Survey claims most gun owners would buy smart guns

The gun industry is at odds with what they term an editorial piece by the Bloomberg School of Public Health on personalized firearms that use technology to prevent unauthorized access.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health last month, suggest there is a genuine interest in firearms with authorized-user technology, commonly referred to as smart guns, should it be available for sale.

In a web-based survey of 3,949 individuals performed in January 2015, 59 percent said they would be willing to consider a childproof gun if they were to purchase a new weapon.

The study was led by a vocal advocate for gun control, Stephen Teret, a professor in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management and founding director of the School’s Center for Gun Policy and Research who co-authored the piece with another Bloomberg school professor and two researchers from Northeastern University and the Harvard School of Public Health.

“By simply using technology that already exists and bringing it to the marketplace, the public health benefits could be enormous, allowing us to take a standard injury prevention approach to preventing gun violence,” said Teret in a statement.

Money for the effort came from the New Venture Fund, a liberal public interest group that has received a number of Joyce Foundation gun violence grants in recent years. This has been used through the NVF’s Fund for a Safer Future effort to support movements for background checks on all gun sales, bans on what they term “assault weapons” and high-capacity ammunition magazines and a crackdown on private gun sales.

All of this has the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade group for the gun industry, crying foul.

In a rebuttal from the group termed, “Smart Guns, Dumb Survey,” posted Monday, the NSSF characterizes the Bloomberg School study as an editorial overview of a flawed survey with the cards stacked for a predictable outcome.

Taking issue with the methodology of the study, which was performed online rather than by more traditional phone calls, they cite that by doing so the respondents were more tech savvy and therefore biased towards futuristic smart guns.

Further, they point to the fact that pollsters did not provide any information about technologically-enhanced firearms, only asking how familiar they were with the concept, with a staggering 80 percent admitting they had no knowledge of how a smart gun would work.

Then there was the question of cost, which wasn’t broached.

“There is also no indication of whether the Bloomberg survey asked respondents how much extra they would be willing to pay as a premium for such technology,” noted the NSSF. “This is a key indicator of what the market might actually look like and separates the respondents who think it’s a nice idea, but they still wouldn’t buy it, and those that may actually act on their interest.”

Both the NSSF and the National Rifle Association have repeatedly stated they do not oppose development of smart gun technology, but they do not support legislative mandates such as New Jersey’s current law which would require only smart guns be sold in the state once the technology is deemed viable by the state attorney general.

The NSSF noted that, while the survey was conducted over a year ago, the study of its findings was only released as the politics on smart guns is heating up once again in New Jersey.

In the NSSF’s own survey, conducted in 2013 from among 1,200 respondents of landline and mobile phones, they found 63 percent of people would not buy a smart gun and only 17 percent approved of a mandate requiring them to be sold. They also point to the fact that, “manufacturers and government research entities have spent millions since the 1990s on research, yet due to significant technological challenges, the technology remains far from ready for the commercial market.”

On the other side of the argument, gun control advocates contend the figures in the Bloomberg effort are spot-on.

“Is this supposed to be surprising? Of course most people would consider buying smart guns,” Ladd Everitt, director of communications of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, told Guns.com. “First of all, Americans love technology and innovation. It’s in our DNA. The gun industry is still operating in the 20th century, and it’s embarrassing. More importantly, though, people love their kids and want to take every sensible step to protect them.”