A rendering of Kai Kloepfer's smart gun design. 

(Courtesy Kai Kloepfer)

President Obama's executive order Tuesday aimed at reducing gun violence also encourages the development of so-called smart guns that require verified fingerprints to be used.

"If we can set it up so you can't unlock your phone unless you've got the right fingerprint, why can't we do the same thing for our guns?" Obama said. 

Boulder 18-year-old Kai Kloepfer is at work on that very technology. Like the president, he hopes the technology will reduce gun deaths.

"I'm really happy the White House has decided to take a stand and actually put some effort behind this issue," Kloepfer told Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner

The president's action orders federal law enforcement agencies to explore smart guns. It also directs more money to research on the technology. 

Smart gun advocates hope the president's actions will help move the technology into the mainstream. 

"What today represents is blowing up the logjam that has been keeping us from moving forward," Stephen Teret, founder of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told NPR.

Kloepfer  started working on his project when he was still in high school, just after the Aurora theater shooting. 

"It was something that really stuck in my heart as something we need to change, something that's not right in our society," he said. 

After some research, Kloepfer learned that accidental shootings kill more people than criminal mass shootings. His project set out to fix that. 

As tears flow from his eyes, President Barack Obama speaks Jan. 5, 2016, about steps his administration is taking to reduce gun violence. 

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

"It has a significantly greater potential for impact where it's someone who doesn't know what a firearm is, or isn't supposed to be using that firearm," he said. 

Kloepfer says that the biggest hurdle he faces is reliability -- the gun needs to unlock "every single time that the gun owner needs to use it."

And while he applauds the president's actions on smart guns, Kloepfer doesn't want the government to mandate smart gun use. 

"It should be something that is fundamentally a consumer option, something that a gun owner can walk into a gun store and choose a Beretta or a Colt or a Kai Kloepfer smart gun," he said.

Kloepfer is trying to raise money to manufacture a prototype of his smart gun design. He's won a $50,000 grant, and has also launched an Indiegogo campaign. He's set to start studying electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall.