News outlets can’t get enough of “smart guns”, even though their stories are almost always about a gun that’s not quite ready to go to market. Lodestar Firearms, for instance, has been the subject of news features for more than two years now, even though their LS9 is still not available for sale. All these companies have to do is announce that they’re working on a product that could change the world, and they’ll find at least a handful of reporters eager to take the bait, time and again.
The latest example of this comes from Texas, where a couple of teenagers in Austin say they’re very close to releasing a new add-on to “dumb guns” that will allow owners to both keep track of their firearm if it’s stolen, as well as disable the gun remotely. The teens managed to get Austin TV station KXAN to cover their product, which they call SafeZone, and they received the fawning coverage so typical from the press.
It’s an after-market add-on to a firearm that utilizes fingerprint and other technology to remotely track and disable guns. The tracking feature will launch first, and the latter function will come into play down the line.
“Instead of just giving a serial number to the police [if your gun gets stolen], you can actually take action and give them a location,” Nanda said. “Which is going to be much more effective in immobilizing that individual who stole your gun. When SafeZone is fully developed, you’re going to be able to remotely lock it, and that person is not going to be able to use your firearm.”
“As a young adult or teen, you’re constantly seeing on social media all these opinions thrown at you, all these different sides, and you don’t really know what to do with it,” Spier said, regarding gun violence, about the inception of the SafeZone idea. “I don’t see anyone who really wants to really solve the problem and save lives, and that’s really the angle that we want to take.”
Around the time the group was tasked with coming up with an idea, Nanda said they heard a school announcement about a fundraiser for Uvalde students, which contributed to the inspiration behind the business model.
“This is our reality,” she said. “We’re one of the first generations where lockdown drills are normalized.”
A couple of teens coming up with technology that could completely reshape the firearms industry? How can the media resist a pitch like that?
As it turns out, it took the Firearms Policy Coalition’s Rob Romano to discover something very interesting that KXAN managed to completely overlook in its coverage: at least one of their named partners has no relationship to the outfit.
Apparently these guys Googled “gun groups” and slapped the results on their “partnerships” page, since GOA says they definitely do not endorse this: https://t.co/R4Vj53KuKw https://t.co/6wWYuIwU5J pic.twitter.com/S8ejZtIrli
— Rob Romano (@2Aupdates) February 2, 2024
After Gun Owners of America contacted SafeZone, the company removed all of their named partners from their website, which makes me wonder if they’d even bothered to reach out to the gun control groups that supposedly backed their app, or if they really did just decide to slap a few logos on their website in an attempt to increase their credibility.
What’s even stranger about SafeZone’s false assertion that GOA was all in favor is that they actually do have a name familiar in Second Amendment circles who is helping them, though he’s not named at all on the company’s website.
Michael Cargill, the owner of Central Texas Gun Works, is working with the students to develop the product.
“There are some customers actually looking for something like that. They want to make sure their kids don’t get access to the firearm,” he said. “It’s important that this is going to be an option for the customer. We don’t want someone that’s mandated by the government or ruled. We want a person to be able to choose this.”
Cargill, you might recall, is the named plaintiff in the challenge to the ATF’s bump stock ban that’s currently pending before the Supreme Court. He also recently made some additional news of his own when he helped a man with no arms pass a concealed carry course. Cargill’s no Second Amendment squish, in other words, and as he told KXAN, he’s not interested in any new mandates on gun owners. He just thinks this product might find a place in the consumer market, at least if the kinks can be worked out.
I’ll admit that I have my doubts that will ever happen, and it’s pretty telling that the teens behind the tech say they’ll roll out the tracking feature first, while the ability to remotely disable the firearm will be unveiled at some future date. I suspect the young inventors are struggling with one of the basic engineering problems when it comes to retrofitting firearms with “smart gun” tech; how do you add this technology after the fact without giving users (authorized or otherwise) the ability to remove it? Unlike “smart guns” that are designed around integrated biometric fingerprint readers or RFID technology, the guns that are supposed to work with SafeZone can also work just fine without it, and if it’s easy to install it’s also probably going to be easy to disable.
SafeZone is one of those ideas that’s interesting in theory but isn’t ready for prime time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it never actually comes to fruition. Falsely claiming GOA endorsed the product is just downright embarrassing, but the bigger twist may be that there’s at least one credible voice in the 2A community who thinks the teens’ big idea could work in real-world conditions.