Firearm owners may be finally cozying up to the idea of personalized “smart guns,” and it only took them twenty years to hop on board.
That’s according to new polling released Tuesday from Morning Consult where 45% of U.S. adults surveyed said they’d be comfortable using smart gun technology. Notably, those respondents were also just about as likely to say they were “interested” in smart guns as they were regular firearms, a shocking finding considering the lengths major gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association have gone to in the past to hamstring the technology.
Specifically, 43% of adults polled expressed interest in smart guns compared to a slightly larger 48% who expressed interest in old-fashioned dumb ones. More surprising still, more than half (55%) of gun owners specifically said they’d be willing to actually use a smart gun. A slight majority (56%) of gun owners, meanwhile, said they support further development of smart firearms
Those figures are a far cry from previous polling. Just 5% of gun owners surveyed by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine in 2019 said they would be very likely to purchase a smart gun. Dilute that down to “somewhat likely” and the figure hops up to just 13%.
Smart gun technology pricing dipped sharply during that time, which could help explain gun owners’ seeming sudden change of heart. When the American Journal of Preventive Medicine poll was conducted, for example, respondents were told to expect a $300 premium for the technology. Now in 2022, LodeStar—one of the field’s leading manufacturers—plans to release its smart handgun for around $900, which they claim is marginally more expensive than purchasing a comparable firearm without the technology. Money talks.
Non-gun owners were predictably less interested in and less likely to use smart guns than their gun-toting fellows, but the results weren’t necessarily black and white either. Nearly half (40%) of non-gun owners said they would feel comfortable firing a smart gun while 46% said they support further development of the technology
For context, smart guns here are characterized as firearms that require a fingerprint or passcode to fire. This broad definition generally gets the message across, though it excludes a whole cornucopia of other smart guns designs that utilize paired watches, rings, bracelets, or even phone apps as well.
Smart guns have theoretically existed in some form or another for nearly two decades, but have only recently shown signs of making their way to market for everyday gun owners. Proponents of the technology argue these additional verification systems could cut down on the number of unintentional suicides resulting from children getting their hands on their parents’ guns and potentially prevent other adults from taking or stealing a weapon and using it to harm themselves or others. To that end, smart guns have actually managed to gain support from prominent pro-gun control groups like Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety.
“Authorized-use technology, as well as basic safety features like loaded chamber indicators, magazine safety disconnects, and other features designed to prevent a child from operating the gun, should be incorporated into new models of semiautomatic handguns to help prevent firearms from being unintentionally fired,” Everytown for Gun Safety said in a previous statement. “If widely implemented, it [smart guns] would be a game-changer for keeping guns out of the hands of children and criminals.”
Like it or not, smart guns are on pace to hit some store shelves later this year. Both LodeStar and the unfortunately named SmartGunz LLC plan to release commercially available handguns later this year with the former reportedly gearing its product towards “first-time buyers.”
Largely absent from the smart gun conversation are legacy U.S. firearm heavyweights like Remington and Smith & Wesson which faced mass boycotts and the NRA’s wrath the last time they went near the damn things. That absence could potentially change though if the smaller manufacturers see commercial success and if the acceptability of the tech remains relatively high.
Smart guns seem to have gained some support, but the same can’t be said of more controversial 3D printed guns. The Morning Consult polling found relatively tepid support for that tech across the board, with 44% and 47% of Republicans and Democrats respectively saying they had no interest in the tech at all. For now, at least, the 3D-printed gun craze seems limited to the furthest reaches of anarcho-libertarian backwaters.