Friday, October 07, 2016

"He is the Mark Zuckerberg of Guns"

(WSJ photo)
18-year-old Kai Kloepfer
has spent the past four years designing a handgun with a fingerprint reader built into the grip, and he deferred his acceptance to MIT after winning a grant from the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation in 2014. His startup, Biofire, is just a few months from a live-firing prototype, which, assuming it works, will be the first gun to unlock like an iPhone. [bold added]
Young Mr. Kloepfer has spent years designing a gun that not only looks and feels like a regular Glock 22 but also addresses the concerns that caused previous smart-gun prototypes to fail: speed of activation, reliability, and battery life.
When you pick up the Biofire gun, it wakes up from a low-power mode and activates the microprocessor and sensor. Processing your print requires roughly a second and a half; Kloepfer says he can get the delay down to less than half a second with more work on the software. Assuming your fingerprint is a match, the circuitry releases an internal trigger lock. As long as your middle finger remains in place, the pistol is ready to fire.
The firearms industry is wary of the technology. What if a smart gun can be shut down by a hacker (government or otherwise)?
There’s no way to access the tech in Kloepfer’s gun without taking it apart. The USB plug is just for charging; it doesn’t connect to the internet or even a smartphone app and can’t be controlled remotely. The gun is a “single-purpose application,” he says—more like a toaster than a smartphone—that makes it much, much more difficult to hack or for the government to control.
Another objection: government will mandate the technology once it comes to market, just as once-optional seat belts and motorcycle helmets became required. (This is not pro-gun paranoia: the New Jersey Childproof Handgun Law requires the use of smart locks on new guns within three years after the technology is introduced.)

IMHO, the gun lobby is not thinking strategically. Two-thirds of Americans don't own guns, and the reasons are not necessarily ideological. If safety concerns could be reduced through technology, that might bring in thousands, perhaps millions of new customers, some of whom would pay membership dues. Dealing with the lawmakers could be complicated, but that obstacle has been managed before. Don't resist the technology, embrace it.

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