According to a recent poll by the Associated Press, 60 percent of Americans worry that they or a family member might die in a mass shooting. Statistically speaking, we’d do better to fret about septicemia and car accidents, but it’s not hard to find the source of the outsize concern: From 2000 to 2006, an average of six “active-shooter incidents” took place in the United States each year; in the following seven years, that number nearly tripled—with one occurring, on average, every three weeks.
One of the best ways to prevent mass shootings, experts say, is to regulate who can buy and use a gun. But Second Amendment advocates in Congress have thwarted even the most toothless gun-safety measures—and will almost certainly continue to do so under Donald Trump, who has vowed to block universal background checks, abolish restrictions on guns in schools, and oppose regulations on assault weapons.
With no political solution in sight, maybe it’s worth looking for a technological one. Private companies are working on advances in firearms and other technologies that might save lives. Here’s what those efforts look like.
1 | Remote-Control Guns
“If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?,” President Obama asked last January after the shooting in San Bernardino, California. In fact, we can: Manufacturers have been developing smart guns—meaning guns that can be fired only by authorized users—since the 1990s. But because of low demand and fierce opposition by the National Rifle Association, none has yet made it to market.
If smart guns do end up on gun-store shelves, they might one day come equipped with technology that would allow owners to shut them down from afar. According to William Tang, an engineering professor at UC Irvine, the technologies to remotely disable a gun already exist—it’s just a matter of bringing them all together.