I last wrote on so-called “smart guns” in May of 2019, in: Smart Guns: Tripling Down On Stupid. I ended that article thus:
The NRA and others that support the Constitution do not seek to deny any manufacturer the ability to market a smart gun. They merely seek to prevent infringement on the constitutional right that secures all others. They know those that would take this right are not concerned about saving lives; they’re concerned with seizing ultimate power. Marketing smart guns isn’t an issue for such people. Trying to force everyone to buy one, or go unarmed, is.
There is nothing untoward about manufacturers refusing to design and market a product that will lose money. There is nothing evil in Americans refusing to allow the infringement of their fundamental rights. There is no virtue in trying to force others to buy products that they don’t want, that don’t work reliably and whose failure could result in their deaths. Above all, there is no evidence smart guns, even if they were inexpensive and perfectly reliable, would save more lives than they could take when people who desperately need a gun can’t fire it.
Smart guns, and those pushing them, remain particularly dumb.
Nothing has changed in more than three years. Just as there are legions of contemporary Communists certain “true communism” has never been tried, and they, morally, intellectually and above all, politically, superior, will succeed where all before them have failed, “smart gun” proponents are certain this time they will succeed and in so doing, vanquish “gun violence.” Bearing Arms explains:
I’m beginning to think that the easiest way to become a millionaire right now is to announce that you’re building a ‘smart gun’ and you’re looking for investors. It seems like all you have to do is hope (don’t promise) to deliver a product somewhere in the next 12-to-18 months in order to secure cash, and once you’ve done that you can always push back your deadline.
At least that’s what the business model for most of the smart gun companies out there looks like to me, including the Colorado-based company Biofire, which announced this week that it’s received $14-million from investors in the hopes of bringing their biometric gun to market sometime next year.
The Biofire Smart Gun automatically unlocks and relocks as it is handled by its owner and put down. The company is preparing for a commercial launch in 2023, with the support of special forces, law enforcement and private security partners.
‘I’m previously on record saying that Smart Gun technology is uninvestable – that it would take ‘multiple miracles’ to bring this product to market,’ says Founder Fund Partner Trae Stephens. ‘The Biofire team has changed my mind. We need novel solutions to address firearm violence, and their technology has the potential to transform firearm safety.’
Founder and CEO Kai Kloepfer says in the announcement that Biofire ‘went back to the drawing board’ to create a highly reliable biometric handgun with state-of-the-art authentication technology.
Kloepfer has been raking in tens of millions without producing a viable product. It seems PT Barnum was right: there are plenty of suckers:
The company is now working to create a handgun to be market-ready in the next year and a half.
‘We’re really trying to build something that can solve the root problems of gun violence,’ said Kloepfer, who made Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” list for consumer technology in 2017.
I don’t know how good Kloepfer is at actually making a smart gun, but he appears to be exceptional at convincing investors to keep pouring money into his company year after year despite his product always being about 12 to 18 months away from being ready for the market. Biofire’s current website offers little detail about the gun that Kloepfer’s been working on full time for the past five years. There are no pictures, and no specifics on how the gun will operate, price points, or even what caliber the gun will be chambered in.
Make that virtually no detail. Take the link, gentle readers to my 2019 article that outlines the fate of the last revolutionary smart gun. Then take the Bearing Arms link to read the whole thing. How do we know Kloepfer is running a scam, I mean apart from failing to produce a working product? “We’re really trying to build something that can solve the root problems of gun violence.” And what are those “root problems?” If one takes to heart the standard D/S/C narrative, that would be things like poverty, injustice, racism, a lack of diversity, inclusion and equity, white supremacy, white, straight men, the police, the existence of Normal Americans, etc. I’ll be waiting for an explanation of how a smart gun can “address” those root causes as long as I’ll be waiting for video of the first “pregnant person” giving birth. “Gun violence,” a misnomer if I ever heard one, is “caused” by criminals and really stupid, careless people. How will a gun that can supposedly be fired only by a designated person deal with that?
Let’s consider what Kloepfer is supposedly creating, “a highly reliable biometric handgun with state-of-the-art authentication technology.” And what would that technology be? There are very limited possibilities.
(1) Radio Frequency Authentication: a transmitter worn by the owner transmits a signal to the firearm that unlocks the trigger.
(2) Biometric Authentication: the gun “reads” the owner’s fingerprints, or some version of a grip pattern, which unlocks the trigger. The only partial picture of a gun on the Biofire website suggests this is their method.
(3) Magnetic Activation: the oldest, utterly failed, method. The owner wears a ring containing a magnet, which is “read” by the frame of the gun, unlocking the trigger.
