KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. — In this age of smart phones, smart cars, even smart refrigerators it seems like every part of life is about to have technology incorporated into it. But, could that include guns?
A new company out of Tennessee has designs on mass producing the first “smart gun.” A gun that is basically only able to be used by the owner and the creators think it could usher in a revolution of gun safety.
We met the LodeStar team at an indoor shooting range outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Inside one of the range rooms the company’s chief technology officer Ginger Chandler brought out the two prototype guns.
Chandler has made her career around firearms. She’s worked for Remington and Smith & Wesson, but she’s ventured into territory like this before.
“You're asking us to try and perfect something that's been perfected,” she smiled. “But, nobody was looking at putting electronics into firearms,
Today, technology has merged nearly all aspects of our lives could guns be next?
“This idea that you can use technology to lock and unlock a gun, it's never been successfully done,” LodeStar CEO Gareth Glaser explained.
Glaser and Chandler saw a different side of the gun technology issue: safety. That’s what brought them to work together. Over the last 18 months they’ve grown LodeStar from concept to prototype leaning technology you might be familiar with.
“I wanted to use technology that had a proven road,” Chandler said. “I knew that fingerprint (technology) had been pretty perfected.”
So how does their smart gun work?
They gave us a demo on how to program their prototype. You download an app on your phone. That connects to their gun. On the app you open up a biometrics setting. The phone and gun are now connected. Then load your fingerprint onto a panel on the side of the pistol.
Once your finger print is loaded, the gun can only be locked and unlocked by your prints.
If someone picks up the gun that doesn’t match the prints-the trigger won’t pull.
The prototype also has two other locking features You can also lock and unlock the gun from your phone or type in a key code on the gun’s grip.
“I'm hoping that we demonstrate there is a market for this type of firearm and that all of the big firearm manufacturers want to do it too,” Chandler explained.
How could a gun that is only unlocked by the owner change the pace of firearm deaths in the United States?
According to gun safety group Everytown for Gun Safety-more than 500,000 guns are stolen in the US every year. Each year more than 3,100 young people, who normally cannot buy a gun, die by suicide using a gun.
The estimates there are more than 500 reported accidental firearms deaths, annually.
“If we can save even one life a year, I would argue it's worth it,” Glaser said.
But LodeStar’s smart gun vision has its critics.
“Smart guns are something that's been around for a few decades,” Aidan Johnston of the Gun Owners of America said.
“We are not opposed to smart gun technology,” he continued. “But smart gun technology as of right now does not work.”
Johnston points out several companies have tried this in the past, but technology has either been easily hacked or jammed the guns.
“It certainly shouldn't be mandated (by any government) under any circumstance, even if it did work,” he stated.
The lodestar team has heard the critiques before and even with this successful prototype- they realize the final product isn’t on target yet.
“We're going to have to test it, over and over,” Chandler said. “And we're going to have to develop that trust.”
LodeStar has already begun plans to open a manufacturing plant. They expect it to be up and running by Fall 2023.