New York Times on Biometric Guns: What’s Worse Than Willfully Ignorant?

 Joe Nocera (courtesy nytimes.com)

So there I was, rocking up to Casserta’s pizza with my young ‘un, when the Batphone starts playing the Marimba. Lola rolls her eyes. It’s New York Times’ columnist Joe Nocera, the man I’d taken to the woodshed for failing to include defensive gun uses (DGUs) in his daily roll call of “gun violence.” So I order a small cheese pizza and a spinach pie and Joe and I get into it. “We include DGUs when they show up,” Joe says on the blower. “What do you mean ‘show up’?” I ask. “We Google search ‘shooting’,” he says. “That’s where we get our stories.” “So, Joe, how about you Google search ‘shooting self-defense‘? I counter, wondering if anyone could be so completely biased that they don’t even know they’re biased. Nah. It’s not like that. It’s worse . . .

I’m belching Coke Zero, Lola’s playing Temple Run and Joe’s ready to get to the point.

“What possible reason could anyone have for not accepting biometrically-protected guns?” Joe asks. “It’s not like it’s a Second Amendment issue.”

Nice. A question that says “anything you say can and will be regarded with contempt” combined with a statement that says the questioner has already made up his mind, anyway.

“Gun owners want a gun that they can rely on,” I tell him. “It’s a matter of life or death. A lot of them don’t even like lasers.

“As far as the Second Amendment goes, gun owners don’t believe the government has the right to tell them what kind of gun they can or cannot buy, whether that’s an ‘assault rifle’ or a gun with a biometric lock.”

“But there’s nothing that stops the government from doing it,” Joe counters.

Believe it or not, Joe brings up the Second Amendment on his computer and reads it to me. I ask him what part of “shall not be infringed” he doesn’t understand. He counters the freedom argument by pointing out that we have seat belt laws.

At this point, my spinach pie arrives. I don’t want to debate Joe on 2A because A) he’s not listening and B) Lola’s pissed that her pizza isn’t ready at the same time and her patience meter for Daddy’s business call is running out.

Fast forward to this morning and click here to read Joe’s column on biometrically-protected firearms. And here’s the bit about why they’re a bad idea:

Why aren’t these lifesaving technologies in widespread use? No surprise here, either: The usual irrational opposition from the National Rifle Association and gun absolutists, who claim, absurdly, that a gun that only can be fired by its owner somehow violates the Second Amendment. Pro-gun bloggers were furious when they saw James Bond, in “Skyfall,” proudly showing off his new biometrically protected weapon. They were convinced it was a Hollywood plot to undermine their rights.

There’s ignorance, willful ignorance and propaganda. I don’t know if Nocera’s column, Saving Children From Guns, qualifies as anti-gun agitprop but if it doesn’t, what does? Anyway, the pizza was worth the wait.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

98 Responses to New York Times on Biometric Guns: What’s Worse Than Willfully Ignorant?

  1. TO: Whomever
    RE: HOW…..

    ….do I get a direct line to ‘Joe’?

    I’ve got an ear-full that will cause him to bleed-from-the-eyes.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)

  2. avatarTodd Price says:

    While I agree that the idea of *requiring* biometric weapons violates the spirit of the 2nd Amendment and should not be required, if such a technology was fairly robust and reasonably priced, I would consider such an investment for some of my firearms.

    • avatarBrian says:

      ‘fairly’? What failure rate would you accept? I think I will look at it when law enforcement and the military test it out for about a dozen years or so. Then I might consider it.

      • avatarrosignol says:

        I’ll use it in my guns when the guys protecting the President use it on theirs.

        • avatarresidentCT says:

          Honestly a scary technology, imagine being able to jam the gun electronics and effectively disarm someone. Oh, then jammers could just be made illegal. If I was a cop or in the military, I sure wouldn’t want to be a guinea pig.

