President Obama is pushing hard for the development of “smart gun” technology. The NY Times reports:
The move is intended to allow Mr. Obama to confront firearms violence in the face of fierce opposition to broader gun control measures. But critics of smart gun technology, including some police officials, are expected to fight a proposal that they see as unproven and an unwarranted restriction on the freedom to use firearms.
The outcome of this push is going to be many months down the road. The goal is to use the buying power of law enforcement agencies to make the production of smart guns appealing to manufacturers. But before that can happen manufacturers need a clear set of expectations from potential buyers. From the report issued today by the DOJ, Homeland and Department of Defense:
Over the next six months, the Administration will partner with state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies to establish the specific conditions under which they would consider purchasing firearms with advanced gun safety technology.
This partnership will result in the drafting of voluntary “baseline specifications” that will outline—for the first time—a clear description of what law enforcement expects from smart gun technology, particularly with regards to reliability, durability, and accuracy. These baseline specifications will serve several purposes.
Once the specifications are outlined the administration will ask law enforcement agencies if they are willing to make voluntary commitments to offer pilot programs or add the proposed guns to an approved purchase list. Of course, the guns won’t exist yet since manufacturers will have only just received the proposed specs. Again, the idea is to signal a potential demand for the product to spur development.
Earlier today, President Obama posted a letter on Facebook about the plan, saying in part:
Today, many gun injuries and deaths are the result of legal guns that were stolen, misused, or discharged accidentally. As long as we’ve got the technology to prevent a criminal from stealing and using your smartphone, then we should be able to prevent the wrong person from pulling a trigger on a gun. So, my Administration released a plan today to expedite the development of smart gun technology, including by identifying the requirements that smart guns would have to meet in order for law enforcement to purchase and use them effectively – and keep themselves and the public safer in the process.
One can see how the idea of a smart gun might appeal to law enforcement agencies who wouldn’t have to worry as much about having the gun taken from them during a scuffle with a suspect. And if the guns were widely adopted that might spur interest among consumers. However it’s not going to prevent street criminals from getting their hands on one of the millions of cheaper, regular guns already out there. In other words, the impact this will have on violent crime would likely be minimal unless the government takes the next step and mandates the technology. The administration’s report takes pains to note all of its current plans for smart gun technology are completely voluntary, but you have to wonder.
Perhaps the President could adopt a new slogan to reassure Americans of his intentions: If you like your gun, you can keep it.