Feb 26, 2018

Silicon Valley still failing kids by not investing in smart gun tech

Photo: George Frey / Getty Images

Two years ago I wrote that Silicon Valley was failing America's children by not investing in smart firearms technologies. It still is.

Why it matters: Smart gun technology would have done nothing to prevent what happened in Parkland, where the legal owner of a semi-automatic rifle intentionally slaughtered his former classmates. But mass shootings, as horrific as they are, only account for a small percentage of America's annual deaths by firearm.

Far more gun deaths are a result of suicide and accidental shootings, many of which could be prevented via the use of such innovations as biometric or RFID-enabled trigger locks that would stop a kid from killing him or herself with a parent's gun.

The stats:

  • In 2015, the CDC reports that 566 Americans under the age of 18 committed suicide via firearm, while there were another 1,034 by those between 18 and 21. It is vital to note that firearm usage is an extremely effective means of "succeeding" in a suicide attempt, and that Harvard research shows that 90% of those "who attempt suicide and survive will not go on to die by suicide at a later date."
  • Also in 2015, another 89 kids died from accidental shootings and 80 adults were unintentionally killed by a child using a gun. And this doesn't even get into deaths caused by stolen weapons.

What they're saying: Margot Hirsch, president of an apolitical organization that provides grant funding to smart gun tech startups, says she has growing optimism that "smart safety technologies" will get to market, pointing out that a VC-backed biometric lock is now on shelves at Cabela's. But she admits that small success remains the exception to the rule, with venture funding scarce despite VC platitudes about disruption and changing the world.

  • It's often hard for some of these entrepreneurs to even get an introductory meeting, thus indirectly discouraging hopes that someone will try to create an end-to-end smart gun manufacturer (i.e., the Tesla of guns) that could truly eat into the relationship between American firearms and American hospitals.

More from Hirsch:

"The bulk of gun owners are responsible and I don't see any scenario where we stop selling guns in this country. So we're either going to innovate like we do in every other part of our lives, or we're going to continue making products that we all know can be misused with awful consequences."

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