Vice President Joe Biden signaled Wednesday that the Obama administration would likely move forward on gun control by focusing on a two-part strategy that Biden called a possible “game-changer.”
Speaking on a call with supporters of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun violence group, Biden said that the U.S. was “on the verge” of requiring universal background checks on all gun purchases, including at private gun shows.
There is no evidence to suggest, however, that it would earn enough support to pass even the Senate, let alone the House of Representatives.
But Biden also suggested that the administration could move forward on something about which he has spoken briefly before — so-called “smart gun” technology, which would prevent a gun from firing except when used by its owner.
“Imagine what a world it would be if every weapon purchased could only be fired by the person who purchased it, and everyone who purchased it was entitled to have that weapon if they had passed a background check,” Biden said Wednesday
“It could be a game-changer.”
But the so-called “smart technology” could also face resistance from pro-gun rights groups like the NRA and the National Sports Shooting Foundation, which is based in Newtown, Conn.
In an interview last month, Larry Keane, the NSSF’s president, told Business Insider that the group is not opposed to the development of the technology. But he said there are “serious technological and engineering challenges” to having a functioning firearm that would incorporate smart technology.
No technology currently exists on the market, and Keane spelled out one of the reasons for that: What happens, he said, when that technology’s battery fails?
“Does it default to a mode in which the firearm can operate, or does it default to a mode in which the firearm cannot operate? And I can give you different scenarios in either case that give really bad outcomes,” he asked.
The gun could be needed for self-defence, for example, and rendered inoperable due to a failed battery. Or, if the gun defaults to working under any circumstances when the battery fails, it could fall into the wrong hands.
Until those scenarios are clearly defined, he said, manufacturers will have a hard time pursuing the technology without fearing the possibility of a lawsuit.
“Manufacturers have not been able to come up with a product that is more reliable than current technology,” Keane said. “You can’t put a product on the market that’s unreliable, especially when it’s a firearm.”
On the call, Biden emphasised universal background checks as the “chief priority.” He signaled the fight for a ban on assault weapons would linger on. But with a much higher chance of Senate passage, Biden’s focus was clearly on background checks.
“No one anticipated that there would be a loophole big enough to drive a Mac truck through,” Biden said of the current background check system that was enacted in 1994. “We’re on the verge of getting a serious, thorough, universal background check system in place. And it will — emphasise will — save lives.”
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