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.
In 2014, the most recent year for which final data are available, 33,599 people died in the U.S. from gun violence. The majority were suicides (more than 21,000 deaths) and firearm homicides accounted for more than 11,000 deaths, the Johns Hopkins researchers said.
Unintentional shootings, in which children are often the shooter and/or the victim, comprised more than 500 deaths that year. In addition to fatalities, in 2013, more than 84,000 people in the U.S. suffered non-fatal gunshot wounds, requiring hospital or emergency room treatment, the study said.
"By simply using technology that already exists and bringing it to the marketplace, the public health benefits could be enormous, allowing us to take a standard injury prevention approach to preventing gun violence," Stephen Teret, the founding director of John Hopkins' Center for Gun Policy and Research, said in a statement.
Smart gun technology has been under development for two decades. Smart guns operate by using either embedded fingerprint readers or radio frequency identification (RFID) that only allows authorized people to operate the weapon.
Some opponents of smart gun technology, however, are quick to point out that guns are simple mechanical devices made to work flawlessly when needed, and smart technology introduces the potential for failure.
Smart gun technology has been in development for nearly two decades, but research efforts have most often stalled because of a lack of funding. When the technology has come to market, it has at times been met by vehement push back from gun rights groups who fear any adoption could lead to government mandates.
Last year, Germany-based Armatix attempted to sell the first smart gun in the U.S. Its .22 caliber iP1 pistol debuted in one of California's largest gun stores. But it was quickly pulled from the shelves after some gun advocates pressured the store to stop selling the gun.
Gun advocacy groups such as the National Rifle Association and the NSSF have said they do not oppose smart gun technology. They simply do not want the technology to be mandated.
"We would continue to oppose mandates for this technology, particularly since there are well-proven existing methods to secure firearms, and firearms accidents are at historic low levels," the NSSF said in a statement earlier this month.
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