Nearly 60 percent of Americans, if they buy a new handgun, are willing to purchase a smart gun -- operable in the hands of an authorized user -- which is not really a surprise after the entertainment news program "60 Minutes" featured them in November. The claim is that smart guns will prevent accidents, suicides and stolen guns being used in crime because of the biometric technology involved.
And the public supports them, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, even though the public doesn't know they don't actually work.
The nationally representative, web-based survey was in January 2015, getting responses from 3,949 people. The respondents were nearly evenly split among gun owners and those who do not own guns. Among the findings: Fifty-nine percent of all respondents said they would be willing to consider a childproof gun if they were to purchase a new weapon. More than twice as many current gun owners said they would be willing to purchase a childproof gun than would be unwilling. The guns were most supported by political liberals (71 percent), but support was also high among political moderates (56 percent) and conservatives (56 percent). The authors say this debunks the widely used argument by gun manufacturers and gun groups that there is no market for smart guns.
On Jan. 4, 2016 President Obama issued a memorandum directing the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Defense to develop a strategy to expedite the real-world deployment of gun safety technology to reduce the unauthorized use of firearms, and to consider the purchase of smart guns. Like his famous pipeline to nowhere, he didn't tell the public that the technology works so poorly that they could be useless for defense.
The survey results in the American Journal of Public Health are consistent with the growing national interest in using technology to reduce the toll of gun deaths in the U.S. The public also does not realize that 60 percent of gun deaths are suicides, which smart guns would not prevent. And while making guns unreliable for legal owners, criminals will use guns without smart gun technology.
Gun manufacturers frame the questions differently, portraying them as they work rather than how they might work, and found that only 14 percent of people were willing to be early adopters of experimental technology.
Proponents of smart guns say their widespread use would cut down on suicides, stolen or borrowed guns that go on to be used in crimes and accidental shootings of children by other children. The technology uses fingerprint or radio frequency identification (RFID) that only allows authorized people to fire a given handgun. Technological obstacles have kept large scale interest from developing, despite a great deal of hype a few years ago, and objections from gun manufacturers have kept them from being produced.
"The results of this study show that there is potentially a large commercial market for smart gun technology," says Julia A. Wolfson, MPP, a Lerner Fellow with the Bloomberg School's Center for a Livable Future and a PhD candidate in the Department of Health Policy and Management. "This has been one of the biggest arguments against smart guns, that people just don't want them. This research shows otherwise."