Nearly 60 per cent of US citizens will purchase a 'smart' or childproof gun - a weapon that is only operable in the hands of an authorised user, says a latest survey.
The survey by Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health also found that four in 10 gun owners and 56 per cent of political conservatives surveyed are willing to purchase a smart gun - debunking the widely used argument by gun manufacturers and gun groups that there is no market for smart guns.
On January 4 this year, US President Barack Obama issued a memorandum directing the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Defence to develop a strategy to expedite the real-world deployment of gun safety technology to reduce the unauthorised use of firearms, and to consider the purchase of smart guns.
The findings - published in the American Journal of Public Health - contrast sharply from earlier estimates. Research from 2013, funded by the gun manufacturers' trade association, suggested just 14 per cent of people would be willing to make their next handgun purchase a smart gun.
"Proponents of smart guns say their widespread use would cut down on suicides, stolen or borrowed guns that go on to be used in crimes and accidental shootings of children by other children," the study noted.
The technology uses fingerprint or radio frequency identification (RFID) that only allows authorised people to fire a given handgun.
Objections from gun manufacturers and the gun lobby -- including opposition to any requirements mandating the sale of smart over traditional guns -- have kept them from being produced on a large scale. Smart guns are not currently sold in the US.
To examine public interest in purchasing smart guns, the team conducted a nationally representative, web-based survey, getting responses from 3,949 people.
Nearly 60 per cent of all respondents said they would be willing to consider a childproof gun if they were to purchase a new weapon.
More than twice as many current gun owners said they would be willing to purchase a childproof gun than would be unwilling.
The guns were most supported by political liberals (71 per cent), but support was also high among political moderates (56 per cent) and conservatives (56 per cent).
"The results show that there is potentially a large commercial market for smart gun technology," said Julia A Wolfson, PhD candidate in the department of health policy and management.
"This has been one of the biggest arguments against smart guns, that people just don't want them. This research shows otherwise," Wolfson added.
The technology to make guns smart is already being used in other products.
Some iPhones can be unlocked by the user's unique thumbprint. Many cars use RFID to allow for keyless entry and keyless ignitions.
For a smart gun, a chip could be embedded in a watch or a ring worn by the authorised user. The gun would then verify the identity of the person holding it as an authorised user and could fire.