Smart gun technology uses RFID chips or biometrics, such as a fingerprint scanner or grip recognition, to release a locking mechanism on a weapon. The technology was initially developed to prevent police officers' weapons from being grabbed in a struggle and used against them. But, the military has also expressed interest in the technology for the same reason.
From a consumer perspective, smart gun technology would deter anyone but an authorized owner from being able to fire a weapon.
Asking a rhetorical question, Obama in his speech said, "If we can set it up so you can't unlock your phone unless you got the right fingerprint, why can't we do the same thing for our guns?"
At CES this week, Identilock announced gun safety technology uses a fingerprint reader to unlatch a trigger lock. Once activated with an authorized fingerprint, the lock simply drops off the trigger, allowing it to be used.
Some opponents of smart gun technology, however, are quick to point out that guns are simple mechanical devices made to work flawlessly when needed, and smart technology introduces the potential for failure.
Smart gun technology has been in development for nearly two decades, but research efforts have most often stalled because of a lack of funding. When the technology has come to market, it has at times been met by vehement push back from gun rights groups who fear any adoption could lead to government mandates.
Last year, Germany-based Armatix attempted to sell the first smart gun in the U.S. Its .22 caliber iP1 pistol debuted in one of California's largest gun stores. But it was quickly pulled from the shelves after some gun advocates pressured the store to stop selling the gun.
Germany-based Armatix tried to sell the first smart gun in the U.S. Its .22 caliber iP1 pistol debuted in one of California's largest gun stores. But it was quickly pulled from shelves after gun advocates pressured the store to stop selling it. The gun used an RFID chip in a watch to enable anyone wearing it to fire the weapon.
Engage Armament, a Maryland gun store, also announced it would sell the iP1, but reneged after gun-rights advocates allegedly lashed out on social media, called the store and even threatened its owner.
Gun advocacy groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSA) have said they do not oppose smart gun technology.
In a statement Tuesday, the NSSA said market forces should decide whether smart gun technology is adopted and noted it has never opposed its development.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.