“Smart guns” are weapons equipped with a user ID system that only engages the firearm when designated users operate it. These sophisticated firearms are not commercially available—yet, and their pending availability is creating discussions among regulators on the federal level.
Our gun trust attorneys have blogged about smart guns before, and now the United States Department of Justice has released “A Review of Gun Safety Technologies,” a new report that details the history and current status of smart weapons and the types of ID systems available. The report labels these developing firearms as:
  • Smart guns
  • User-authorized handguns
  • Childproof guns
  • Personalized firearms

Each of these interchangeable terms prompts debates about gun law changes. If the owner of a smart gun can designate users—how will this affect public safety? What if the ID system malfunctions? Once a system passes the prototype stage, what type of test engineering guidelines need to be established to ensure the smart guns are truly childproof? The technology is designed to help prevent accidental shootings and restrict the use of weapons to specific individuals, but monitoring the creation of the technology needs its own restrictions in order to prevent accidental flaws in design. All of these variables are creating delays for availability.

Smart gun technologies have been in developmental stages for over 20 years. The North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology reported earlier this year that one developer “allows the gun maker to designate specific areas that the guns cannot be used.” This offers even more control to the owner of the gun—not only can they authorize specific users, they can disable the firearm based on its location. With 3D printed guns and these fast-advancing changes in firearm design, it is conceivable smart guns will be commercially available in the near future. However, out of over a dozen smart gun technology developers outlined in the Department of Justice’s report, none have made an official announcement for a release.

Some states are preemptively organizing legislation to address smart gun technology. In the interim, although it is not mechanically-based in gun design systems, gun owners can create restrictions for the use of their own firearms by establishing a gun trust. Gun trusts are special legal documents that allow gun owners to appoint authorized users of their firearms and prevent unintended criminal charges for what would otherwise be unauthorized use of weapons. Learn more about gun trusts and view ATF Form samples.