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How Startups Can Help Prevent Another Mass Shooting

Grace Phillips Ogilby

Research Analyst and Interim Manager, Open Innovation Network, 1776

The mass shooting in Orlando was one of 43 shootings in the United States that happened on Sunday, June 12th. In addition to the Orlando victims, shooters killed 18 people, including five children, and injured 41 others.

Stunningly, these numbers aren’t unusual: on average, gun violence kills or injures 112 people daily in the United States.

Each one of these shootings was a preventable tragedy. Like communities across the world, entrepreneurs are trying to grapple with these horrific shootings, too. Consider:

What if Orlando shooter Omar Mateen’s assault rifle had been programmed to prevent firing inside a commercial building?

What if Mateen’s gun had sent GPS coordinates to local law enforcement the instant he fired?

What if, instead of an hours-long hostage situation ending in a shootout, police had been able to disable the shooter’s gun remotely?

Location-aware firearms and wireless gun disengagement are examples of startup technologies that can prevent mass shootings like the tragedy in Orlando.

Companies like Geofenced Firearms are experimenting with guns that could be programmed to prevent shooting in places like schools, theaters and public spaces. The company matches GPS and mobile signals from a firearm to satellite and ground-based technology in order to determine if a gun can be fired in a particular location.

Yardarm Technologies has developed a wireless sensor prototype for firearms that allows a gun’s location to be monitored. The company can also equip guns with sensors that allow the gun to be disabled remotely.

Another option is “smart gun” technology, where the gun owner unlocks the gun prior to use through biometrics or an electronic authorization. President Obama has pushed the adoption of smart gun technology, which has the potential to dramatically decrease accidental shootings, particularly by children, and stop shooters using stolen or illegal guns.

Smart gun technology may be able to prevent situations like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, where the gunman killed 26 students and teachers using his mother’s rifle. Armatix, iGun Technology Corp. and GunGuardian are just a few of the many companies developing smart gun technology. Still other startups are focusing on safe gun storage. The startup Dual:Lock creates a stainless-steel safe with a biometric lock that opens only for the owner’s thumbprint.

Most of the technologies cited above are in the earliest stages of development. With a few exceptions, such as Ron Conway’s Smart Tech Foundation Challenge, the tech industry has been slow to back technologies disrupting the $43 billion gun and ammunition industry.

Ultimately, adoption rather than development is the biggest challenge facing these startups. Currently, these companies require gun owners to adopt these technologies voluntarily, a decision perpetrators of mass shootings are unlikely to make.

Without a mandate to include technologies like these in firearms, these products are unlikely to stop another Orlando. While startup technologies can help prevent the next mass shooting, only changes to current policy can truly stop atrocities like the Orlando shooting.

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Grace Phillips Ogilby

Research Analyst and Interim Manager, Open Innovation Network, 1776

As 1776's research analyst, Grace digs deep into 1776's proprietary data sets and pairs them with insights from the 1776 community of startups, investors, mentors, experts, policymakers and institutions. Grace…

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