Teenagers in America shouldn’t have to think about what happens if a young child gets ahold of his or her father’s pistol, or a criminal disarms a police officer, or someone opens fire inside a movie theater. Teenagers in America are supposed to be worried about dating, or music, or their grades, or navigating the already difficult task that is simply being an adolescent. But the harsh reality is that gun violence is all around us. Every single day. And in the wake of recent shootings, gun sales are spiking all over the country, with more people getting background checks to purchase firearms on this year’s Black Friday than on any other single day on record, according to a recent New York Times article.
But one teenager in America is doing his part to make his home a safer place.
As a high schooler in Colorado, Kai Kloepfer started developing a fingerprint sensor that could be placed on the grip of a firearm. The sensor would recognize the owner of the gun, providing a more advanced measure of safety in that a gun could then only be fired by the individual that it belongs to. Kloepfer might just hold the key to saving a lot of lives, and that key came out of an idea he had as a high school sophomore in an advanced science research seminar.
His proposed smart firearm wasn’t just a pipe dream; it was enough to earn him a $50,000 grant to work toward his project. And Kloepfer was the subject of the second episode of Uproxx’s Luminaries series back in April. The video took off on social media and elsewhere, and millions of plays later, Kloepfer found himself as a bit of a local celebrity in his hometown.
Kai has made designing and testing a smarter (and safer) firearm his passion, and in between being accepted into MIT and searching for a research partner, he opened a crowdfunding campaign to help further his work and give others the chance to connect with his project through donations.
Uproxx took a few minutes to catch up with Kloepfer and discuss what he’s learned along the way, how the Luminaries episode affected his life, just how far along his technology is in the development process, and more.