In the wake of the horrific mass shooting in Orlando this past Sunday, this Jerusalem startup might have a solution to reduce gun deaths
At this point, it feels like politicians and others are simply following a script, with one side lamenting the fact that Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was apparently able to legally purchase the assault rifle and handgun that he used to kill 49 party goers at a gay club, and wounding another 53 before a SWAT team neutralized him in an exchange of fire.
From the other side of the line, pro-gun activists are more suspicious than ever of any move to implement solutions to reduce the violence, including the adoption of so called ‘smart guns’ that incapacitate the weapon electronically, using either biometrics or RFID bracelets. They call these technological solutions unreliable and fear that they could become mandated for all guns.
For those who have ever carried a gun, this concern that a weapon might not function can feel very real, especially given the fact that the shooter depends on them to work in a real-life situation.
Given the emotions and politics surrounding the topic, the question of how to store weapons with proper safes and locks is a hot-button issue.
Now one Jerusalem-based startup believes that they may have come up with a solution that could appeal to many gun owners who are looking for a safer way to store their gun, without compromising on the reliability of their weapons.
Co-founded by CEO Yonatan Zimmermann and CTO Yalon Fishbein, the pair started the company in 2014. So far they have raised around $500,000 from angels and with the opening of the crowdfunding, they hope to bring in another $100,000. As of this reporting, they have already reached 66% of their goal.
If they are able to gain market validation over the next six months, they say that they will look to raise $2.5 million for their Series A to help push the project forward.
A smarter way to store weapons
The caliber specific device itself is inserted into the chamber when the slide is pulled back, resting inside and securing the weapon from being able to fire. The combination lock is a dial that can be turned in either direction, counting the number of clicks to unlock the device. Since it works according to the number of clicks and not printed numbers like a standard lock, a user can deactivate the lock based on feel alone, which can be useful in the dark. There are no keys needed here.
It works on two different modes: awareness and locked. Using a movement sensor, it can send an alert to the user if their weapon is being tampered with, even if it is not locked.
They also offer an alternative device called the Watchdog that does not have a locking component, but can send the alert to the phone. This is aimed at those who are uncomfortable with the idea of having their weapon locked in any way, but want the benefits of alerts if their weapon is being tampered with by someone else.
During regular use, if someone tries to charge the weapon while Zore X is inside, the device does not do any damage to the gun. If somebody tries to bash it off, Zimmermann says that it will expand the radial pressure on the barrel by 14 times the pressure it is receiving. This can damage the barrel, but it keeps the gun from being used by someone else.
The standalone device can be connected via Bluetooth to an app used to unlock the weapon. However locking may only be done manually, and the dial will always override the app. They also offer a bridge that connects the Bluetooth to WiFi, allowing it to send alerts no matter where the user is located.
The Zore X will retail for $169, but it and the other products are on sale for early supporters on Indiegogo.
From preventing friendly fire to reimagining gun safety
Zimmermann tells Geektime that the trigger for founding their company was their intention to find a solution to the problem of friendly fire in the army. While not a new problem, they were inspired by the tragic story of Captain Tal Nachman, a 21-year-old officer who was killed by fellow IDF soldiers who misidentified him for a Hamas militant down by the border with the Gaza Strip.
Following the incident, Zimmermann and Fishbein began thinking about the wider issue of gun safety and discovered that one of the main causes of gun deaths was not on the battlefield, but with the unauthorized use of firearms, often by children playing with a parent’s weapon.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks shooting-related incidents in the U.S., 258 children and another 1,289 teens have already been killed in 2016. Compare this to the 133 mass shootings recorded and the problem takes on even greater weight. During this same period, 1,050 of those shootings were deemed to be accidents.
With 300 million guns currently owned in the U.S., and 6 million new firearms being sold every year, the risk for these kinds of tragedies is only likely to continue to rise.
Zimmermann says that gun owners are looking for a storage solution that will be both reliable and accessible, while keeping their weapons secure.
He cites the large number of accidents and what he calls the “misuse of firearms,” saying that their goal was to “invent the perfect solution that the gun industry would actually embrace.”
Up to this point, most gun storage solutions have been focused on safes or locks. Many gun owners oppose the idea of safes, believing that they will be harder to access in the case of an emergency, especially in the dark, losing valuable response time. Zimmermann’s critique of the locks is that they are hard to operate, requiring the user to take the cable out of the weapon and only then load a magazine.
Their closest competitor appears to be the German Armatix based in Munich. Their locking mechanism is inserted in the barrel of the weapon, much like Zore’s product.
Then there are the ‘smart gun’ solutions that rely on biometric readers to determine if the user is authorized to use the weapon. Clipfort is an Israeli company developing a solution in this field and was bought a few months ago by the Australian energy company Azonto Petroleum. The American Kodiak Arms has developed the Intelligun, which uses similar fingerprint technology on the grip to grant or deny access to the weapon. Also utilizing fingerprints but as a trigger lock that goes onto the gun is Sentinl’s Identilock.
While Zimmermann says that these solutions may have potential, they have a serious flaw in not recognizing the psychological component of gun owners, telling Geektime that, “Nobody wants a gun that has to think before it shoots.”
He also notes that the gun owning public is wary of any kind of safety measure that could bring about sweeping legislation, wherein all manufacturers would have to implement it into the hardware of their products.
The Zore team has worked hard to address the numerous fears of the gun community in building their device. There is no GPS or other tracking mechanism built into device, and as noted above, the manual lock can always override the app’s control so there should be no worry about it getting hacked.
At its core, it is a device that sits on the weapon and is not a part of it. Once removed from the device, the safety measure is out of the picture and it should function normally.
Zimmermann explains that while they are a technology company, they have a different approach from the rest of the tech community, knowing that their audience has different needs.
“We don’t believe that the solution will come from Silicon Valley. It needs to come from people that know and understand the importance of guns.”
Does it have market appeal?
Zore’s concept is oddly appealing. As someone who has carried a gun in the past, leaving it at home was definitely a concern. Moreover, having never much liked the concept of a safety on handguns, due to the fact that they can impede the ability to fire quickly and effectively. I understand not wanting to have anything stand between myself and the gun.
I see the value of biometrics, excluding use to all but the owner, but if the fingerprint reader on my iPhone 6 is any indicator, it can be unreliable in some situations, such as having wet hands. Companies like Clipfort are doing great work that could have promising results down the line, but I don’t think that they are there yet.
While part of their market will be focused on law enforcement and the security industry where they have received positive feedback, my hope is that they will have an impact on the wider consumer market where many untrained people irresponsibly store their weapons in their sock drawers. They might be able to win over a few believers.
If any push in the direction of gun safety has a chance of success, my bet is on Zore. Their solution is non-intrusive, and they really seem to speak the language of American gun owners. This a device that can help them to better store their weapons without affecting the weapon, hopefully putting any fears of Big Brother or technology related malfunctions to rest.
Even in the aftermath of such a horrible attack, Americans are unlikely to move towards any meaningful changes in their approach to guns. If you need military-grade weapons to defend your home or go hunting, then your problems are bigger than any assault rifle can handle.
Just to be clear, improving gun safety will have no effect on stopping mass shootings. This is an innovative storage device. But with any luck, we can start to chip away at the thousands of meaningless deaths caused by improperly stored weapons.