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U.S. Sen. Edward Markey has unveiled a gun control bill he says will help reduce firearm violence by requiring all new guns to be personalized so they can be fired only by their owners or other authorized users.
Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said technology exists to make guns inoperable for unauthorized users. He said the bill would make it more difficult for stolen guns to be used in crimes or against police officers and would reduce accidental firearm deaths by making it impossible for children to fire guns they find.
Markey, who unveiled the bill on Wednesday at a press conference in the Grove Hall neighborhood of Boston, also called on President Barack Obama to include $10 million in his budget proposal for gun violence research.
Obama last year lifted a 17-year ban on federal gun violence research, Markey said, but there has been no funding set aside for the effort.
"No one wants children to get access to a handgun and hurt themselves or others," Markey said, calling his bill "the type of gun safety legislation that everyone - regardless of political party or affiliation - should be able to support."
The Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts said the technology championed by Markey is often flawed and smart guns "only work correctly in the movies."
"No technology should stand between a lawful gun owner using his/her firearm," the group said in a written statement. "We also find it more than disingenuous that a senator with very little knowledge of firearms, who has worked to stifle the Second Amendment, would offer mandated technology that gun owners have not asked for, nor supported."
The bill would require that within two years of enactment all newly manufactured handguns be equipped with the technology, which could involve having the gun read a user's handprint or fingerprint.
Within three years of enactment, anyone selling a handgun would be required to retrofit it with the technology before the sale could be completed. The cost of retrofitting the guns would be paid from a fund administered by the Department of Justice.
The legislation also would direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission to establish the new safety standards for personalized handguns and require all new guns comply with the standards.
Gun manufacturers would be held liable if they produce guns that don't meet the safety standard two years after the passage of the bill.
Any gun control measure likely will come up against tough opposition in Congress.
The Senate last year rejected a bill requiring tighter background checks for gun buyers and a ban on assault weapons. That bill was filed in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting massacre, in which 20 schoolchildren and six teachers and administrators were killed.
U.S. Rep. John Tierney, a Salem Democrat, filed the same bill in the House last year. He said it "harnesses the benefits of existing technology to make guns themselves safer."
Markey, who spent more than three decades in the House before winning a special election to the Senate last year, has been a proponent of tougher gun laws and a vocal critic of the National Rifle Association.