Who will be the Volvo of the firearms industry? For four decades until 1999, the Swedish carmaker led the world in making safety a virtue of its products. Its efforts paid off handsomely as sales and market share climbed, Volvo charged a premium for its vehicles and the company was eventually sold for $6.5 billion. The same could be done with guns.
Volvo’s timing was good. From its introduction of a little invention that became the modern seatbelt in 1958 to its sale some 40 golden years later to Ford Motor, public consciousness in automotive safety blossomed. Volvo’s technological lead gave it an edge over rivals who showed less interest in protecting passengers than revving up horsepower.
Something similar could happen to gunsmiths following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December. After all, it took public outrage over horrific automobile fatalities, which peaked at around 55,000 in the early 1970s, to force legislative changes.
Yet innovations by the likes of Volvo showed that market forces could also play a role, not just in fostering good public policy but in creating lucrative businesses.
At present, most gun marketing in the United States is predicated on power and machismo. But what if the unique selling point of a weapon became safety features, like a trigger that only works in the hands of the gun’s owner? That, in a nutshell, is the aim of the Sandy Hook Promise Innovation Initiative, a program unveiled in San Francisco on Thursday.