Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Table of contents
The recent unveiling of the Biofire Smart Gun, a 9mm handgun with biometric security systems that allow only authorized users to fire it, has spurred a whirlwind of discussion about gun safety, self-defense, and gun control.
While Biofire’s noble intention to prevent misuse of firearms and reduce preventable firearm deaths, particularly among children, should be acknowledged, a critical evaluation of the smart gun concept is also warranted.
In a 2018 article entitled, “When it Comes to Guns, Smart is Stupid,” GunsAmerica’s managing editor True Pearce did precisely that. He laid out all the reasons why opting for a smart gun may be less than ideal.
Why Smart Guns Are Stupid
- Limited Effect on Self-Harm and Accidents: Smart guns won’t prevent an authorized user from accidental discharges, misuse, or self-harm. Therefore, the assumption that smart guns can significantly reduce suicides or self-inflicted accidents is flawed.
- Theft is Still Possible: Despite advanced biometric technology, theft and unauthorized use are still possible. Modern vehicles, despite their sophisticated locks and anti-theft technology, are regularly stolen.
- Hacking Vulnerability: Technologies like RFID, wireless, magnetic, or biometrics, which are used in smart guns, are all susceptible to hacking. This can potentially allow unauthorized users to access the firearm.
- Reliability in Self-Defense Situations: In imminent threat situations, the need for the smart gun to recognize an authorized user before it can be fired introduces a potentially life-threatening delay.
- Electronics Fail: The truth about all electronics, including those in smart guns, is that they will eventually fail due to various factors such as moisture, temperature, dust, etc.
- Potential for Complete Ban on Non-Smart Firearms: For smart guns to be universally adopted, all non-smart firearms would likely need to be banned. This is a controversial and problematic implication that goes against the principles of the Second Amendment.
- Misplaced Focus on Technology over Training: Relying on technology as a solution distracts from the importance of education, training, and responsible gun ownership in ensuring gun safety. The solution to gun safety lies more in the hands of the people than in the circuitry of a “smart” gun.
Those are all pretty compelling reasons to be skeptical of smart guns. And they’re hard to argue with.
But with that said, the free market is the free market and if there is an organic demand for smart guns, the Biofire 9mm may turn some heads.
In fact, it apparently has the endorsement of Youtuber Ian McCollum, the host of “Forgotten Weapons.”
“The Biofire Smart Gun shoots like a gun—there’s no delay. If it weren’t for the futuristic look, you wouldn’t know that it isn’t just a regular mechanical pistol,” said McCollum in an April press release from Biofire.
“That’s very appealing to people interested in a home defense firearm, which is a significant market segment. I’ve come away from the opportunity to fire the gun myself pretty excited and impressed by the system—so far, Biofire has done it right,” he added.
Biofire Smart Gun Features (Per the Company)
- Biofire’s Guardian Biometric Engine integrates state-of-the-art capacitive fingerprint identification and 3D infrared facial recognition systems that independently verify a user’s identity – whichever recognizes the user first, unlocks the firearm. It works in a wide variety of conditions, including if a user is wearing gloves or a face covering. Customizable LED indicators show when the gun is armed.
- Users’ biometric data never leaves the firearm, which has no onboard WiFi, Bluetooth, or GPS.
- The firearm immediately locks when it leaves an authorized user’s hand. Integrated IR sensors in the grip keep the firearm armed while an authorized user is holding the gun, removing a need to continuously authenticate their biometrics.
- Solid state, encrypted electronic fire control technology ensures it’s impossible to modify the Biofire Smart Gun to circumvent its biometrics or to convert it into a conventional handgun. While it’s a system commonly seen on modern fighter jets and missile systems, the Smart Gun is the first handgun in the world to operate with “fire-by-wire”.
- A rechargeable, removable, high-endurance lithium-ion battery powers the firearm. The battery lasts for several months with average use and can fire continuously for several hours.
- A secure, portable Smart Dock provides an interface for the owner to add and remove trusted users via the high-resolution touch screen. The Biofire Smart Gun and Smart Dock together are a closed system that protects personal information with defense-grade data security.
- At time of launch, customers can personalize their firearm, choosing from 64 unique combinations of polymer, trigger, and magazine release colors.
- Available in right-handed and left-handed models, and with customizable grip-size options.
“Biofire’s approach is totally novel: we’ve applied high-precision engineering principles to make a meaningful impact on preventable firearm deaths among children. No one had tried that before. As a result, Biofire is now offering the most technologically advanced consumer firearm the industry’s ever seen,” said Kai Kloepfer, CEO and Founder of Biofire.
“The Biofire Smart Gun shoots like any high-quality firearm, but it also feels like you’re holding the future in your hand. This is a new era in firearm safety driven by ambition and optimism, motivated by the idea that we can in fact help save people’s lives,” he added.
The Biofire Smart Gun retails for $1,499. Pre-orders are available with a refundable $149 deposit. Delivery is expected in April 2024.
Kloepfer’s ambitious vision for the Biofire Smart Gun displays a hopeful outlook on the future of firearm safety, yet it’s not devoid of challenges, especially on the legislative front.
The New Jersey Dilemma
The New Jersey Childproof Handgun Law, revised in 2019, mandates that all firearms dealers in the state must offer at least one model of smart gun as soon as a viable model hits the market.
Despite the recent launch of Biofire’s smart gun, the law has not been activated. This is due to Kloepfer, who has deliberately chosen not to submit the gun to New Jersey’s Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission for review.
This review would be necessary to trigger the law’s requirements, forcing all gun stores in New Jersey to stock smart guns. Hence, currently, there is no obligation for gun stores in the state to offer smart guns for sale.
“There is not a world where Biofire will be applying for inclusion,” Kloepfer told The Trace, the Bloomberg-funded media outlet.
“We do not support mandates of any kind. We’re looking to build positive long-term relationships with gun stores and forcing these additional administrative burdens doesn’t incentivize them to support our technology; it does the opposite,” he continued.
The anti-gun crowd would love nothing more than to weaponize smart gun development against traditional gun makers. While Kloepfer has prudently decided not to play ball with anti-2A politicians in New Jersey, future smart gun developers may not be so principled.
As we draw to a close, it’s clear that smart guns, like Biofire’s, straddle a delicate line between intriguing potential and contentious debate. Whether this technology receives widespread acceptance on its own merits remains to be seen.
But what’s ultimately concerning is the looming threat that politicians may advocate for the mandatory adoption of smart guns at the expense of traditional firearms. This is a scenario that no 2A advocate would welcome, whether they’re pro or anti-smart gun.
Available on GunsAmerica Now