ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Calling gun violence in America a public health crisis, a new coalition is challenging startups and manufacturing firms to create innovative products to make guns safer.

The Gun Safety Consortium is requesting proposals for companies to build “smart gun” locking devices to better secure firearms. Steuart Pittman, Anne Arundel County executive, said that type of gun-safety technology could have prevented one of Maryland’s worst mass shootings, when five employees of the Capital Gazette newspaper were gunned down in their newsroom in 2018.

“We know that there are young inventors and companies that are trying to move products to market, and I believe that if I’m the only one who can use my phone, there’s probably a way that they can produce guns that only the owners can use,” he said. “That would prevent a lot of the gun violence that we have now.”

Although mass shootings were down slightly in Maryland during the pandemic – from 21 in 2019 to 19 last year – the national numbers jumped nearly 50% during that time, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

The Gun Safety Consortium includes about 30 cities, counties and police departments from 10 states including Maryland, Ohio and New York. At its virtual news conference on Tuesday, the Rev. Richard Gibson of Greater Cleveland Congregations pointed out that 61% of U.S. gun deaths in 2018 were suicides and 35% were homicides. He said he thinks financial incentives to create “smart” safety products would reduce those numbers and point gun safety in a new direction.

“We’re bringing all the collective power we can to assemble, to attack this problem in a new and productive way,” he said. “Just look at the power in this virtual room. We are nearly 600 strong that have come here to say that the status quo is not good enough.”

Maryland saw 757 gun deaths in 2019 – including 59 involving children or teens, according to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. More than 90% of the victims were male.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service

Diane Bernard is a digital and radio journalist based in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area with more than 10 years of journalism experience. Her print and online credits include work for The Washington...

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