The federal government plans to promote new gun safety technology — including the use of "smart" systems — as part of a sweeping series of executive orders announced Tuesday by the Obama administration.
The executive actions in part directed the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to outline a strategy for research and development of gun safety technology within 90 days.
The agencies would either directly conduct or sponsor research into systems that curb accidental discharges, reduce unauthorized use of firearms and improve tracking of lost or stolen guns.
The directive also orders the departments to regularly review available gun safety technology and explore ways to make it more broadly available.
Numerous security systems — including fingerprint scanners, radio-frequency identification and microstamping — are already being explored through millions in research dollars. The administration noted that the federal government is the country's largest single purchaser of firearms and "has a unique opportunity to advance this research."
"If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?" President Obama asked during remarks at the White House on Tuesday.
The executive orders, announced in the wake of yet another mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, also sought to bolster background checks for gun purchasers, increase mental health care funding and add more law enforcement officials to administer the nation's gun laws.
“Each time this comes up, we are fed the excuse that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, or the one before that, so why bother trying?" Obama said. "I reject that thinking."
The measures drew criticism from the gun lobby and Republicans in Congress, who characterized the orders as political and argued that they would not prevent similar attacks.
"Rather than focus on criminals and terrorists, he goes after the most law-abiding of citizens," said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. "His words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty."
Reports, however, suggested that Republicans are unlikely to be able to reverse the orders, particularly in the wake of a year-end spending bill to fund the government through September.
"Once you give up the ability to let spending expire, you need 60 votes to defund something," Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, told The Washington Post. "And now, there aren't 60 votes to defund anything,"