    • avatarcrndl says:

      camel’s nose under the tent :(

    • avatarjohn Doesky says:

      Todd,
      A biometric gun HAS to have a mechanical element at the end of its “smarts” to either block or allow firing. Any mechanical element will be able to be circumvented, broken, or disabled by a myriad of methods by someone of the mental capacity of a young teenager. With that fact, what do you hope to achieve with a biometric gun?

    • avatarHowdy says:

      As long as everybody is able to choose for themselves whether they want them or not. No government interference or concessions.

  3. That’s one of the trade offs with moving to Texas: no one does pizza right. Or bagels, for that matter. It’s easier to get a date with a supermodel than find someone who does a good New York style Sicilian slice.

    • avatarRalph says:

      Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a few slices of the square pizza from Spumoni Gardens.

    • avatarC says:

      You do it, Leghorn! Where’s your entrepreneurial spirit?!

      • avatarBrock says:

        Or, like firearms, pizza and bagels can be mastered by those who chose to take the time. I would bet, even in Texas, an oven and mixer could be procured.

      • avatarOld Ben turning in grave says:

        Matter of what you grew up eating. Make real NY pizza, and the Texas crowd may not like it (though there may be enough people from the east coast there to float it soon enough). Like trying to get a good Baja style fish taco in PA. I could make them, but who would buy them in the SE PA?

    • avatarg says:

      Pizza, Bagels, and Guns! Sounds like a perfect business for an ex-New Yorker to open in Texas…

    • avatarDavid says:

      If it’s the food that causes irrational thinking in the liberal areas of our country then I think you should change your diet to BBQ and Tex-Mex! And export some to your friends behind enemy lines. Who knows, it might change their thinking long enough for them to actually be able to reason like an adult. :-)

    • avatarRebecca says:

      Learn to make your own pie. Alton Brown can show you how. Homemade is vastly superior to anything you buy from a pizza shop – even a mom-n-pop venture.

      • avatarEthanB says:

        Pizza, Alton Brown reference, Gun Blog….you’re awesome.

        Also, +1

        Furthermore, Hill Country water should make pretty good pizza dough since its fairly hard and fortified with various minerals. On the down side you can’t get much worse than what’s out there already.

        Homemade pizza brings all the girls to the yard, at least in the case of my wife.

    • avatarIn Memphis says:

      I hear you Nick. In Connecticut plenty of places do pizza right. Around Memphis, pizza is usually followed by Hut. Russos in Germantown is by far the best I have found out here, glad its only a few miles away

    • avatarPyratemime says:

      Well you are in luck. There is a Chicago style pizzeria on Potranco and 151 next to Smash Burger. In luck because Chicago style pizza > NY style any day. =)

    • Yeah, but the Mexican food in Texas is to die for. Except around Dallas, where the Mexican food is a poor imitation of what you can get in San Antonio or Houston. Having lived many places in this country, from coast to coast and many points in between, I find Texas pizza less insulting than so-called Mexican food served up elsewhere in the country. Give up authentic New York pizza for Texas Mexican food? That’s a good trade. Besides, New York pizza won’t be so good once that idiot Bloomberg gets done “improving” it, for your own sake.

  4. avatarRalph says:

    What’s worse than “”Willfully Ignorant? I suggest “Dumber than a Box of Hammers.”

  5. avatarDavidT says:

    When they can come up with a biometric technology that both the police and the military would be willing to accept on their own firearms, I might consider the same technology for mine, key word being might. Until that time please keep your electronics (with the possible exception of optics when I could have a backup) away from my firearms. And, no, I am not a Luddite, I just have experience with electronics and know that they tend to fail without warning, usually when you need it the most.

    • avatarJayF says:

      Nocera is probably wrong when he writes:

      “In mid-April, Representative John Tierney, a Massachusetts Democrat, plans to introduce a House bill requiring that all guns include personalization technology within two years.”

      I predict that this legislation will EXEMPT guns for police. That’s NOT “all guns.”

