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Coalition Calls for Safer, "Smart" Guns

The effort, called Don't Stand Idly By, includes leaders across the nation approaching gun-makers about tightening distribution systems and adopting technologies that could reduce gun violence.

by Frank Juliano, Connecticut Post (TNS) / November 11, 2014

A coalition of police, clergy and elected officials is calling on gun manufacturers to get "smart."

The effort, called Don't Stand Idly By, launched Monday with 60 leaders across the nation approaching gun-makers about tightening distribution systems and adopting "smart technologies" to make the weapons safer.

Technology that could reduce gun violence includes palm-print readers that would only allow the weapon to be fired by its registered owner, Bridgeport, Conn., Mayor Bill Finch said. That technology exists but is not yet in wide use in the United States.

Members of Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, or CONECT, will make a "request for information" that will be presented to gun manufacturers nationwide and is intended to open a dialogue and communication, said the Rev. Anthony Bennett, CONECT co-chairman and pastor of Mount Aery Baptist Church in Bridgeport.

Finch and Police Chief Joseph Gaudett hosted the launch and announced Bridgeport's participation in the program at the Margaret Morton Government Center. Also on hand was Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe, whose officers responded with state police to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 and who helped in the subsequent investigation into the mass murder.

Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson was among the participants at the event, which included relatives of murder victims, and clergy from New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Jacqueline Pettway, a member of You Are Not Alone, a local support group for mothers of murdered children, said she spoke to her son Chris only minutes before he was fatally shot in 2013.

"When these things happen, everyone wants to point fingers at the police, but they are doing their job," Pettway said. "The guns are coming into the city and some of these kids are carrying guns bigger than police officers carry."

Finch, with his arm around Pettway, recalled that their sons were friends.

"It could have been my kid," the mayor said. "Bullets don't have names on them. They can make guns that won't shoot unless it recognizes the (owner's) palm print. Why aren't they making them?"

When 111 guns were stolen from the Smith and Wesson Co. plant in Springfield, Mass., in 2012, those guns ended up on the streets of Bridgeport and Stamford, Bennett said.

Smith and Wesson, along with other Connecticut gun manufacturers, will be asked to answer a series of questions about their distribution, safety measures and technology, Bennett said.

"We know that 1 percent of purchasers commit 60 percent of the gun crimes, and that 40 percent of all gun sales are to police departments. We want to leverage that buying power."

The Don't Stand Idly By request for information would essentially urge gun manufacturers to adopt the safer "smart technologies" when competing for police departments' business.

Joel Mosbacher, a New Jersey rabbi who is the campaign co-chairman, said governments can't require palm-print readers, microchips and other "smart technology" from gun manufacturers at this point, "because there really are no companies actually making those.

"But we are creating an emerging market for safer guns so that, all other things being equal, we can choose to do business with the companies that are cooperating."

By putting the onus on the manufacturers, no new laws are needed, so the campaign will draw less fire from the gun lobby, Mosbacher said.

"We're not looking to take guns away from people or to roll back anyone's Second Amendment rights," he said.

©2014 the Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, Conn.)

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