Smart gun
The US Department of Justice has released official guidelines for smart gun manufacturers designed 'to spur the growth of enhanced gun safety technology' Joerg Koch/AFP/Getty Images

The US Department of Justice has released its final version of official, voluntary guidelines for smart gun manufacturers that outline "the minimum technical requirements" law enforcement agencies will expect from smart gun technology. The new guidelines stem from President Barack Obama's executive action in January that aims to tackle gun violence and "shape the future of gun safety technology".

Drafted by the National Institute of Justice, the newly released "baseline specifications" include a series of safety features, requirements for rechargeable and replaceable batteries and outline what smart guns cannot do. The guidelines also specify that smart guns must be able to disable their firing mechanism when the device is being operated by an unauthorised individual.

"This project was designed to spur the growth of enhanced gun safety technology - and not to mandate that any particular individual or law enforcement agency adopt the technology once developed," the Department of Justice wrote in a blog post.

The agency said the specifications serve multiple purposes including providing "clear guidance to potential manufacturers about what government purchasers require in their firearms" and offering a clear standard "against which existing technology can be measured" in order to identify remaining gaps in research and development. It adds that the new guidelines will "allow federal, state and local governments to demonstrate that demand for smart guns may exist".

However, the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action has criticised the new set of guidelines, questioning its effectiveness and what it intends to accomplish.

"Neither the president nor the agencies that actually mandated the adoption of the technology even committed themselves to giving the technology consideration for actual adoption, should a compliant version of it actually come to fruition," the institute wrote. "In fact, just what the effort accomplished, or what it meant to accomplish, is not clear. It appears the president hopes to portray the publication of the document as a 'win' during his waning days in office."

The institute also questioned the "wisdom", usefulness and security of smart guns if they are equipped as per the DOJ's recommendations.

"Any firearm that won't fire when it's needed just isn't 'smart,'" the institute wrote, adding "any 'security' system that defaults to turning itself off during a problem just isn't secure."