      • avatarCarlosT says:

        Let the police pilot the technology. If it can really be relied upon, they should be clamoring for it, since a significant number of cops are killed with their own guns every year. Why wouldn’t they want that number to be zero?

    • avatarDaveL says:

      My thoughts exactly. The police in particular are often called upon to grapple close-in with unruly characters who might try to grab their sidearm. If this technology were reasonably reliable and affordable, they would have a million and one reasons to use it.

      But they don’t.

      Because it’s not.

  6. avatarIn Memphis says:

    Yes Skyfall, good example of an anti-gun celebrity making their living off of Hollywood violence and lies. FOAD Daniel Craig. By the way, wasnt he in a WWII era movie where he helped Jews evade and resist the Nazis?

  7. avatarMikeyCNY says:

    By Joe Nocera’s logic, why don’t police officers use biometric guns? According to the FBI (http://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-releases-preliminary-statistics-for-law-enforcement-officers-killed-in-2010), almost 13% of LEOs killed in 2010 were killed with their own gun.

    • avatarStevenC says:

      Do as I say not as I do of course…Plus anyone who has ever used Biometrics knows that they do not always work right. I know this from my work experiences finger print readers should go and die somewhere.

  8. avatarEmancipator144 says:

    Weapons are already prone to mechanical errors… Why add more? I still don’t see how it would deter any crimes either, seeing how it would be sold on newer legal guns.

    • avatarcrndl says:

      +1, and also reference Robert’s video about the malfunctioning S&W lock…if that can succumb to Murphy’s Law, what else can?

  9. avatarSkyler says:

    Sure, that’s all nice, Robert, but spinach pie?!?

  10. Pizza with your daughter? Priceless.

    Oh, wait. There was a phone call from a liberal anti-gunner? Oh.

    Pizza with your daughter, priceless.

    –It’s good to focus on what matters now and again. :)

    I will admit I gigglesnorted when you said he pulled up the Second Amendment on his computer. Not to sound trite, but damn…he doesn’t have it memorized by now, seeing how he spends so much time trying to vandalize it? Yeesh.

  11. avataranonymous says:

    > Pro-gun bloggers were furious when they saw James Bond,
    > in “Skyfall,” proudly showing off his new biometrically protected weapon.

    * * * BEGIN SPOILER ALERT * * *

    Bond loses his biometric PPK about half-way through the movie.

    The one he receives after that does not have a biometric device.

    In the movie’s finale, he gives his non-biometric PPK to M so she can defend herself from the bad guys hunting her. If he still had the biometric PPK, M would not have been able to use it.

    I’m sure this point was not lost on the screenwriters.

    * * * END SPOILER ALERT * * *

  12. avatarPantera Vazquez says:

    Biometric guns-PFFFT. Here’s a scenario-you are at home with wifey chilling out-Bad guys kick your door in, you and wifey hide behind sofa, you open fire, bad guy gets lucky shot and pops you. Wifey-who always went to the range with you picks up your gun which now goes click. Bad guys close door…………………………

  13. avatarC says:

    If you expect technology to work reliably, you’re gonna have a bad time.

  14. avataranonymous says:

    > “What possible reason could anyone have for not accepting
    > biometrically-protected guns?” Joe asks. “It’s not like it’s
    > a Second Amendment issue.”

    What reason could anyone have for not accepting biometrically-protected cameras, microphones, computers, etc? It’s not like it’s a First Amendment issue…

    …unless some government or corporation remotely revokes the security certificate on your biometric device because they don’t like what you’re publishing.

    For some reason, this made me think of the novel Moscow 2042 (written in 1986 before the collapse of Soviet communism). The time-travelling author goes into the future, where censorship no longer exists in the Soviet Union. Authors are free to write whatever they want; they’re just not permitted to have paper in their typewriters.

    • avatarcrndl says:

      what possible reason could anyone have for not reading the 2nd amendment before causing himself further public embarrassment? :)

  15. avatarRuss Bixby says:

    While I like biometrics on server room doors, I’ll have ‘em on firearms when they force ‘em into my cold, dead hands.

