The Washington Post reported that the White House issued a set of recommendations Friday aimed at curbing the illegal use of firearms by making it easier for federal, state and local agencies to purchase “smart guns” that would function only in the hands of specified users.
The measures include a proposed rule that would allow the Social Security Administration to report beneficiaries with mental health problems to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
While seemingly modest, the proposals came under fire from some police groups and gun rights organizations even before they were publicly unveiled. But anti-gun-violence activists and administration officials described the measures as prudent steps aimed at preventing firearms from getting into the wrong hands.
Speaking to reporters Friday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that the auto industry routinely innovates to make its vehicles safer and that gun manufacturers should consider following that lead.
“I think what is true is that I couldn’t think of another industry off the top my head that isn’t interested in looking at new technology to make their product safer,” he said. “It’s surprising to me that so many gun manufacturers shirk that responsibility.”
Under the measures, the government would define requirements that gunmakers need to meet for police departments to consider purchasing.
White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said that local governments could apply for grants for guns equipped with the new technology.
Although a German company tried to introduce a smart gun into the United States two years ago, most of the technology is at the prototype stage. The guns are designed to function only when used by those authorized to fire them. Manufacturers are pursuing a variety of authorization methods, such as fingerprints and wireless chips connected to rings or watches.
Proponents argue that the technology would reduce suicides and cases in which stolen guns are used in crimes or in which guns taken from police officers are used against them. They also envision fewer school shootings by students using their parents’ guns. These advocates hope the president’s actions spur development of this technology by enticing manufacturers to enter the market and expanding private funding for smart-gun start-ups. Gun rights advocates have not supported the technology, worried that once it exists the government will mandate its use.
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