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White House releases report on how to spur smart-gun tech

Lucas Mearian | May 2, 2016
A proposed rule will help ensure appropriate information is reported about individuals prohibited from buying a gun for mental health reasons

"Together, these actions have the potential to jump-start the development of proven gun safety technologies that can save lives and preserve the effectiveness of our firearms. There is no problem that America's innovators cannot solve, and we are confident that by focusing the private sector's attention on smart-gun technology, we will unlock life-saving innovations," Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement, stated in a news release.

Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), a proponent of smart-gun technology, applauded the report and its call for action.

"Smart guns are smart gun safety policy," Markey said in a statement. "By unleashing the power of American research and innovation, we can literally keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them and give law enforcement the tools they need to keep communities safer from gun violence. Smart-gun technology has the potential to save lives, especially those [taken] accidentally by guns."

Last year, Markey and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) introduced The Handgun Trigger Safety Act, legislation that would support the use of "personalization" (or smart-gun) technology that would make a gun inoperable for anyone except specific people designated as authorized users by the purchaser of the gun.

A recent Johns Hopkins survey found that six in 10 Americans want safer guns.

"This announcement gets us closer as a society to giving consumers the choice for reliable, proven and affordable personalized firearms technology," said Margot Hirsch, president of the Tech Challenge Foundation, an organization that promotes innovation in smart-gun technology for safer communities.

In 2013, the Tech Challenge Foundation, created by a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, sponsored a $1 million competition called the "Smart Tech for Firearms Challenge," which resulted in the funding of 15 smart-gun innovators.

The gun safety report states that the DOD will continue to help manufacturers test smart firearms under real-world conditions at the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland. Manufacturers would be eligible to win cash prizes through that program as well.

"The federal government stands ready to assist state and local governments as smart-gun technology continues to be developed," Jarrett said. "This effort presents a unique opportunity for law enforcement agencies to improve their own operations and encourage the development of advanced gun safety technology."

Mental health and guns

In January, Obama also called for a new $500 million investment in mental health treatment and underscored the increased mental health coverage that the Affordable Care Act has made possible.

According to the gun safety report, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is now moving forward with one aspect of that effort by publishing a proposed rule to help ensure that appropriate information in its records about people prohibited from buying a guns is reported to the federal government's criminal background check system. The rule would also provide a way for people to seek relief from the federal prohibitions on possessing a firearm for reasons related to mental health.


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