SAN FRANCISCO--On the three-month anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy, leaders in the technology community are taking up the cause of the fight against gun violence.
At a press conference today here, members of the Sandy Hook Promise, a grassroots organization formed by the Newtown community where 26 lives were lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School, were joined by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and tech investor Ron Conway to announce new initiatives to address gun violence with technology and innovation.
"Today, we are announcing we will harness innovation to bring solutions to gun safety, mental health and school safety," Conway said. "If the technology community can create awesome companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter, we can certainly turn our attention to innovating around gun safety. This sector is a priority for us."
In concert with the Sandy Hook Promise Technology Committee to Reduce Gun Violence, the tech investor community is working to identify, develop and promote ways in which technology can help reduce gun violence.
The group provided the list of areas to explore below:
- Safe gun technologies, such as electronic firing pins, RFID, GPS, biometrics and enhanced software systems
- Improvements in background check processing
- School safety technologies
- Brain health applications
- Shot and gun detection systems
- Big data analytics
"This tech community coming together is very encouraging to us with what it going to be available. We owe it to our children to have a safer environment to grow up in," said Mark Barden, who's son Daniel was murdered on Dec. 14. in Newtown.
Jennifer Hensel, who lost her only child in the Newtown massacre, called for more research into understanding the brain function that underlies violent behavior. "We need to identify people with violent behaviors and then intervene....and recognize the value of brain health and then go to work," she said. "We need to visualize and measure brain function in an affordable, accurate and accessible manner to change landscape of brain health and stop anyone from committing tragedies like these ever again."
To help ignite innovation, members of the angel and venture capital investment community announced the Sandy Hook Promise Investment Effort. Working with the Technology Committee to reduce Gun Violence, a group of more than 30 star technology investors will help identify and fund ideas aimed at reducing gun violence. Ideas can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The investment initiative also includes an award, the Sandy Hook Innovation Challenge, for the most promising new ideas.
"The Sandy Hook Innovation Challenge will dovetail with government efforts on safe gun technology, and expand beyond that area. We will have the most rapid and thorough exploration of new innovations to reduce gun violence against our children," said Jim Pitkow, chairman of the Sandy Hook Promise Technology Committee to Reduce Gun Violence. "If you want to buy a smarter gun, you couldn't today. That's crazy. There has to be more that we can do.
"We will syndicate funding around those ideas. We can't predict how much money at this point -- I know it will be a big number because you can't stop innovation," Conway said. He added that he hopes to see $15 million seed funding invested in 15 to 20 companies in the next year, and expects the innovations to come from young entrepreneurs. "The Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg of gun violence reduction innovation are sitting in a lab at Harvard or Stanford right now," he said.
"Within a year from now we will be able to point to the Google, Facebook and Twitter who are working gun safety," Conway said.
"From a technology, and capitalist, standpoint we have to make this a viable, long-term business opportunity. We have great venture capitalists engaged, not just with their dollars but with their hearts," said Tom Bittman, a co-founder Sandy Hook Promise and a vice president at the technology research firm, Gartner.
He acknowledged that maintaining momentum for the efforts to reduce gun violence following Sandy Hook will require constant vigilance. "We have to keep the window propped open," Bittman added. "We can let the nation forget. We intend to create Promise chapters around the nation."
The angel investor and Sandy Hook Promise partner Conway agreed. "This effort will be a marathon and not a sprint," he said.
On the legislative front, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a ban today on 157 models of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips containing more than 10 bullets. However, the ban faces will likely be defeated on the Senate floor.