Ohio Cities Lead Gun Safety Consortium Looking To Test 'Smart Guns,' Trigger Locks, And Other New Technology
Akron and several other Ohio municipal police departments have signed on to test technology meant to control who can access and fire a gun.
The Gun Safety Consortium is requesting proposals for "smart gun" products like quick-access gun locks and safes and systems to enhance traceability of guns.
The mayors of Akron, Lakewood, South Euclid and Orange Village in Northeast Ohio, along with Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo, are part of the campaign by the Industrial Areas Foundation.
The long-term goal is for police officers nationwide to use the technology when storing their service weapons at home – and to generally encourage production of technology that makes guns more secure.
“Public sector or government buyers have the power, in concert with others, to change the priorities of the gun industry,” said Richard Gibson, a Cleveland pastor and member of the Greater Cleveland Congregations. “It’s our goal to make safety, and not just killing, a priority that is demanded by the market.”
According to campaign members, government buyers make up 40 percent of the U.S. firearms market.
Technology using fingerprints or other biometric identification to lock guns has been around for years but never really caught on.
In 2019, a survey of more than 1,400 gun owners by Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research found 48 percent of those surveyed had heard of guns that use fingerprint scanning or other technology to control who can fire them, known as “smart guns.” But less than one-fifth were likely to purchase one.
The Gun Safety Consortium’s campaign to convince police departments to try out high-tech gun locks started years ago. But a key concern among critics is the technology’s reliability.
Kai Kloepfer, the inventor of a fingerprint-activated 9mm handgun called Biofire, has long said he was taking his time before going to market to convince gun owners that it’s reliable.
“One of the key things that we are going to prove with our product is reliability,” said Kloepfer, after the 2019 Gun Safety Technology Expo in Milwaukee. “Can you make an electrical system integrated into a mechanical firearm as reliable as that mechanical firearm just by itself? That’s a major question.”
The Cincinnati Police Department, like many cities, makes basic gun locks available for free at any district headquarters. But John Cranley, the mayor of Cincinnati and consortium co-founder said more sophisticated technology is needed.
"If I leave my phone at a restaurant, it locks up and nobody can use it," Cranley said. "But a gun left behind is used for the vast majority of inner-city violence and the vast majority of suicides."
The consortium is requesting proposals for new technologies like quick-access gun locks and safes, geolocating and systems to enhance traceability of guns. The group will purchase and test some of the products submitted.
“We care about safety,” Cranley said. “We need our officers to be safe. We need guns that work when our officers need them. But work with us, take our money, to develop products that will make a safer gun possible.”
Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz described the campaign as non-partisan and focused on common sense solutions.
"This has nothing to do with laws, ordinances, regulations, restrictions," Kapszukiewicz said. "This is using the power of the free market… to encourage responsible behavior among the gun industry and among those who purchase guns."
The consortium already includes about 30 towns, cities and police departments from 10 states, and recruitment continues, said DiAne Boese, from the national faith-based organization Metro IAF.
"We'll also begin work on the largest gun purchaser of all: the President of the United States," Boese said.
The RFP is open through June 1. See the full request below.