The Googles, Facebooks, and Twitters of Firearm Safety

The biometric handgun used by James Bond in Skyfall.MGM

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Yesterday in San Francisco, a group of leading Silicon Valley tech investors announced a partnership with the families of Sandy Hook victims that will seek to raise $15 million in seed funding for 15 to 20 start-up companies dedicated to preventing gun violence. “A year from now we will be able to point to the Googles, the Facebooks, and the Twitters of gun safety,” said Ron Conway, a billionaire angel investor who made big early bets on those companies. “This is a huge area for genuine innovation.”

With several Newtown families standing by, the tech investors announced the partnership, the Sandy Hook Promise Innovation Initiative, on the three-month anniversary of the massacre. “In the instance of our shooting, it was the mother’s guns that were used,” said Nicole Hockley, whose first-grader was killed. “Had she had biometrics on the gun, or a different sort of safe technology protecting the guns, then he would not have had access to them in the first place.”

Biometric or “smart” guns use RFID chips, fingerprint devices, or magnetic rings to ensure that they can only be fired by their owners. James Bond used a palm-reading biometric gun in Skyfall, but the only model readily available in the real world is a Smith & Wesson revolver that requires shooters to wear a magnetic ring that releases a trigger lock. Smart guns have been called stupid by both the NRA, which views them as an impediment to self defense, and by the anti-gun Violence Policy Center, which sees them as a marketing ploy to boost firearm sales by convincing people that guns can be safe.

Besides biometric weapons, the group offered few specifics on how technology might cure America’s gun-violence (and gun-suicide) problem. Another grieving Sandy Hook mother, Jennifer Hensel, made a case for better tools to evaluate mental illness. “We need to create technology that allows us to visualize and measure brain functions in an affordable, accurate, and accessible manner,” she said, “so we can understand the landscape of brain health and stop someone from committing a tragedy like these.”

Leaders of the tech group said that their efforts are inherently nonpartisan and not meant to replace the push for tighter national gun control laws. In recent years, Conway, the angel investor, has donated some $200,000 to federal-level politicians and soft money groups, giving roughly equal amounts to Democrats and Republicans, some of whom were running for the same office. Gun control clearly hasn’t been his biggest political priority, but that might not stop him from discovering an investment-worthy business that redefines the term “killer app.”

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate