President Obama on Tuesday directed federal agencies to study and promote the use of “smart” gun technology as part of a sweeping effort to curb gun violence.
Under the executive orders, the Defense, Justice and Homeland Security departments would detail a strategy for research and development of gun safety technology over the next 90 days.
Those agencies would also regularly review gun safety systems and ways to make them more widely available. The administration noted that the federal government — the country's largest single purchaser of firearms — "has a unique opportunity to advance this research."
Ongoing development of fingerprint scanners, radio-frequency identification and microstamping systems could help reduce accidental discharges, limit unauthorized use of firearms and bolster tracking of lost or stolen guns, the White House added.
"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 often emotional remarks on Tuesday.
The executive orders — issued in the wake of a shooting in San Bernardino, California — would also expand firearm purchaser background checks, boost funding for mental health care and provide additional law enforcement resources.
“We are not inherently more prone to violence, but we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency,” Obama said. “It doesn't happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close.”
Critics, however, suggested that the president was making a political maneuver that would not prevent similar attacks in the future.
"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."