Seventeen-Year-Old Receives Grant Money to Lower Accidental Gun Deaths

Although there are many problems regarding teens’ mental health, bullying, suicide, binge drinking and more, adolescence isn’t only about problems. In fact, at this stage of life, a teen is exploding with creativity and innovation. The synapses in the brain are on fire and they creating new connections inside all the time.


Perhaps this is precisely what Kai Kloepher accessed when his idea for a smart gun came to him. He said the idea for a fingerprint sensitive smart gun came to him in a dream. And he’s been working on how to get the resources to bring his idea to life. Kloepher believes that if he can find a way to create it, the gun could lower the amount of accidental gun deaths around the country.


Perhaps Kloepher knows that hundreds of children and teens die each year in the United States because of unintentional firearm-related accidents. These accidents happen when teens play with guns or when they are hunting. In 2000, 174 children (0-18) in the United States died from unintentional firearm-related injuries. Although unintentional accidents from firearms represent less than two percent of all firearm deaths in the U.S, the majority of these accidents (55%) are the deaths of teens and children. The majority of the accidents occur to children playing with or showing the weapons to friends. The easy availability of firearms is believed to be the number one risk factor for unintentional firearm death.


  • The major risk factors of these deaths include:
  • Easy availability of and access to firearms
  • Youth living in neighborhoods with high-risk rates of poverty, social isolation, and family violence
  • Youth with little or no adult supervision.

Kloepher might possibly make it easier for teens and children who have these risk factors in their life and who might be vulnerable to firearm related accidents. He said in an interview with FOX Denver News, “All you have to do is pick the firearm up and the you naturally rest your hand on the firearm unlocks it.”


According to Kloepher, the design includes using fingerprint sensors to prevent anybody but the gun owner from firing a bullet. Also, the gun can be programmed to store an unlimited number of owners, making it useful for police and military forces.


To turn the design into a reality, Kloepher entered his idea into the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in which he ranked 34 out of 7 million high school students. And more recently, he was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation to facilitate bringing the idea to life.


One of the reasons why this story is so fascinating is that there is often a stigma against teens. There is frequently the idea held by teachers, parents, and school administration that teens are burdened with problems and the adults in their lives need to work to keep them out of trouble. Yet, there are a number of remarkably wonderful traits and skills that teens possess, precisely because they are adolescents.


Teens can be innovative, like Kloepher, intelligent, daring, resilient, and creative, like15-year-old Gan Chin Lin. From Singapore, a country who Lin describes as being influenced by India, Malaysia, China, and Europe, Lin was able to use her love of writing and photography to recover from her eating disorder. “During my recovery from an eating disorder,” she wrote, “I used my love for food to pull me up and spur me on to a full recovery and now it has evolved into a full blown passion. I started from researching recipes and basic food concepts and adapting them to make my own recipes. Now I’m beginning to branch out into creating my own.”


Rather than looking at the difficulties and challenges, it might be useful for parents and teachers to point out a teen’s talents, to compliment them versus telling them what to do. Sure, as adults we want to be looking out for the well being of adolescents. But if we are looking for their strengths, they might just surprise us.