data.
The gun manufacturing industry has long provided a lock with every firearm sold at retail. When properly applied and used, the locking devices make the firearm inoperable. In addition, there are many types of safe firearm storage for when the gun is not on the owner, such as large safes, lock boxes, and electronic digital safes that use fingerprints to unlock.
There are other smart guns in development. In 2021, SmartGunz, LLC announced pre-sales of its 9mm smart gun Sentry pistol that costs $2,995. The firearm was then unlocked by wearing a specific glove but now works off a ring worn by the user. The company has been renamed Free State Firearms, LLC. It says its 9mm 1911 Sentry, which costs $2,495, will deliver in the third quarter of 2023.
BioFire, which is based in Broomfield, Colorado, raised $30 million in venture capital to develop the smart gun.