By a wide majority, Americans are skeptical of the reliability of technology intended to prevent all but authorized users of a firearm from being able to fire it. They also say overwhelmingly that they would not be likely to buy such a so-called “smart gun” and overwhelmingly oppose any government mandate requiring the use of this technology should it become available.
These findings were the among the results of a national scientific poll of more than 1,200 Americans conducted in October by McKeon & Associates and released today by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry. Although attempts to develop and market firearms equipped with authorized user recognition technology have been discussed for many years, the topic has been revived in recent months by some gun control advocates, remarks by President Obama and by the depiction of a smart gun in the latest James Bond movie.
Asked “How familiar are you with efforts to develop a firearm that will only fire for a specific authorized person(s)?”, only 20 percent of respondents said they were very or somewhat familiar with the concept of “smart gun” technology. When told that such firearms would incorporate biometric or radio frequency identification (RFID) with an activation system that would rely on battery power, 74 percent of respondents said that these firearms would not be reliable at all or very reliable. Only 16 percent thought “smart guns” would be very or somewhat reliable. Some 10 percent responded “don’t know.” Gun owners overwhelmingly (84%) believed a smart gun would not be reliable, while a clear majority (60%) of non-gun owners also believed they would not be reliable.
To the question, “How likely would you be to purchase a gun with smart gun technology that prevented it from firing except for specific authorized users?” an overwhelming 74 percent of respondents overall said that they would not buy or would not very likely buy such a firearm. Only 14 percent of those polled said that they were very or somewhat likely to purchase a “smart gun.”
Some 70 percent of the survey sample also said that did not believe that government should mandate that all firearms produced incorporate “smart gun” technology should it become commercially available. Only 17 percent approved of a mandate, while 13 percent didn’t know.
The poll conducted Oct. 7-8 has a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent. Respondents self-identified as 25 percent Democrat, 23 percent Republican and 52 percent independent. As to ethnicity, 70 percent of respondents said they were Caucasian, 14 percent African-American, 9 percent Hispanic; and 7 percent, other. As to age, 17 percent of respondents said they were 18-30; 28 percent, 31-45; 33 percent 46-60; and 21 percent, 60 or older.
“The National Shooting Sports Foundation does not oppose the development of owner authorized technology for firearms and, should such products come to market, individuals should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to purchase them. However, we do oppose legislative mandates that would require manufacturers to produce only such firearms,” said Larry G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel. “We commissioned this poll to help determine where Americans stood on this issue. We are not surprised, frankly, to find that the majority of those polled were skeptical of this technology, although the margins were perhaps higher than even those of us familiar with the arguments would have expected. We are encouraged by the fact that seven out of ten of those surveyed did not believe the government should mandate the “one-size-fits-all” approach of so-called “smart gun” technology.