With technology comes the quest to introduce ideas that may sound good to some but not to the majority. One of those ideas is smart guns that will only operate by first reading the fingerprint of the gun owner. A growing number of American gun owners are saying they are not in favor of smart guns and believe they could leave other members of the family in harms way.
Recently legislators and special interest groups have pushed for greater availability of “smart” guns as a safety and crime-reduction tool. Then-President Barack Obama called for more research into “smart” gun technology in January 2016, and that April issued a memorandum calling for government-led research into smart guns as well as potential use by some federal agencies.
“Smart gun” refers to firearms that include some sort of safety device designed to make sure that the gun can be fired only by an authorized user. These safety devices include fingerprint recognition, wearable “tags” that a gun can recognize and other similar features. Smart guns are not yet widely available on the market. They are not a new concept. In the 1970s, Magna-Trigger marketed a magnetic add-on feature for revolvers. This prevented the gun from firing unless the user was wearing a specially designed magnetic ring. Due to controversy and politics, however, smart guns have been very slow to come to market. Smart gun manufacturers and gun retailers have faced boycotts and protests in years past.
But would Americans actually buy smart guns? My own research focuses heavily on gun purchasing and teen gun carrying. Previous research on Americans’ willingness to purchase smart guns has found mixed results. So I set out to try to better understand how Americans feel about smart guns and why they might feel that way.