We’ve been following the work of Kai Kloepfer since Ron Conway and his Smart Tech Challenges Foundation first funded him with great fanfare back in 2014. Now that he has a working prototype in hand, Conway, with what seems to be characteristic understatement and restraint, has pronounced Kloepfer the “Mark Zuckerberg of guns” and someone who is “going to save America.”
In response to our latest post, Kloepfer told us that he views “smart guns as something that must withstand a free market and are offered as a choice to gun purchasers, not something that is imposed on the market” — a stance that’s very much in line with that of the majority gun owners.
So we asked Kai to expand on that a little and write something for TTAG addressing some of the questions gun owners have about his new creation…including mandates like the one that’s been on the books in New Jersey for more than twenty years. He was kind enough to do just that:
I’m Kai Kloepfer, the founder of Biofire Technologies, a startup working on developing Smart Firearms: a handgun with a built-in fingerprint sensor so only the owner or someone they have chosen can use them. I get a lot of good questions from gun owners that don’t tend to make it into most of the news coverage, and Dan offered me the opportunity to address some of those here.
What about the New Jersey Law/Mandates?
We at Biofire are strongly opposed to any smart-gun-specific laws or regulations, such as that currently on the books in New Jersey. We think smart guns can provide an option to better secure firearms for some firearm owners. They are not a solution that equally applies to all types of gun owners and they shouldn’t be forced on gun owners.
All the design work and development that we have been doing over the past four years goes towards creating a product that can stand on its own in a free market. We are making a product that is reliable and easy to use so that the gun community will see it as a viable option. We don’t need mandates to sell our smart guns, we will do that on the merits of our product.
As Dan has written, this is a major roadblock to smart guns, and has been since it was passed 20 years ago. We are closely following the repeal process and were disappointed to see Chris Christie veto the repeal of this law that we view as restricting gun owners’ rights.
Will your smart gun limit what I can do with my firearm?
No. The owner has full control over their own firearm.
The owner adds their fingerprint when they purchase the gun, becoming the “admin” user. They then have the option to add or remove anyone else that they choose, such as a spouse or trusted friend, just by authenticating with their fingerprint and following a simple process.
They also have the option to sell the firearm. Again, they authenticate with their fingerprint and follow a different process that wipes all the fingerprints from the gun, including the owner’s. This then allows them to transfer the gun, in any legal fashion, to someone else. The new owner then adds their fingerprint and the process starts over.
Will the government/anyone else be able to hack/remotely disable/modify my smart gun?
No. There are no communication devices of any sort in our smart gun. When we start selling them, people can take them apart and easily confirm that. There is no smart phone app, no Bluetooth, no Wi-Fi. This means that there is no way that anyone can do anything to the gun remotely.
This also means that the gun has no way of “verifying” or “registering” the owner with any government program. You need to observe any laws relevant in your state towards purchasing firearms normally, but once the gun has been purchased, the only person who can control it is the owner. Smart guns do not introduce any additional purchasing requirements or background checks over a normal firearm.
If they have physical access, we are making it very hard. The USB port at the bottom is used only for charging. The data is not connected to anything. The images of the user’s fingerprints are never stored on the gun, only mathematical representations of them that cannot be converted back into the image.
We are encrypting the fingerprint storage to make sure that fingerprints cannot be added without the owner’s action. Our final product will undergo a security audit by a third party, the gold standard for securing an electronic device. Plus, for any of this to even be a concern, a trained criminal must have broken into your house and spent quite a bit of time taking apart the smart gun.
What about left handed/ambidextrous use?
The current prototype only works with your right hand, but it is only a prototype. At launch we will have both a right and left hand model, and likely a more expensive model that has a sensor on either side and will work with both hands.