Could a fingerprint-secured 'smart gun' be the answer to America's epidemic?

A United States teenager may have a possible solution to the country's massive gun problem, but not everyone's convinced.

Kai Kloepfer, 19, has developed the first 'smart gun', which locks and unlocks with a fingerprint. It's the first firearm with the same built-in security as smartphones.

It also uses a rechargeable battery like a cellphone.

The 40-caliber handgun fires like any other weapon when the registered owner is behind the trigger. But if anyone else tries, nothing happens.

In the past year alone, nearly 600 Americans have died in firearm incidents. There were thousands more suicides, many committed with guns that didn't belong to the victim.

Mr Kloepfer started work on his gun as part of a science project when he was just 15.

"There'd be days when I'd sit down, and I'd look up 14 hours later; I hadn't moved from the spot."

Ron Conway, an early investor in Google and Facebook, is now investing in the teenager's invention.

"What Kai has done is used all of the latest technology available us to innovate a truly authenticated gun. You couldn't do this five years ago," Mr Conway said.

But Stephen Sanetti, National Shooting Sports Foundation president, has his doubts. He's concerned about any firearm that depends on battery power.

"The firearm has to work. And a firearm is not the same as a cellphone. The consequences of a cellphone not working are inconvenience. The consequences of a firearm not working could be someone's life."

While Mr Kloepfer said his prototype isn't ready quite yet, he's convinced it's not far off.

"I'm now to the point where I'm able to start raising money, building a team, and really transforming it into a real company - instead of just a kid in his garage, working on a science project."