Smart Guns Could Soon Be Sold in the U.S. — Here’s What You Need to Know

Smith & Wesson's smart gun prototype

This smart gun prototype from Smith & Wesson dates back to May 2000. (Photo by Porter Gifford/Liaison/Getty Images)

Two companies say the long-debated technology is officially on its way.

After being stalled for years, the next generation of firearms will soon be available in the U.S.

They’re called “smart” guns, and proponents say they could be a game-changer in addressing America’s epidemic of gun violence. And now, two companies are leading the charge on finally bringing them to the public.

Last week, LodeStar Works, a Pennsylvania-based company, revealed its 9mm smart handgun for investors, Reuters reports. This comes after Kansas-based SmartGunz announced earlier this year that its own 9mm would be available to pre-order, retailing at $2,995. So what should you know about this soon-to-hit-stores technology?

How do smart guns work?

Smart guns are designed so they can be fired only by authorized users. The hope is that the added security measure will prevent children from using the weapons, reduce the number of suicides, and keep criminals from using stolen guns. 

There are two main ways smart guns verify users, per the Giffords Law Center. One is the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tokens. These are wearable devices — watches, rings, bracelets, or gloves — that must be in close proximity to a firearm in order for it to be fired.

The other is biometric recognition technology, which verifies a user’s identity through a fingerprint, palm print, or grip. 

Why haven’t smart guns hit stores already?

Smart guns have been debated in the U.S. for years. Former President Barack Obama tried to advance the technology back in 2016, but he faced resistance from firearm groups, which have raised concerns about the reliability of the technology. (In 2017, a German-made smart gun was pulled from stores after it was discovered it could be hacked with magnets.)

A New Jersey bill passed in 2002 also spooked the NRA. That piece of legislation stipulated that once smart guns hit the market in the U.S., gun dealers in the state would be required to take all other firearms off their shelves within three years. Fearing the law could spread to other states, the NRA urged its members to protest. (A 2019 law replacing the 2002 bill would require all gun dealers to offer smart guns, but wouldn’t ban the sale of other firearms.)

The NRA also led a boycott of Smith & Wesson, which nearly put the iconic gun manufacturer out of business, after the company agreed to pursue smart-gun technology.