Help me save lives with smart guns
Kai Kloepfer BOULDER, CO
Wait… what are you doing?
I am building a safer gun that only the owner can use, preventing children, teens, and criminals from using it. My technology is a safety mechanism built into a normal handgun and works in conjunction with the other safeties on the gun. When you grip the gun normally it reads your fingerprint and compares it against a list of users that is stored inside the gun. If it matches, the gun is ready for fire, otherwise it is locked and secured. The only person that can access or modify the allowed users is the owner. They have full control to add/remove users or sell the gun.
Where is the money going?
This is something that people trust their lives with so it has to be perfect. To make sure that happens, I need experts to help take the design from here. I have selected VisionWorks Engineering out of San Diego, a team of experienced engineers who are working with me create a working prototype. If we exceed our initial goal, then the money will go towards the additional goals listed above.
Is it reliable?
The single most important design goal for me is making sure that the gun works when the gun owner needs to use it. This means designing an incredibly reliable system that works in a variety of different conditions. My goal is to design a system that is more reliable that a normal mass-produced firearm. Doing this successfully will be a challenge, but one that must be overcome for this smart gun to be able to impact gun violence.
Is it secure?
Yes. When you add a new user, the image of their fingerprint is converted into a mathematical hash that represents that image. It is a one-way process, so a matching image will match that same hash, but there is no way to generate the image from the hash stored on the gun. Getting the image of your fingerprint off of the gun is impossible, as it was never stored there in the first place.
The hashes are stored using military-grade encryption with a key unique to that firearm. This means that the owner is the only person who can modify the list of people allowed to use the gun. Details regarding the type of encryption and key-length used will be released as development progresses.
Finally, I will have the entire design audited by an independent security firm for any potential issues before releasing anything.
Technical Details: Speed, battery life, etc.
The gun unlocks in about a second from when a fingerprint touches the sensor, and locks in less than half that time. This means that when the gun owner, a law enforcement officer for example, is disarmed, the gun will be locked before an assailant can turn it around and use it on them.
The battery lasts for approximately a year depending on how often the firearm is used. There are sophisticated monitoring systems in the gun that detect the current battery level and warn the user long before the smart gun runs out of battery. When that happens, owners can recharge the gun with a normal cell phone charger in about an hour.
Other features such as waterproofness, the exact calibers and magazine compatibilities offered will be announced as we get closer to releasing the consumer product.These are all prototype numbers and subject to change, but they provide a rough indication of how the smart gun functions.
How could this prevent suicides?
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds in the US. The CDC estimates that there are almost a million suicide attempts every year. While there are many different methods that people use to commit suicide, guns are unique in that they tend to be unequivocally fatal. For every successful suicide attempt, there are 24 unsuccessful ones.6 When people have access to firearms, however, there is a significantly increased risk of suicide and most attempts are fatal.7 When a smart firearm is in the home, teenagers cannot use their parents' guns and are far more likely to survive a suicide attempt. What’s more, a 2002 study8 has shown that over 90% of people who survived a suicide attempt did not go on to die of suicide. By removing a highly lethal mechanism for suicide from the reach of teens, we could save thousands of lives every year.
Why aren't you making an aftermarket add on?
An aftermarket add on, something that gun owners could purchase and use to retrofit smart functionality on a normal firearm, allows more owners to add this safety feature to their guns as they don't need to purchase a whole new firearm. The issue with this approach is that it is very difficult to make a reliable product when users are installing the add-on themselves or even shipping their product in to be modified. Because of these concerns, I am only designing a full gun with the biometric safety integrated into it, where I can control every step of the process.
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2 Harvard School of Public Health,
3 Center for Disease Control, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/suicide.htm
4 US Fish and Wildlife Service,
5 Pew Research Center,
6 Center for Disease Control,
8 Owens, British Journal of Psychiatry, 2002