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Silicon Valley stepping up to address gun violence

7:10 AM, Mar 15, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - While the political debate rages on about guns, Silicon Valley investors are offering money to find new high-tech solutions to gun violence.

The Silicon tech community is partnering with Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit supporting families affected by the Sandy Hook massacre who are working to make the nation safer from such acts. The partnership includes a pledge from about 30 venture capitalists and angel investors to support companies developing technology that can help curb gun violence.

"If the tech community can create awesome companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter, we can certainly turn our attention to innovating around safety," said Ron Conway, special adviser to the San Francisco-based SV Angel investment firm and now founder of the Sandy Hook Promise Innovation Initiative.

"I'm hoping a year from now that the tech community has invested $15 million in brand-new startups that are innovating in gun violence reduction, mental health and school safety," he said.

Other prominent investors taking part in the initiative include Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla; Zack Bogue, husband of Yahoo President and CEO Marissa Mayer; and David Sze, an early investor in and director of companies such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

Some money might go to firms developing the smart-gun technology -- firearms that won't work without their rightful owner's biometrics, such as a finger- or palm-print, or perhaps a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip in the owner's ring or wristband -- said Jim Pitkow, chairman of the newly formed Technology Committee to Reduce Gun Violence, which will identify and vet ideas worthy of support.

Other areas might include improvement in background-check processing; school-safety tools, such as emergency response systems that don't rely on a centralized public-address system for communications; mental health applications; and data analysis to make best use of police resources.

The initiative will also offer a prize for the most promising new ideas not yet in development.

Conway said the effort took root in his own San Francisco home when former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., who was gravely wounded in a 2011 mass shooting that claimed six lives, happened to be among the guests at his holiday party on Dec. 14,  the same day as the Newtown massacre. The stunned discussion that ensued that night "gave the tech community resolve that we were not going to be bystanders," he said.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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