Is there such a thing as a safe gun?

TriggerSmart is developing its own RFID-enabled gun, one that he hopes—like many of the people developing advanced gun-safety technologies—will appeal to law enforcement. That’s one strategy for wider adoption: If gun enthusiasts see police officers and members of the military using a certain weapon, they’re more likely to buy the same thing. “Police officers, they don’t have time to swipe their fingers in a crisis situation,” McNamara told me. “Half the cops in America are going around wearing gloves, anyway. With RFID, as soon as they pick up the gun, it works … as fast as I can draw the weapon, the weapon is active and ready to fire.”

That’s the idea, anyway. TriggerSmart is still testing its product, a painstaking process, and one that McNamara estimates will take a couple more years. “Because they’re such serious weapons,” he said. “We need to go and test technology rigorously in extreme conditions—in the desert in Africa and in the snow up in Alaska—to make sure that they perform perfectly well.”

Then there are the cultural and political hurdles to overcome. In the United States, especially, guns are part of the cultural identity and inextricable from politics. “It’s quite possible this thing might happen overseas before it ever happens in America. It could be Australia or England or somewhere, where they might develop smart guns first,” McNamara said. In America, anything related to gun regulations—and, by extension, improving gun safety—is so contentious that it may take longer for smart guns to gain acceptance.