• 01.05.16

President Obama Wants To Create A “Find My iPhone” For Stolen Guns

A great idea in theory, but challenging in practice.

President Obama Wants To Create A “Find My iPhone” For Stolen Guns
[Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images]

We routinely use apps to retrieve a lost iPad. Why not apply that same technology to help law enforcement locate stolen guns?


President Obama on Tuesday called for gun manufacturers to “update firearms technology,” which would include biometric locks and a tracking system to locate guns with an app.

“If there’s an app that can find a missing tablet, which happens to me a lot,” Obama said. “If we can do it for an iPad, there’s no way we can’t do it with a stolen gun.”

Smart gun technologies might sound like a promising solution, but they’ve struggled to find traction.

In late 2013, the Smart Technology Foundation put forward $1 million in grant money to fund innovative technologies to promote gun safety. As Fast Company reported, several teams came up with promising solutions, including a biometric gun safe to make sure guns don’t end up in the wrong hands. But they failed to secure additional capital for their potentially life-saving technologies, in part due to the heated political climate surrounding gun control.

Another potential obstacle is that gun makers might resist including trackable chips in their guns. And even if they did, it isn’t clear whether the ability to search for a gun via an app would be limited to law enforcement. Would gun owners be able to use it to locate a gun they’ve lost in their home, similarly to how they might use the “Find My iPhone” feature to track a misplaced smartphone?

“The manufacturers have a history of resisting this kind of technology,” said Jonas Oransky, legal counsel to Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization that advocates for gun control.


About the author

Christina Farr is a San Francisco-based journalist specializing in health and technology. Before joining Fast Company, Christina worked as a reporter for VentureBeat, Reuters and KQED.