- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Executive action being taken by President Obama in an effort to curb gun violence will involve having multiple government agencies weigh possible technological solutions intended to keep firearms from ending up in the wrong hands, the White House said this week.

The Obama administration announced on Monday that the president has directed the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to study the use of so-called “smart gun” technology as part of a suite of executive actions as the president attempts to rein in gun violence while he enters his last year in the oval office.

In a statement, the White House explained that the agencies have been asked to “conduct or sponsor research into gun safety technology that would reduce the frequency of accidental discharge or unauthorized use of firearms, and improve the tracing of lost or stolen guns.” Those findings will then be provided to the president in 90 days in the form of a report that the White House said should contain a strategy for the “real-world deployment” of smart gun technology.

While not yet commercially available in the United States, gun makers and safety proponents have for years toyed with designing firearms in a manner that makes it impossible for an unauthorized person to pull the trigger — by using biometric readers, such as fingerprint scanners, and radio-frequency identification, or RFID.

If implemented properly, a gun could be programmed so that it could only be fired if it’s being held by someone with a pre-approved biometric profile, or perhaps a person wearing a bracelet that broadcasts a particular RFID frequency, not unlike the technology that powers wireless car-starters and garage door openers.

Gun-rights advocates have pushed back against “smart gun” technology and have taken aim over what many have equated as simply another attempt by the government to regulate firearms and further control what kind of weaponry can be made and marketed.

“Gun control supporters advocate laws to prohibit the sale of firearms that do not possess ‘smart’ technology, as a way to prohibit the manufacture of traditional handguns, raise the price of handguns that would be allowed to be sold and, presumably, to imbed into handguns a device that would allow guns to be disabled remotely,” reads the NRA’s official stance on smart gun technology. “The NRA doesn’t oppose the development of ‘smart’ guns, nor the ability of Americans to voluntarily acquire them. However, NRA opposes any law prohibiting Americans from acquiring or possessing firearms that don’t possess ‘smart’ gun technology.”

Roadblocks aside, executive action unveiled by the Obama administration this week could be the catalyst once and for all with respect to bringing “smart gun” tech to the mainstream. The White House said the president “is also calling on private-sector leaders to follow the lead of other businesses that have taken voluntary steps to make it harder for dangerous individuals to get their hands on a gun,” and expects that administration officials will engage with private-sector leaders in the coming weeks to work toward putting smart guns on the shelves of firearm shops.

“Tens of thousands of people are injured or killed by firearms every year — in many cases by guns that were sold legally but then stolen, misused or discharged accidentally,” the White House said in a statement. “Developing and promoting technology that would help prevent these tragedies is an urgent priority.”

“As the single largest purchaser of firearms in the country, the Federal Government has a unique opportunity to advance this research and ensure that smart gun technology becomes a reality — and it is possible to do so in a way that makes the public safer and is consistent with the Second Amendment,” the administration added.

Sen. Ed Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, praised the president’s order on social media and said through his Twitter account that “Smart gun tech has the potential to save lives by keeping guns literally out of the hands of those who should not have them.”

Responding specifically to the suite of executive actions proposed by the White House this week, however, a spokesperson for the NRA said the president’s latest maneuver misses the mark.

“There is nothing in this set of proposals that would improve public safety,” NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker told USA Today. “President Obama is distracting the American people from his inability to keep us safe.”

Executive actions announced by the White House this week aimed at curbing gun violence also calls for closing loopholes that have allowed individuals to purchase firearms at trade shows and investing half-a-billion dollars towards mental health research, among other provisions. 

Government statistics suggest that 31,000 people die each year in the United States as a result of gun-related incidents.

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