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Voices Against Violence: Kai Kloepfer

A "smart gun" innovator talks about why he's developing the new weapon; and how he hopes it helps put a stop to gun violence
Voices Against Violence: Kai Kloepfer 01:50

In this epidemic of shootings, the country is looking for solutions, and CBS News is listening to a variety of ideas to end the bloodshed. In a series being called, "Voices Against Violence," CBS News is asking people to give their views on gun violence.

BOULDER, Colo. --Kai Kloepfer was just 15 years old when 12 people were killed while watching a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater in July 2012. Kloepfer is from Boulder, 45 minutes from where the massacre took place, and was shaken by the tragedy.

"It was something that deeply impacted not only me, but the Colorado community as a whole," said Kloepfer.

At the time, Kloepfer was preparing for the the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and needed a project to enter the competition. Inspired by the shooting, he decided to focus on decreasing gun violence.

During his research for the fair, he came across a startling statistic from the Children's Defense Fund. "I learned that every 30 minutes in the United States on average a child dies or is injured by a firearm," said Kloepfer.

Kai Kloepfer working on his smart gun Kai Kloepfer

He has since spent the past three years developing smart gun technology that would prevent a gun from being fired by anyone other than the owner. The technology works by requiring fingerprint authorization for the gun to work. Only the fingerprint of the gun owner will unlock the firearm.

"This means that unauthorized people -- such as children finding a firearm in their house, or teenagers looking to commit suicide -- are unable to access firearms that are owned by other people such as their parents," Kloepfer told CBS News.

A plastic prototype of Kai Kloepfer's smart gun Kai Kloepfer

Kloepfer currently has a plastic prototype of the firearm -- the next step is to actually start manufacturing the technology in a live metal firearm.

"My dream for this technology is to have it in every gun store across the country."

Smart Guns 13:09

Kloepfer says the response he's gotten, from police officers to veterans to victims of gun violence, has been overwhelmingly positive. A self-proclaimed innovator who has worked on many other engineering projects, he says this one is the one that matters most to him.

"When I started working on this, it was something that consumed almost every waking moment of my day. All in an effort to get this developed as fast as possible and get it to the point of having it out there saving lives."

Previous installments of "Voices Against Violence" featured Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America; Andy Parker, father of slain CBS affiliate WDBJ reporter Allison Parker; and Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who lost two of his uncles to gun violence.

The first video in the series featured Calvin Butts, a pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and Dr. Kelly Posner the founder of the Suicide Center at Columbia University.

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