    • avatarPantera Vazquez says:

      Hey Russ I see you decided to stay after all.

      • avatarRuss Bixby says:

        Yeah. It pokes me when RF uses liberal as a swear word, but I shouldn’t have flown off the handle.

        Very few decisions should be made at stupid o’clock in the morning, and e-mail written after midnight should seldom be sent before morning coffee.

        Consider my ass-hat acknowledged and removed, in all head-hanging, sheepish humility.

        Russ

        • avatarPantera Vazquez says:

          We are all humans-none of us is perfect. Do not be cowed just because there are those that disagree with you. I for one, while I may have my point of view, welcome others-even those I disagree with. That dear Russ is one of the caveats of freedom of expression. Besides-arguing issues can sometimes allow a person to truly see it from the other side, something not made possible by hanging around with “yes-folk”. once again, welcome back………..

      • avataranonymous says:

        > Consider my ass-hat acknowledged and removed

        Even though I am not a liberal, and have no love for the Donkeyrats, I did not consider your rant to be objectionable.

        Some of the responses to your e-mail, on the other hand, made me cringe, and reminded me why I left the gun-rights movement 10 years ago (returning briefly for the last few months).

        I really wish the gun-rights movement could separate itself from the rest of the right-wing B.S. But that’s a whole ‘nother rant.

    • avataranonymous says:

      > While I like biometrics on server room doors

      It always takes me 2 or 3 attempts with the biometric reader to open our data center door.

  16. avatarShenandoah says:

    Robert,

    Speaking of “life-saving technologies,” have you guys heard much about the success/failure of the gun shot signature tracing technology in use in some bigger cities? I remember it being all the rage among inner city police chiefs last year, but haven’t heard a peep about it in quite a while. Did it turn out to be a failure? Do they ever catch perps using this technology? And, is it something that has the potential to be abused to the detriment of lawful gun owners?

    Thanks

    • avatarJMS says:

      We had “shot spotter” in the part of San Francisco that I lived in, and it worked quite well, actually. Not only were police instantly notified of gunshots and the location of the shots down to a few feet, but they also had audio recordings of the shots (was there one shooter or two, was it the police who shot first or the criminal? I saw these questions definitively answered with the recordings.). This neighborhood is arguably the worst in San Francisco and has a big gang presence. People don’t call the police when they hear gunshots. Shot Spotter got the cops to the right place immediately — as in, the location of the shots was automatically transmitted to their cars almost instantaneously. It does work. When I first moved into the neighborhood, I would EXPECT to hear gunshots if I stayed up after midnight. Truly. Most nights. Excellent police work helped a lot, but incidents of gunfire definitely dropped after the Shot Spotter system was installed. The last couple years I was there, I only heard gunfire rarely — once every couple weeks or even less. I attribute that not only to the sheer presence of police cruisers regularly wandering around the area and police on foot and bicycle on the main drag(s), but to the fact that they were able to respond almost immediately to the exact correct location of a gunshot after the Shot Spotter system was installed.

      Now… the day that they turned it on and calibrated it… well… I was armed up and on guard for a few minutes until I realized what was up. Somehow I missed the notice, and the cops were driving around and firing off three blanks at every intersection haha. I thought there was some crazy gang war going on hahaha

      BTW I never heard of false positives, and I read the police reports for the district every single week for years. Even fireworks and stuff don’t fool the system. Not sure how it works and never really thought about it much, but these systems DO work. I consider myself pretty libertarian and would not want cameras all around. I like my freedom. But, I never had a problem with this system. Even if I used my gun in a self defense scenario, I’d want the police to know about it and be on their way without me needing to call (especially if wounded, etc)… especially knowing the neighbors aren’t going to call.

      • avatarRalph says:

        Does the system detect shots fired indoors, or only on the street? And if it detects indoor shots, how much more sensitive would it have to be to detect conversations?

