A Gun Safety Gadget the NRA Kinda Likes
A pair of geeky gun enthusiasts have figured out a way to make sure that a firearm can only be shot by its owner. And for once, the NRA isn’t putting up a fight.
Two Air Force buddies from Texas are developing a new, safer handgun—one that verifies the shooter’s identity before it can fire.
And here’s the kicker. The National Rifle Association, which opposes almost all gun-safety measures, is actually okay with the new weapon.
Technically, Guardian—the launch product of Matt Barido and Skylar Gerrond's Veri-Fire startup, based in San Antonio—isn't a gun. It's an add-on that fits most standard handguns, and locks the trigger until the owner unlocks it with their index finger.
“We’re looking to prevent unintentional deaths,” Barido, 38, told The Daily Beast. Specifically, children accidentally shooting themselves or others with a weapon they find lying around the house.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that, since 2007, an average of 62 children ages 14 and under are accidentally shot and killed every year. But two gun-control groups—Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America—claim the number of kids' gun-deaths is actually closer to 100 a year.
Barido and Gerrond, both 38 years old, served together as security troops in the U.S. Air Force. After leaving the military, they both remained recreational shooters—and both had kids. They realized they had a problem, and that they weren't alone. Barido said there are six million handguns in homes with kids.
Locking up a gun can keep it out of kids' hands. But only until the kids find the key to the safe. Barido and Gerrond wanted to lock the gun itself ... and throw away the key. The two former airmen began tinkering with a fingerprint-activated biometric trigger lock in 2010. Five years later, they said they've figured it out.
“Guardian is a biometric trigger lock, an intelligent lock if you will, that adapts and attaches to the trigger guard of most modern, normal-size handguns,” Barido said. “It has a spring-loaded metal slide that, when locked, precludes access to the trigger. When presented an authorized fingerprint, the lock slides forward and grants access.”
Barido stressed that the fingerprint data stays inside the gun. Guardian doesn't transmit data on gun users.
Guardian is still just a prototype. At 13 ounces, it’s “admittedly more chunky than we’d like,” Barido said. Veri-Fire is launching a crowdfunding campaign, hoping to raise the cash the company needs to improve Guardian and get it out to market.
And perhaps surprisingly, the NRA doesn't mind the thing, even though the pro-gun group has fought against so-called “smart guns” that have built-in identity-confirming biometric sensors. “We don’t oppose the development or use of ‘smart gun’ technology,” Lars Dalseide, an NRA spokesperson, told The Daily Beast. “What we are against is mandated use considering that the technology has proven to be unreliable.”
The “mandated use” Dalseide referred to is a 2002 New Jersey law that requires the state’s gun shops to phase out conventional handguns and only sell self-locking smart guns ... once smart guns are widely available.
The proviso is key, as pro-gun activists have made it all but impossible for a company to actually offer smart guns. Years ago, both Colt and Smith & Wesson proposed to add locking technology to their handguns. But gun nuts boycotted the companies and forced them to drop the plans.
With no major smart guns on the market, there’s nothing to activate the New Jersey law—and that’s how the NRA likes it. Now even safety-minded gun-developers know that triggering the law would provoke a huge, pro-gun backlash.
Hence Barido’s insistence that Guardian “is not a smart gun.”
But if Veri-Fire raises the money it needs to get Guardian out to market, the effect could be the same: To keep kids from accidentally shooting themselves and each other.