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Personalized Guns May Be Coming To A Gun Shop Near You

Fingerprint on digital screen, information security concept
Personalized Guns May Be Coming To A Gun Shop Near You

The technology and tools we use everyday are getting smarter - think self-driving cars and  appliances connected to the internet. Soon, personalized guns may be a way to prevent deaths.

WSKG's Crystal Sarakas talked to Stephen Teret, founding director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University, about what 'smart' guns are and why they're not available yet. The company Armatix announced it will start selling two models in 2017.

Interview Highlights:

On how a personalized guns work:

Stephen Teret: The technologies fall into one of two areas. One is called biometric technology, and that looks at something that's particular about an individual, like a fingerprint. That's the most common biometric technology that's being used.

The other is called RFID technology. And that stands for radio frequency identification ... The person who's authorized to use the gun has [something] on him or her - it could be a wristwatch, a bracelet, a ring, a pin - and that electronically communicates with the gun. The gun picks up that signal that's being transmitted to it, and something moves in the gun that had been blocking the firing mechanism. It moves, so now the gun is operable. But if someone took the gun from you, the the gun wouldn't be operable, because it wouldn't be close enough to that RFID transmitter.

On why smart guns are not yet on the market

ST: The first thing that delayed them coming to the market - and now I'm going back a couple decades - was that the technology had to be better developed. But we've achieved that. That's a hurdle that we've gotten over.

Now the hurdles are economics - that it costs money to set up a factory to make a different kind of gun. And then there's also the cultural and political hurdle to get over.

On what will happen when smart guns become available

ST: Well, it's hard to predict. But I do think that people will start buying the guns because they'll think, 'If I'm gonna have a gun in the house, I'd rather have a safe gun [than] an unsafe gun.'

I think that whoever [makes] the first move of bringing those guns to the marketplace is going to have a large return on its investment. And then I think the more traditional gun companies are going to say, 'we see the writing on the wall, we have to start making and selling smart guns or personalized guns also.'