With No Legislation Imminent, Companies Are Stepping in to Limit Access and Visibility of Guns

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In the wake of the tragic mass shooting that took place in Parkland, Florida last month, Americans are yet again calling for change. Many, including a group of vocal students, are demanding legislation to curb gun sales in the hope that such reform might prevent similar shootings in the future.

Stringent gun control laws don’t seem likely anytime soon; lawmakers have so far rejected calls for a ban on assault weapons. And Trump blames violent media as the basis for this tragedy.

In the absence of formal legislation, some major companies have taken it upon themselves to address the nation’s lukewarm gun control policies. Here are four ways that companies have gone about limiting the visibility of guns and their proponents, or even restricted access to them.

Breaking Up With the NRA

A number of gun control activists have pointed to the outsized power of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in shaping gun policy. “To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you!” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior Emma Gonzalez said at a recent rally at her school.

Activists don’t just want politicians to sever ties with the NRA — they want organizations of all sizes to do so, too. So far, multiple companies have elected to do so, including included Delta, United Airlines, MetLife, and Avis. In doing so, they eliminate discounts and various other benefits that NRA members previously enjoyed. Following Delta’s decision, Georgia lawmakers have come down hard the company (headquartered in Atlanta), threatening to eliminate an impending tax break that is poised to save Delta tens of millions of dollars.

Raising the Age Requirement

Following the Parkland shooting, Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that it would no longer sell assault rifles or high-capacity magazines in its store. It would also require buyers to be at least 21 years old, despite federal laws allowing people as young as 18 to buy semiautomatic rifles and other firearms.

The public’s reaction has been mixed. While some people have praised the company for its new policies, others have claimed that it was a disingenuous PR stunt, according to The New York Times. Some consumers have even boycotted the retailer  one NYT reader claimed that people no longer “realize what the second amendment is about.” 20-year-old Taylor Watson from Oregon is now suing Dick’s for refusing to sell him a gun, claiming that the store discriminated against him because of his age.

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After Dick’s changed the age at which customers can purchase guns, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, quickly followed suit, announcing on February 28 that consumers had to be at least 21 to purchase a firearm in-store. Walmart said this was part of its decision “to review our policy on firearm sales.” The company website will also be removing products resembling items that resemble assault rifles, such as air-soft guns and toy guns.

Walmart also noted that it had stopped selling sporting rifles, including the AR-15 assault rifle, back in 2015, and doesn’t sell bump stocks, high-capacity magazines or similar accessories that could be used to augment a firearm.

“We take seriously our obligation to be a responsible seller of firearms and go beyond Federal law by requiring customers to pass a background check before purchasing any firearm,” Walmart said in the press release.

Oregon’s Watson is also suing Walmart under similar claims of “age discrimination.”

Removing Guns From the Conversation

Popular dating app Bumble has also entered the fray. In March 2018, Bumble announced that users will no longer be allowed to post images of firearms (users with military or law enforcement backgrounds who appear with guns while in uniform are exempt).

Bumble CEO and founder Whitney Wolfe Herd told Time the new policy was intended to make guns seem less alluring. “We don’t want guns to be romanticized,” explained Herd. “It was time to stake a stand.”

Most people have responded positively to the company’s ban, Herd said, but there had been a number of negative comments and threats. It’s unfortunate, but Bumble probably wasn’t for those users anyway, Herd added.

“The way they reacted shows that having someone who is willing to be abusive like that probably isn’t good for our ecosystem,” she said.

Whether these companies have implemented new policies based on their own values or if they are simply the result of good business sense, it’s clear that businesses are stepping up where some members of the public feel their government representatives have failed. The coming years will likely show whether efforts such as these actually have an impact on the number of guns in circulation — or on the number of mass shootings that happen in the United States. 

The post With No Legislation Imminent, Companies Are Stepping in to Limit Access and Visibility of Guns appeared first on Futurism.

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US consumers concerned about lack of standardisation in driverless car legislation

Driverless cars are on their way, whatever speed they arrive, but according to a new study many US citizens are still concerned about various aspects of their safety.

The study from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which polled 1,005 adults living in the US, found more than three quarters opposed disconnection of vehicle controls such as steering wheels and brake pedals, while the vast majority saw concern with more general cybersecurity and safety legislation.

73% of those polled said they support the development of safety standards for new features related to the operation of driverless cars, while 81% said they supported cybersecurity rules to protect driverless cars from being hacked.

This is put alongside the Senate AV Start Act and the House Self Drive Act, two pieces of impending legislation which the report asserts do not do enough in these areas. Regarding safety standards, the report says, only ‘voluntary guidelines’ are issued for now, while both Acts have a demand that a ‘plan’ exists for cybersecurity, but no minimum requirements. “These poll numbers should be a bright, flashing hazard light to members of congress considering legislation that will set policy on driverless cars for years to come,” the press materials roared.

