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Photo: Franklin gun shop via <a href="">Innovation Trail</a>
Photo: Franklin gun shop via Innovation Trail

Can an investment fund make guns safer?

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Although some states took legislative action after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings over a year ago, the debate over gun control has largely stalled at the national level. Now, a Silicon Valley-based group of tech investors has launched the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation to spur innovation of gun safety technology.

The foundation is putting forward a $1 million prize pool to aid gun safety tech entrepreneurs.

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Reported by

Kate O'Connell
Reporter, The Innovation Trail

Donald Sebastian is Senior Vice President of Research and Development at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and he's been working on this kind of research for more than a decade.

Sebastian says innovation in the gun industry has been slow, because gun safety is often seen as synonymous with gun control: "I think a very important step to move all these technologies forward is to get them out of the laboratory and into the field to remove that fear, uncertainty and doubt that these are somehow compromising the integrity of the gun as opposed to enhancing the safety of the gun."

Sebastian says incentives like this new competition will help speed up the process of tech transfer from the lab to the market.

His team is set to enter the challenge with a safety mechanism which only responds to the particular palm pressure of its owner as he or she grips the stock of the gun and pull the trigger.

"Essentially the way that you squeeze the stock of the gun while you're pulling the trigger makes a movie, it's a movie of pressure much like when you watch the high and low pressure move across a map of the United States on the weather forecast, you create the same effect which is both reproducible and individual to you."

Sebastian says his team hopes to bring the technology to the market by the end of the year. The FBI conducted just under 21 million firearms background checks in 2013.

The Smart Tech Foundation will accept applications through March 31, 2014.

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