President Obama is the top recipient in campaign cash from the “smart gun” manufacturing industry, which stands to benefit from his executive action calling for more research into the technology.
The National Institute of Justice, a research, development, and evaluation agency of the Department of Justice, released a report in 2013 consisting of a review of the smart gun industry. The report identified ten companies that focus exclusively on smart gun technology.
Of the smart gun companies that made political contributions, Obama was the top recipient of campaign funds in 2008 and 2012, according to campaign finance data.
The president ordered the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security to undertake new research programs into smart gun technology on Tuesday. He told them to produce a joint report “outlining a research and development strategy designed to expedite the real-world deployment of such technology for use in practice” within the next three months.
Obama also directed the agencies to review the availability of smart gun technology and “explore potential ways to further its use and development to more broadly improve gun safety.” He also instructed them to “consult with other agencies that acquire firearms and take appropriate steps to consider whether including such technology in specifications for acquisition of firearms would be consistent with operational needs.”
The results of the order may create an influx of millions of dollars into the smart gun industry.
Sandia National Laboratories, a company that acts as a contractor to the United States Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, has given tens of thousands to Obama’s coffers, donating $19,900 to his 2008 campaign. Sandia pushed an additional $17,090 in contributions to Obama’s campaign during the 2012 presidential election.
The laboratories fall under the umbrella of the Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the national defense company Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin, who also donated to Republican candidates, gave a total of $262,376 to Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
The New Jersey Institute of Technology, a Newark-based public research university also mentioned within the report, has additionally given more to Obama in 2008 and 2012 than any other candidate.
The institute gave $8,050 of its $9,100 in political donations to Obama. In 2012, the institute gave an overwhelming majority of its donated money to Obama, this time consisting of donations totaling $9,625.
"NJIT is a public university and does not make political donations," institute spokesperson Lauren D. Ugorji said. She said that the donations were not given directly by the university but came from its employees.
Sandia National Laboratories also identified donations listed under their name on federal filings as coming from employees and not directly from the company.
"Sandia National Laboratories did not give campaign donations," company spokesperson Sue Major Holmes said. "The OpenSecrets website states that all campaign contributions came from individuals. Those individuals work for Sandia, and in accordance with campaign finance law, listed their employer."
No other smart gun company listed within the report made political contributions during the 2008 and 2012 election cycles.
UPDATE 11:45 A.M., Fri. 8 Jan: This post has been updated to include comment from a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
UPDATE 1:55 P.M., Fri. 8 Jan: This post has been updated to include comment from a spokeswoman for Sandia National Laboratories.