Safety First In America - If We Dare
Americans have had thrust upon them - and embraced - countless standards that improve safety. Research has identified hazards in homes and industries, leading to employee and family safety. The safety rating of a vehicle, for example, is a top criterion when car shopping.
So why the pushback against the development of safe guns? On Friday, April 29, President Barack Obama announced a drive to support research into this technology. His administration will offer millions of dollars in grants and cash to advance safe gun technology. In 2013, Sandy Hook Promise, the local grassroots organization devoted to protecting children from gun violence through education and finding solutions, launched the Tech Initiative to fund and identify how technology can make firearms safer. To date, $1.5 million has been invested and awarded. Further support from the Obama administration, which hopes to use federal purchasing power to put safe guns in the hands of law enforcement, can only bring closer a day when new gun purchases will be weapons designed to work exclusively with one user.
Safe Gun Technology (SGTi) is one company working to develop "an integrated safety system for firearms" using biometrics, and addressing gun owners' concerns of systems relying on extraneous appendages to guns or gun owners. SGTi, one of several companies addressing this issue, is also developing an after market accessory to improve safety on traditional guns.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) swiftly denounced President Obama's initiative, stating "President Obama's obsession with gun control knows no boundaries." The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) stated, "The National Shooting Sports Foundation does not oppose the development of so-called 'smart gun' technology. The industry does, however, oppose ill-conceived government mandates to compel the use of this conceptual technology due to a number of concerns including reliability challenges, product liability concerns, battery life, and unintended safety consequences. We firmly believe the market and consumer demand should be allowed to function without interference from the government."
A New York Times article published online April 29 noted, however, that "The administration stopped short of mandating the use of smart guns by federal agencies."
In that same article, the National Fraternal Order of Police expressed concerns that law enforcement officers would be guinea pigs for "unproven" technology. As with the development of any new technology, it is doubtful "unproven" technology would be put to market. No manufacturer wants its name on an item that fails.
According to statistics from Sandy Hook Promise, 129 children under the age of 18 die each year from accidental gun violence. There are 640 gun suicides every year by children under the age of 18. Safe gun purchasers - and parents with small children in the home should be particularly interested - would simply have an option to own a gun that they know will not become a source of anguish should it fall into hands not predetermined to use it.
Safe gun technology has the potential to prevent thousands of gun injuries and deaths each year. Just as improvements to vehicle safety have reduced the number of people killed in car accidents, safe guns can reduce the more than 30,000 deaths that occur in our country every year due to gun accidents, suicide, and murder.
Safe gun technology is not an obsession. Opposition to the development is a disservice to the public. Let consumer demand make or break the market for smart guns without interference - from the gun lobby.