New Report Details the Opportunity for Gun Safety Technology to Save Lives and Make Deadly Weapons Far More Secure

Report unveiled as new legislation introduced in Congress to encourage manufacturers and entrepreneurs to jumpstart the use of these lifesaving innovations

June 14, 2018—While the nation continues to reel in the wake of recent mass shootings, like the one in Santa Fe, TX, where a teenager used his father’s guns to murder eight students and two teachers, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence unveiled a new report detailing how gun safety technology could prevent similar tragedies in the future. Also today, Congressman Jim Himes (D-CT) filed the Start Advancing Firearms Enhancements and Technology (SAFETY) Act, which provides tax incentives to small businesses for the development of gun safety technology and encourages consumers to buy products that utilize that technology.

“Americans deal with the deadly results of gun violence every day in the form of mass shootings, crime-related violence, suicides and accidents,” said Congressman Himes. “Those of us who have made it our mission to end gun violence in this country know that there is no one solution that can prevent every gun death. We’re committed to a comprehensive, all-inclusive approach, which is what the SAFETY Act represents. If we can incentivize manufacturers to invest in smart gun technology and encourage consumers to buy those products, we can prevent more accidents, reduce violence committed with stolen guns, protect children and bring overall fatalities down. And, let’s be very clear, saving lives is the absolute top priority.”

Recently released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detail that in 2016 alone, more than 155,000 people were shot—almost 39,000 fatally. That’s 34,000 more gun violence victims than in 2015, and 40,000 more than in 2014. Giffords Law Center found that gun safety technology can help reduce these numbers by preventing gun suicide, which claims 21,000 lives annually, stopping unintentional shootings, including by protecting the 4.6 million kids who live in homes with locked and unloaded guns and reducing the 500,000 gun thefts that happen every year.

Our country has witnessed remarkable technological advancements in medicine, communication and transportation over the past decades. But due to obstructionism by the gun lobby, technological innovation needed to make guns more secure has stagnated,” said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  “The technology to make firearms more secure already exists, but more investment in safer guns and accessories is needed for these innovations to reach the market and start protecting our children and communities. But in order for that idea to become a reality, we must call on entrepreneurs, businesses and investors to embrace the challenge of using new technology to power safety innovation. Our report lays the framework for how we can drive industry into a direction that makes use of these innovations. Gun owners and non-gun owners alike will benefit from a culture that prioritizes guns that are produced, stored and used in the safest possible way.”

“Securing a Safer Future: How Incentives for Gun Safety Technology Can Stop Shootings” points out that while the firearm industry has devoted resources to developing technology that makes guns more lethal, such as laser sights and bump stocks, none of this energy has been directed to designing mechanical and technological innovations that manufacturers could adopt to make firearms safer.

Gun safety technology includes personalized guns and accessories such as gun safes, trigger locks and retrofit kits that help keep firearms safe. These innovations hold the potential to reduce gun suicides, unintentional shootings and gun thefts.

  • Personalized guns let owners control who accesses their gun. The technology used to give owners this control includes biometric security methods, like fingerprint sensors and radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, which uses radio waves to identify objects.
  • Personalized accessories, like a fingerprint trigger lock, add an extra layer of security to gun safes or locks. When used with traditional guns, they offer a similar level of security to personalized guns.

The technology needed to make guns more secure already exists and manufacturers are capable of pairing technology with guns. However leading firearms manufacturers have so far refused to be innovative with firearms technology. The gun lobby has been central to this opposition. For example, in 2000, the NRA led boycotts against Smith & Wesson after the company settled litigation over its firearm designs by agreeing to dedicate resources to developing personalized guns. After boycotts nearly drove the company out of business, Smith & Wesson reneged on the agreement.

To further incentivize this market, Congress should make it easier for businesses and entrepreneurs to develop and invest in lifesaving technology. Today, Congressman Himes has introduced the Start Advancing Firearms Enhancements and Technology (SAFETY) Act, H.R. 6109, which will narrow the funding gap that currently hinders the development of personalized firearms, safes and trigger locks. The legislation introduced today will offset the costs of research and development of gun safety technology, taking a critical step forward for making these products readily available to American consumers.

“The federal government plays an important role incentivizing investors and manufacturers in all corners of American industry – firearms should be no different. Capital investment has not been enough to cover the high costs of producing new gun safety technology designs. Providing tax incentives, like those in the SAFETY Act, to offset research and development costs will advance this lifesaving gun safety technology to the market,” said Robin Lloyd, Government Affairs Director at Giffords. “We’re grateful for the leadership of Congressman Himes on this issue, and look forward to working with him and others to advance this proposal.”

Even with the current funding barriers, start-up companies have shown that progress to develop gun safety technology is possible. Examples of gun safety technology that is currently in development include:

  • Handgun from Biofire Technologies that unlocks with a fingerprint scanner. The firearm can be programmed for multiple users and is charged using a cell phone charger.

  • Handgun from iGun Technology, which previously developed an RFID shotgun activated by a ring worn by the user. The iGun shotgun was fully functional and completed military standard testing.

  • Opensafe, a biometric safe designed like a gun holster that allows users access to their firearm in under half a second.

  • GunGuardian, a durable mechanical trigger guard that can be retrofitted to traditional firearms. The device retracts a spring-loaded shield that covers a firearm’s trigger.

For more information on gun safety technology, please visit the Giffords Law Center page on gun-safety technology.

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