Do Biometric Gun Safes Help Prevent Gun Crimes & Accidents? What the Research Says:

So you're a gun rights advocate, and you want to take steps to prevent accidents.

Or maybe you're a gun control activist, and you want to know if biometric gun safes really help prevent gun crime.

Either way, you're in the right place. In this article, we'll skip the "gotcha" arguments, and dive straight into the research.

Gun violence and accidental gun injuries remain significant, heart-wrenching issues in many countries, particularly the United States. Measures to ensure safe firearm storage have become crucial in reducing these occurrences. One proposed solution is the use of biometric gun safes, which use fingerprint recognition or other biometric methods to provide rapid, secure access to authorized users while preventing unauthorized access.

If you choose to stick around, we’ll examine whether or not biometric gun safes contribute to the prevention of gun crimes and accidents. While we still lack a great deal of research, we’ll dive into what research has been done and present the available data.


Biometric Gun Safes: An Overview

Biometric gun safes are a relatively recent innovation in firearm storage. They provide a secure way to store firearms while still allowing quick access for the owner in case of emergencies. The safes use biometric data, such as fingerprints or facial recognition, to open the safe. This technology is meant to ensure that only authorized individuals can access firearms, potentially reducing the risk of unauthorized access and subsequent gun crimes or accidents.


Scholarly Evidence on Biometric Gun Safes

With that as our primer, let’s jump right into the research. First up is a research survey performed by Michael D. Anestis, PhD; Jayna Moceri-Brooks, PhD; Rachel L. Johnson, and several others on the most commonly used gun-storage mechanism in America.

The provided text discusses biometric locking mechanisms in the context of firearm storage and safes. Here's a summary of what it says specifically about biometric safes:

  • Use of Biometric Safes: Biometric safes were the less frequently used type of firearm locking mechanism compared to keyed/PIN/dial mechanisms. Only 15.6% of respondents reported using safes with biometric locking mechanisms.
  • Potential Appeal of Biometric Safes: Biometric locks offer a theoretically appealing option for firearm owners who own guns for protection, as they allow quick access without needing to input a combination or find a key.
  • Challenges with Adoption: The research suggests that for biometric safes to become more commonly used, firearm owners need to trust that the technology will work reliably when needed. However, there seems to be a limited uptake of biometric locking mechanisms in the research sample, possibly indicating that trust in the technology is a barrier to more widespread use.
  • Potential Benefits for Suicide Prevention: From a suicide prevention perspective, biometric safes may not be ideal due to the potential speed of access they allow. However, they may help prevent child and adolescent suicides by limiting access to firearms.
  • Clinical Value of Promoting Biometric Safes: Despite potential challenges, there may be clinical value in promoting biometric safes among firearm owners who use guns for self-defense, as they offer a safer option than keeping firearms unlocked.

Overall, while biometric safes present an attractive option for secure firearm storage, there are challenges in terms of trust and adoption that need to be addressed to increase their use among firearm owners.

Research cited here:

Anestis MD, Moceri-Brooks J, Johnson RL, et al. Assessment of Firearm Storage Practices in the US, 2022. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;6(3):e231447. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.1447

Expert Opinions

Next up is an opinion piece authored by Joseph A. Simonetti, MD, MPH, Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, MD, MPH, PhD, and Frederick P. Rivara, MD, MPH. They bring expertise from several highly respected institutions and programs:

  • Joseph A. Simonetti is associated with the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of Colorado's School of Medicine and the Hospital Medicine Program at the Veterans Affairs Eastern Colorado Healthcare System. His expertise in internal medicine and healthcare within a veteran-focused system adds credibility to his insights into firearm safety and health interventions.
  • Ali Rowhani-Rahbar is affiliated with the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington, and the university's School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology. His background in epidemiology and injury prevention research provides a strong foundation for his expertise in firearm safety and public health.
  • Frederick P. Rivara is associated with the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington's School of Medicine. His focus on pediatrics and his involvement in injury prevention research lend authority to his opinions, particularly regarding the impact of firearms on children and adolescents.

Together, their diverse backgrounds in internal medicine, epidemiology, public health, pediatrics, and injury prevention from prestigious institutions establish them as experts in the field of firearm safety and public health.

They discuss an April 2016 report from the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Defense outlining a strategy to accelerate the development and deployment of personalized firearm technology ("smart guns") by the federal government, which is the largest purchaser of firearms in the US. 

(If you didn’t put two and two together, “smart guns” is basically synonymous with biometric guns)

This report followed a memorandum from President Obama calling for increased research and development of smart gun technology and its potential use in law enforcement and military. With over 114,000 firearm injuries in the US in 2014, federal support for this technology to enhance firearm safety is considered a positive step. However, challenges remain in the path to widespread adoption, including concerns about the effectiveness, affordability, reliability, and acceptability of personalized devices.

Although they don’t directly speak to biometric gun safes, the authors make the important point that while biometric technology represents a hopeful step forward on the path to eliminating gun crimes and accidents, there remains much to be done to make this step a reality for gun owners.

Article cited here:

Simonetti JA, Rowhani-Rahbar A, Rivara FP. The Road Ahead for Personalized Firearms. JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(1):9–10. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.6718



The scholarly evidence indicates that biometric gun safes can potentially be an effective tool in preventing gun crimes and accidents, particularly in reducing unauthorized access to firearms in households with children or at-risk individuals. However, the technology's effectiveness depends on its reliability and resilience to hacking or other failures. Further research and development in the field of biometric security is needed to truly enhance these safes' capacity to protect against firearm injuries and deaths.

While biometric gun safes show promise as a tool for improving gun safety, they should be viewed as part of a broader approach to firearm safety that includes education, responsible gun ownership, and safe storage practices. There’s a lot more research to be done–no conclusive studies have been performed specifically about biometric safes. However, the research is clear about one thing. Storing your firearms in a secure safe, regardless of the safe type, does indeed reduce the risk of accidental or criminal theft of guns.

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