Other measures were given fierce approval from consumers. 84% said they supported uniform rules from the US Department of Transportation to ensure human drivers are alert in case they need to take control of the driverless car.

Yet this measure is a particularly interesting one given recent advancements from automotive vendors. Last week General Motors said it had submitted a petition to the US Department of Transportation to commence operating fully autonomous cars in a new service scheduled for 2019. In other words, the new vehicles, named Cruise AV, will have no steering wheels or pedals.

You can read the full report here (pdf).

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Senate Approves Legislation to Get Self-Driving Cars On U.S. Roads

Paving the Way

United States roadways are one step closer to being traversed by driverless cars: on September 30, the Senate announced that it had reached an agreement to lift some of the regulations on manufacturers that made it harder to get self-driving cars on the road.

“While this Senate self-driving vehicle legislation still has room for further changes, it is a product of bipartisan cooperation we both stand behind,” said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who introduced the legislation, in a joint statement.

The original bill that Peters and Thune took to the Senate, known as the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act, was broad-reaching. In addition to removing barriers to manufacture, the bill proposed enhanced safety oversight of manufacturers, as well as guidance for state and local research on traffic safety and law enforcement challenges. It proposed to strengthen cyber-security policies to protect the information and safety of drivers. The bill also included measures on automated trucking, consumer education, and protections for drivers with disabilities.

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On October 5, the Senate will announce which provisions were retained in the approved legislation.

The bill is expected to utilize some provisions from a similar bill that was passed in the House of Representatives earlier in September. That bill allowed manufacturers to produce an initial load of 25,000 cars in the first year. After three years, if they can prove that AI vehicles are at least as safe as human-directed cars, that will increase to 100,000 annually.

Jobs and More

American policymakers and manufacturers alike have been hurrying to get aboard the self-driving train—so to speak. Around the country and the world, self-driving cars are rapidly multiplying. The UK will be testing “platoons” of driverless semi trucks by the end of next year. Uber already uses them to pick up passengers in Pittsburgh and Arizona, Lyft is introducing them in San Francisco, and the city of Sacramento is seeking to make their city a driverless car testing ground. Tesla CEO Elon Musk even believes that most cars in production will be autonomous within ten years.

Yet the legal framework still isn’t in place for this transportation revolution.

“Self-driving vehicles will completely revolutionize the way we get around in the future, and it is vital that public policy keep pace with these rapidly developing lifesaving technologies that will be on our roads in a matter of years,” said Senator Peters, in his statement on the original bill. He emphasized that the industry has the potential to create thousands of new jobs.

Given that approximately 93% of all accidents have been attributed to human error, the senators and others have emphasized that self-driving cars aren’t just a job creator or a cool way to get around—they could save millions of lives.

The post Senate Approves Legislation to Get Self-Driving Cars On U.S. Roads appeared first on Futurism.

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Legislation for Looser Restriction on Self-Driving Cars Passes Unanimously

Congress has just passed a new piece of legislation that could make self-driving cars a mainstream reality much sooner.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that aims to speed up the deployment of self-driving cars. The Self Drive Act, as the bill is dubbed, will expand tech companies’ ability to test autonomous vehicle systems on public roads, and it lays out a roadmap for the research and development of autonomous systems, Reuters reported.

The Self Drive Act will allow companies to start deploying self-driving vehicles without meeting existing safety standards — such as the requirement that autonomous vehicles must have a human controller at the wheel. The legislation would also place control of self-driving regulations firmly in the hands of federal lawmakers, as it will block states from barring self-driving vehicle testing. When it rolls out, the bill will allow for firms to field up to 25,000 in the first year, with that cap potentially rising to 100,000 vehicles annually over three years.

But the bill will also require automakers to be transparent about their approach to privacy and security. According to the Washington Post, that’s been a key concern since researchers demonstrated just how easily cars can be hacked and commandeered remotely. The Self Drive Act also seeks to amend Department of Transportation regulations concerning the definition of certain car parts. For example, language dictating the additions of steering wheels and brake pedals could conflict with self-driving cars that don’t have those components.

The legislation isn’t law just yet, however. Before it comes into effect, the Senate has to approve its own version of the bill. There’s currently no timeline on when that could be, as Congress’ agenda is already filled with arguably higher-profile issues such as taxes and immigration, WaPo reported. Still, it’s an important first step that could help autonomous vehicles enter the market much quicker.

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EU legislation abolishing roaming charges finally comes into effect today

In February this year, it was announced that new EU legislation would abolish roaming charges. Citizens of EU member states, as with anywhere else, have always had to pay exorbitant fees to use their mobiles abroad. Each country has certain networks that offer better roaming deals, but on average the costs have been immense. Thankfully, that all stops today, as the new ‘Roam like at Home’ law comes into effect.

EU citizens will now be able to call, send texts, and use mobile data in any of the 28 countries of the European Union at no extra cost.

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