HARRISBURG, Pa. — After being stalled for years, personalized smart guns may be available to consumers by early 2023. The firearms are designed to only allow registered owners to use them. Advocates believe they could help reduce crime, but questions about reliability have persisted for decades.
FOX43 Reveals how smart guns work and why the new technology may be critical at a time when gun violence is spiking.
LodeStar Works, a gun developer based in Pennsylvania, has created a smart gun equipped with technology that verifies a user’s identity in one of three ways: biometrics (fingerprint identification), a PIN pad on the handgun or Bluetooth via a smartphone App.
Ginger Chandler, co-founder and CTO of LodeStar Works, showed FOX43 Reveals how the firearm works at a shooting range in King of Prussia. The owner first downloads the LodeStar app onto his or her smartphone, registers a fingerprint, then sets up a private passcode on the PIN pad.
Any of these safety features work to lock and unlock the firearm, regardless of whether the owner’s smartphone is nearby. Each firearm can have up to 10 registered fingerprints.
“I would always use the biometric, my fingerprint, because it’s fast and it was designed to unlock immediately,” explained Chandler, who has served as a firearms executive for 15 years, including seven years driving new product development at Smith & Wesson.
These smart guns were developed after Gareth Glaser, LodeStar co-founder and CEO, heard too many stories of children killed in accidental shootings.
According to data from Gun Violence Archive—a nonprofit organization that records gun violence incidents from more than 7,500 law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources daily— the number of Pennsylvania children ages 12 to 17 killed by guns jumped 45 percent between 2020 and 2021.
Glaser believes developments in smart gun technology can prevent unintentional shootings by children, reduce gun theft, and reduce teen suicide.
“I identified that technology could be helpful and then I thought ‘Well, where’s the technology?’ And I started reading about this idea of smart guns. The idea’s been around for 25 years. No one has successfully done it,” Glaser said.
Rachel Yonkunas: What do you say to people who are worried about their gun getting hacked?
Gareth Glaser: Nothing’s perfect. Nothing’s perfect. In the case of our product though, we have made it so you can’t use a magnet to hack it and one thing we’re looking at is to actually enhance the encryption.
Advocates see smart guns as a game-changer in addressing gun violence in cities like Harrisburg. FOX43 Reveals that there have been 108 incidents of gun violence in the city since January, including eight homicides. Harrisburg Bureau of Police have taken 47 illegal guns off the streets so far this year.
“I can say the six, seven years I’ve been up in the detective division, supervising detectives, this is not the first time and I hate to say it, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is probably not the last time the history of the city of Harrisburg will have this,” said Harrisburg Bureau of Police Lt. Kyle Gautsch about the city’s recent spike in gun violence.
Rachel Yonkunas: How are criminals getting their hands on illegal guns?
Lt. Gautsch: There are various ways. Some of the firearms that we recover we determine that they were stolen in a burglary and they are filtered into the city.
Police are also dealing with another problem: privately made firearms (PMFs), or ghost guns, being used in crimes. Privately made firearms are assembled by at-home kits that lack commercial serial numbers, making them virtually untraceable.
FOX43 Reveals that Pennsylvania recovers the second-highest number of ghost guns in the country. In 2021, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) provided new guidance to local police departments for tracing privately made firearms. As a result, ATF agents recovered and traced 910 ghost guns statewide in 2021—a 240 percent jump from 2020.
As Harrisburg Bureau of Police continue to investigate the city’s recent string of shootings, they also ask for the community’s help in preventing gun violence.
“The more people in the neighborhood that buy in and say, ‘We’re not going to tolerate this in my neighborhood,’ the easier it’s going to be for us and hopefully the quicker we can bring some sort of peace to those residents in those communities,” said Lt. Gautsch.
Meanwhile, the LodeStar smart gun may be the handgun of the future. Its retail value will equate to that of a firearm and a safe, priced between $850 and $900. However, Glaser believes the impact smart guns can have on safety are priceless.
Rachel Yonkunas: What makes you strongly believe that this is the technology and the prototype that we have been missing?
Gareth Glaser: It’s the technology improvement and the attitude and experience like Ginger has. My feeling has been all along that all the work—all the effort that we’ve put into this—if we save just one life, how do you put a price on that?
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