Barack Obama praised for seeking gun safety technology

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The Armatix iP1-Pistole requiers the user to wear a watch to unlock the gun. Such technology could cut down on accidental shootings and the illegal trade of weapons.

It would cut down on the illegal trade of stolen weapons. Bring an end to accidental shootings by toddlers. Lead to a drop in teenage suicides.

No wonder they’re called smart guns.

President Obama’s embrace of 21st century weapons technology was hailed by advocates of the high-tech guns as a breakthrough after two decades of opposition from the powerful pro-gun lobby.

“In each of the three categories of gun deaths — accidental, suicide and homicide — there would be a reduction in the number if personalized guns were widely available,” said Stephen Teret, founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

President Obama is pushing for the U.S. to invest in smart guns.NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama is pushing for the U.S. to invest in smart guns.

Smart guns would also dramatically cut down on the illegal trade of stolen weapons — which accounts for 25% of shootings nationally — and hurt the bottom line of gun makers, which is why they oppose the move.

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“No one can tell you with any precision exactly how many lives are going to be saved,” said Teret, noting there were 33,000 gun deaths in the U.S. in 2013. “But it would be a substantial enough number. Enough to make it well worth it to put smart guns on the market.”

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The James Bond-like technology won’t let guns fire unless activated by biometric readers, like a fingerprint scanner or radio frequency identification (RFID) — typically a device, like a ring, bracelet or watch that needs to be within a certain range to activate the weapon.

The smart guns are not available in the United States at this point, although the weapons have been in development for years.

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The National Rifle Association’s support of the new technology is tepid: “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.”

But the pro-gun lobby brought gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson to its financial knees when the company moved to manufacture smart guns during the Clinton Administration. A boycott of the business immediately followed, crippling the venerable gun maker.

A similar smart gun was seen in "Skyfall" when a villain (seen here) tried to fire the weapon that belonged to James Bond. The gun did not fire.Eon Productions/Eon Productions

A similar smart gun was seen in “Skyfall” when a villain (seen here) tried to fire the weapon that belonged to James Bond. The gun did not fire.

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“Smith and Wesson went in alone,” recalled John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence, “and they got crushed alone.”

For many gun manufacturers, there’s a Catch .22-caliber in modern weaponry: They’re already profiting from selling weapons created as along as a century ago.

And they won’t manufacture the new guns unless they know there’s a market — and nobody wants to relive the horrors of the Smith & Wesson boycott.

The NRA's support of smart gun technology has been tepid.© Michael Dalder / Reuters/REUTERS

The NRA’s support of smart gun technology has been tepid.

Obama has ordered federal agencies to “conduct or sponsor research into gun safety technology.”

“Millions of dollars have already been invested to support research into a broad range of concepts for improving gun safety. We must all do our part to advance this research,” Obama said. “The federal government has a unique opportunity to do so, as it is the single largest purchaser of firearms in the country.”

The Department of Defense has an upcoming contract for $ 480 million in guns — a figure that could change minds in the gun industry, said Rosenthal.

The use of Washington Post images for political advertising or endorsements is not permitted.The Washington Post/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Obama has ordered federal agencies to “conduct or sponsor research into gun safety technology.”

“We’ve had personalized cars and cellphones for how long now?” asked Rosenthal. “And these are benign consumer products. You’d think there would be a huge market for smart gun technology.”

Teret said the biggest criticism of smart guns — that would fail at a moment of crisis, like a home invasion — are unfounded.

lmcshane@nydailynews.com

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barack obama ,
gun control ,
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