        • avatarRopingdown says:

          Conversations are already covered by access to cell phone microphones, though use of that tech requires a warrant or a NSD. Why bother duplicating?

      • avatarMichael B. says:

        Did the number of fatal stabbings and beatings increase?

    • avatarCarry.45 says:

      I don’t quite see how this could affect lawful gun owners because I’m sure there a restrictions on discharging a firearm within city limits. So say a gun owner uses their weapon defensively, all that will do is summon the police without a phone call. So unless you’re thinking some batman stuff this couldn’t be used to harass legitimate gun owners.

      • avatarShenandoah says:

        As JMS pointed out it looks like this technology can be put to good use. I don’t know the veracity of this stat, but I read somewhere that if you commit murder in Chicago you have something like a 75% chance of getting away with it, so something like this that enables a more rapid police response could help put more wanksters behind bars.

        My skepticism was more driven by the possibility of false positives and police knocking on an innocent person’s door at 2:30 am because the computer told them to. But, again referencing JMS it looks like that hasn’t been a problem so far.

        Still a little creepy and Big Brotherish, and I don’t want it to creep into suburbia and beyond, but I do see the benefits in some cities.

        • avatarJMS says:

          It’s definitely a little bit Big Brotherish, but I lived with it for 4 years (6 in the neighborhood, 4 w/ the shot spotter running) and I never heard of a single issue being caused by the system — issues like false positives or undue harassment, etc. Of course, the police in this district were really quite excellent. I certainly have some good stories, including me pulling my shotgun on an undercover cop who was in my neighbor’s back yard (and he was fine with it), but that’s for a different place.

          Here’s the recording of a shooting that I remember. You can just barely here the pop of the BG’s .25 cal Jennings or whatever it was, and then you can clearly hear the more powerful police Sigs firing back: http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/2011/07/19/audiochart-bayview-hunters-point-gunshots-according-to-sfpd-recording-system/

          It’s certainly not sensitive enough to hear indoor conversations and probably not indoor gunshots unless you happened to be right near a microphone (I believe there’s basically one mic per intersection, at the top of a power pole or the like). You can hear traffic in this recording, which was taken right on the busiest street at the busiest intersection in the district, which is where the shooting happened.

          The fatal shot? The BG shot over his shoulder at the cops while running away from them. The coroner said the fatal hit was that one. He shot himself through side of his neck, just far enough towards the middle to get his artery and he bled out. It was a really crazy scene there for a week afterwards.

  17. avatarIn Memphis says:

    Okay so lets say we are outside and it has been raining. You get in to a situation where you need your gun, maybe you drop it in the mud. It will most likley still fire once or twice (13+ x if its a Glock lol) but what about the scanner getting crudded up? Ohh, good idea, electronics.

  18. avatarNS says:

    New Haven, CT does pizza better than New York can ever hope to

  19. avatarNS says:

    and here’s the crux of the issue.

    If we have biometric smart guns:

    how can owners sell their guns?
    how can you take your kids shooting?
    how can gun companies make these guns and still price them to be affordable?
    how can gun owners afford this?
    how can shooting ranges rent guns?
    how can we be sure that any of this stops someone from shooting others?
    how can we know that this power won’t be abused?
    how can we know that these are tamper proof?

    of course the answer is that the goal of these devices is to price guns out of existence. Nothing else is taken into account because nothing else matters to antis but making guns less prevalent. Results be damned

  20. Respectfully, RF,

    Please don’t limit your discussions with your telephone pen pal Nocera to DGUs with shooting only. Read this post someone I know placed on Nocera’s blog 3/17/13. The no-shoot DGU is harder to verify but it must be way, way more prevalent.

    Also, in Skyfall the biometric lock was effectively invalidated as a concept late in the film when the bad guys attacked a Parliamentary hearing and Bond kicked loose guns to responding cops (battlefield pickups) to take on the intruders.

    Thanks for listening.