Go here to discover why every attempt to design a gun regulated by radio transmissions is destined to fail.
As for biometric authentication, the idea of a firearm grip that can “read” an owner’s grip pattern, essentially the way the hold the gun, has run into the brick wall of reality. Human hands are constantly variable, and the slightest error in “reading” an owner’s grip renders the gun inert, a situation highly likely when the owner is under great stress, or when they’re wearing gloves, or the grip is wet, or dirty, or… You get the idea. The probability others with similarly sized hands could duplicate the grip pattern, or be close enough—the default setting can’t be so sensitive it would fail to work perfectly every time—renders this approach unworkable.
How about fingerprint authentication? Many of the same issues arise. The reading sensors have to be placed on the gun in such a way that correctly grasping it places the finger–or fingers–in precise alignment with the sensors. There would surely be only a single sensor, say for the second finger, and fingerprints are easily spoofed, to say nothing of an owner failing to precisely place the finger to be “read.” Even a faction of a second of delay in providing trigger access could be deadly. Then there is the issue of dirty hands, a dirty gun, grease, or even the normal oils the skin produces interfering with sensors. And what of gloves? Don’t get me started on the kinds of software issues involved.
And of course, all of these technologies are battery reliant. Laser and red dot sights use batteries too, but when those batteries fail, shooters can fall back on their “iron” sights. The same is not true of a battery failure in a “smart gun,” and batteries tend not to work in cold conditions.
The issues with magnetic activation were understood very early in the quest for the smart gun holy grail. Every method tried or imagined was unreliable, and of course didn’t work when gloves were worn. Anyone with a magnet could activate the trigger, which most would consider a bug rather than a feature.
Perhaps the biggest problem with smart guns is it’s not at all hard to envison situations where the ability to use another’s gun is a life-saver. A police officer using a fellow officer’s handgun when his is lost or damaged, a wife using her husband’s handgun, and the list is essentially endless.
Criminals tend not to buy guns at retail, nor do they patronize gun shows. They get them through the black market or steal them. Even if smart guns were mandated today, unless every non-smart gun ever made was seized and destroyed, criminals will have no trouble getting what they want. Even then, it is not difficult to build functional guns, and a lucrative black market, with imported or manufactured guns, would spring up overnight. The owner of a functional smart gun can commit suicide as easily as with a dumb gun. Smart guns might stop a small number of accidental shootings, such as a child getting a parent’s gun, but those accidents can be stopped by proper storage methods, and firearm accidents of all kinds have been dramatically declining in number for more than a century.
Short of perfecting human nature, accidents will always be with us, though they can theoretically be minimized. Smart guns, however, if they work perfectly, can have only a tiny impact on that minimization.
Perhaps Kloepfer is sincere in his desire to somehow eliminate the “root causes” of “gun violence.” Naïve, to be sure, but perhaps sincere. More likely, he’d like to get rich on gun control–“gun safety” is the current narrative–which is surely a significant part of why he keeps finding investors willing to part with tens of millions. Several states have passed laws outlawing the sale of normal firearms when any smart gun is marketed. All have failed, and post-Bruen, any such law would surely be unconstitutional.
All smart guns previously produced have been unreliable, not at all what the public wants, and ridiculously expensive. The most recent failure, the Armatix iP1, was a .22LR handgun using the radio frequency authentication system, which required the shooter wear an outsized watch. In 2014 dollars, the gun cost $1400, and the watch, $400. Compare that to similar standard handguns, like the Ruger SR22 in the same caliber retailing for around $350 at the time, and it’s easy to see why the company quickly went bankrupt. The Ruger SR22 retails for around $549 today.
Firearms are relatively simple, reliable devices. It is that simplicity and reliability that makes them useful, and in human affairs, essential. Despite every media attempt to hide it, guns are used as many as two million times a year in America alone to stop criminals and save lives, usually without firing a shot. This says pretty much all that need be said about the stability and intellect of American gun owners, and all that need be said about the lack of need for smart guns.
The point of smart guns is not safety; it’s disarming, and controlling, the populace. It’s rather like electric vehicles, a recurring topic at the Manor. I care not that viable smart guns might exist. If there is sufficient market for them, they’ll find a niche, please their buyers and provide profits for the manufacturers and jobs for their employees. Everyone wins. The problem, with EVs and smart guns, is government intends to subvert the free market and mandate them, whether they meet the needs of the public or not. In that case, everyone loses, and the vast majority of Americans are deprived of liberty.
If government would leave the development and viability of smart guns to the free market, few would argue. But that’s not what government, and the money that fuels it, intends, is it gentle readers?