Feds' Smart-Gun Report May Be Released This Week

An employee of Armatix poses for photographers as he presents the ÒSmartGun Concept".

A smart gun design that requires the user to wear the watch-like device, without which the gun won't function.JOERG KOCH/Getty

When President Obama announced his executive orders regarding gun control in January, ramping up investment in so-called “smart gun” technology was a major part of it, with Obama giving the Defense Department and the Homeland Security Department 90 days to come up with “a research and development strategy designed to expedite the real-world deployment of such technology.”

The White House has been quiet about smart guns ever since, but that may be about to change, according to this story from timesunion.com.

The story says sources in and out of government say the administration is about to put forward a report from the agencies on smart guns, which could be released as soon as this week, though the recommendations it contains are being kept secret.

In the public, the smart gun debate is still ongoing, with proponents using Newtown shooter Adam Lanza as a reason to make it mandatory. Lanza used his mother’s firearms to carry out the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and smart-gun advocates say if the guns had been equipped with smart-gun technology, it may have prevented the incident.

Those on the other side maintain that smart guns, which use fingerprints or some other electronic mechanism to allow the gun to fire only when held by its programmed owner, are an unreliable technology when the stakes are at their highest.

"If your life is on the line, do you want to depend on the same technology you use to access your smartphone?" said Catherine Mortensen, an NRA spokesperson, in the story. "We don't complain about anything developed in the free market that people choose to buy, but we don't want mandates or prohibitions."

Others say that if government agencies jump on the smart gun bandwagon, it will help the technology get into gun shops where, in the past, the idea has been so abhorred that no smart guns using current technology have been brought to market.

"Investment capital from government would incentivize gun manufacturers to also develop the technologies," said Margot Hirsch of the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation. "It would show it's good business and saves lives."

The Violence Policy Center, a leading research group that has taken no official position on smart guns, says in a 2013 brief that the tech would do little to reduce the number of suicides, which typically account for up to two-thirds of the roughly 30,000 annual gun deaths per year in the U.S.

But proponents continue to argue for their benefits.

"We have passwords, keys, and fingerprints that unlock our laptops, cell phones, and cars," said Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY). "It only makes sense to have the same kind of security features on a firearm."

But the fact remains that there are no laws requiring people to password-protect their laptops or phones, or to lock their cars, and that is the message the NRA and NSSF are trying to convey.