Promoters See Technology As Key To Gun Safety
NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -- Imagine a gun that knows the feel of your hand, or your cheek, and would never fire unless you were holding it.
Or a gun that would only fire while catching a signal from a transmitter in a ring you're wearing.
Imagine smart ammo that would only fire for a gun's owner.
Maybe none of these things will come to be. But a group of entrepreneurs is putting up at least $1 million to see if they, or other safety features as yet undreamed of, are a possible solution to the epidemic of gun violence.
The California-based Smart Tech Foundation, announced last week it was offering a $1 million prize to innovators who could come up with the best new way to make guns safer.
The group has taken its inspiration from Sandy Hook Promise, which formed after the killing of 26 people — 20 children, six educators — at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.
One of Sandy Hook Promise's challenges was an Innovation Initiative -- a challenge to find the technology to make guns safer.
"Our approach to gun safety has always been holistic," said Rob Cox, one of the founders of Sandy Hook Promise. "We always knew that there were other ways to approach this issue than standing in front of your senator's office, yelling until you're red in the face about legislation."
Cox said the group was committed to approaching the issue from as many different ways as possible.
Cox thought about gun safety by thinking about car safety.
The great innovations in making cars safer — three-point seat belts, safe dashboards and steering wheels, air bags — weren't created by regulatory orders, Cox said. They were created by the car manufacturers who realized people would pay more for a car that was safer.
"Think of Volvo," Cox said. It was more expensive than other cars, but people bought them knowing the car and the passengers would have a better chance of surviving a crash.
"I thought 'Let's change the products,' " Cox said, offering gun owners weapons that, while more expensive, would mean that no 5-year-old could pick one up and accidently shoot a sibling.
Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was one of the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, spoke at the Fast Company Innovation Uncensored event in San Francisco on Wednesday, where the challenge was announced. FastCompany.com reported on the meeting and quoted Hockley, who works with Sandy Hook Promise.
"Dylan died when he was 6 years old, so we'll never know what his contribution to society would have been," Hockley said. "But if his name can be associated with real change, that's a legacy I want to help him achieve."
Ron Conway -- a Silicon Valley investor who has put money into such startups as Google, Facebook and Twitter — was an early supporter of Sandy Hook Promise and its Innovation Initiative. Entrepreneurs Don Kendall, of Weston, and Jim Pitkow, of California, joined as well.
But Pitkow said as the group began its work, it found that while there were people with ideas out there, none were ready to move those ideas into the next stage of development.
"We looked at them and thought 'How can we create this ecology,' " Pitkow said of the forces needed to move ideas to reality.
He and others took their inspiration from X Prize, a group that's rewarding people with innovative, workable ideas in education and the environment, with the money to make them happen.
This week, Pitkow and others announced the creation of the Smart Tech Foundation — a group dedicated to making America safer. The group will begin accepting submissions in January. To learn more, email the foundation at email@example.com.
It has chosen four areas to concentrate on. The first is smart Tech for Firearms. The second is Smart Tech for Big Data, helping police use data to control gun violence more effectively.
The third is Smart Tech for Community safety, aimed at finding ways to help towns respond more quickly to emergencies, and the fourth is Smart Tech for Brain Health, aimed at finding new ways to help work on mental health issues.
Pitkow said the foundation is committed to award "at least $1 million" for each area of work. As the word gets out about the group and more people get involved with its funding, that prize amount could increase.
Pitkow said such firearms could greatly reduce the number of accidental shootings in the United States. Gun locks and gun safes only work when people use them, he said.
And Cox, of Sandy Hook Promise, said these ideas aren't farfetched. It's just that no one has applied them to firearms.
"They have biometrics on your Apple iPhone," he said. "Why not on a dangerous weapon you have in your home? This is a no-brainer."