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Firearm Violence
January 2017

The Road Ahead for Personalized Firearms

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Colorado, Denver
  • 2Hospital Medicine Program, Veterans Affairs Eastern Colorado Healthcare System, Denver
  • 3Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle
  • 4Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle
  • 5Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle
JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(1):9-10. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.6718

In April 2016, the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Defense released a report outlining a strategy to expedite the development and potential deployment of personalized firearm technology by the largest purchaser of firearms in the United States—the federal government.1 Personalized firearms, or “smart guns,” can only be discharged by an authorized user using technologies such as radiofrequency identification, often embedded in a token such as the user’s watch, or biometric identification (eg, fingerprint). That report followed a recent memorandum by President Obama directing the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Defense to expand research and development related to this technology and “explore potential ways to further its use,”2 including within law enforcement and military. With more than 114 000 firearm injuries in the US in 2014, the federal government’s support of new technologies to increase firearm safety is welcome. Although this technology is a promising approach to preventing firearm-related injuries, the road ahead for personalized firearms remains challenging. If such technology is to be widely adopted, researchers and policy makers must address a number of obstacles, including the effectiveness, affordability, reliability, and acceptability of personalized devices.

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