    LeftShooter

    On 3/14 Mr. Nocera talked about finding fodder for this blog and the occasional Defensive Gun Use (DGUs) by Googling “shooting” every day and reviewing gun injuries and deaths. Maybe not the best way to find what we firearms instructors call the “best DGUs.” Here’s a link to a Milwaukee story of a former Marine with a concealed carry (CCW) permit who stopped a vicious beating and saved a woman—without firing a shot. http://fox6now.com/2013/03/12/marine-with-concealed-carry-permit-stops-man-from-beating-woman/

    A good guy with a gun stopped the bad guy: Happy ending.

    We understand and teach that it’s not about shooting; it’s about keeping yourself and others from harm. (The best gunfight is the one you avoid; the best DGU is to draw and discourage or contain. We know legal action may attach to every bullet that leaves the barrel and we try to avoid it at all costs. We don’t have the municipal protections police do.) We do studiously practice shooting, though, since we know that carrying a gun is a grave responsibility and if we do need to draw and fire, we need to ensure to the greatest extent possible that our bullets go exactly where we mean them to go and nowhere else. We know that our lives and the lives of others may depend on it. Of note, the people in my circle train WAY more than any police.

    That’s our standard and we train to it. Is it always maintained? Unfortunately, no. But considering that there are > 8M CCWs, the rate of incidents are incredibly low.

  21. avatarBrian Z says:

    Also, would a biometric reader coded for the right hand work when using the left?

  22. avatarJeff says:

    The gun grabbers can’t make up their minds. Not long ago they said the 2nd Amendment only pertains to muskets. Now they want to require biometric guns? I wonder what non logical argument they will use next.

  23. avatarDon Curton says:

    Your first stated objection was reliability? Thus implying that if only modern technology would catch up then you would be fine with it. Bad answer. Ten years down the road when it works just fine and every police force mandates it, what will your argument be then?
    You need to tie this in to something stronger. After all, biometrics may make sense to some people in some situations. It’s more a question of freedom to choose the best answer for your self rather than a govt imposed regulation. We should come up with a nifty slogan to capture the intent. Maybe Pro-Choice? It just sounds so positive and affirming.

  24. avatarWassim Absood says:

    Biometric Firearms: Because ‘Blue Screen of Death’ really ought to be more literal.

  25. avatarDave says:

    Joe could be referred to keepandbeararms.org for self-defense stories. Even if they don’t pass whatever statistical muster he requires for publication, he may at least get a better idea of DGU for himself.

  26. avatarDave says:

    With biometric guns, it’s quite easy really. As soon as many police departments adopt them, we’ll know the technology is mature enough.

  27. avatarCarry.45 says:

    As far as biometrics go I say uh uh. The pros are eclipsed by the cons. Not to mention I’m pretty sure I’d have nightmares about needing my weapon and seeing those three flashing red lights that means its not going to fire.(skyfall reference) and it had also crossed my mind as a little fluffing for the biometrics argument.

  28. avataros2 says:

    As far as seat belt laws are mentioned – if seat belt fails one can still drive but if a biometric device fails one can’t shoot the damn gun.
    Big difference here

  29. avatarGH from Boise says:

    He also played a Nazi wannabe in “The Power of One.”

  30. avatarjohn Doesky says:

    It must take the patience of Job to not just blurt out….”Joe, you’re such a stupid douche bag”

  31. avatarhtom says:

    It’s the “not” part of “shall not be infringed.”, as if it’s set in invisible type.

  32. avatargoose says:

    I saw this tool on “morning joe” today. That show is pretty much a liberal circle jerk and “joe” who is supposed to be a conservative is frequently not there and even when he is he is more of a RINO. Nocera is so weak and intellectually lazy it’s hard to imagine even the NYT giving him a forum. Another person with no experience or knowledge writing about something he has no business commenting on. His photo pretty much says it all- one can only imagine him pontificating while sitting at a wine bar on the upper west side and whining about how they can’t find a decent maid.

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