Department of Justice issues voluntary smart-gun guidelines

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The Obama administration on Wednesday announced a series of specifications for smart-gun manufacturers, born out of the president’s January executive action aimed at curbing gun violence.

But there’s a catch to the new set of guidelines: They’re voluntary.

“This project was designed to spur the growth of enhanced gun safety technology – and not to mandate that any particular individual or law enforcement agency adopt the technology once developed,” the Department of Justice wrote in a blog post.


The DOJ’s National Institute of Justice developed the specifications, which include recommendations for how smart guns should be able to be unlocked and a default state that would allow guns to fire if the technology malfunctioned, engadget reported.

The White House said the specifications are meant to ensure that smart-gun technology “available to law enforcement agencies is safe and reliable” and to demonstrate that a demand exists for weapons with enhanced safety features.

Officials also said they hope the specifications will give manufacturers guidance about the basic requirements that law enforcement agencies expect from the technology.

But critics of the DOJ’s baseline specifications quickly emerged, with the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action penning an essay Friday that questioned what, if anything, the Obama administration’s smart-gun effort accomplished.

“But it appears the president hopes to portray the publication of the document as a ‘win’ during his waning days in office,” the piece stated.

The NRA-ILA memo also called into question the basic practicality of smart guns if, as the DOJ admits in its own recommendations, the technology has the ability to fail.

“Any firearm that won’t fire when it’s needed just isn’t ‘smart,’” the NRA-ILA wrote. “And any ‘security’ system that defaults to turning itself off during a problem just isn’t secure.”

As part of his January executive action, Obama directed the government to review the availability of smart-gun technology on a regular basis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.