TTAG’s blogged the development of so-called “smart guns” for years. With President Obama’s executive order paving the way for government agencies to deploy guns requiring electronic owner identification of one sort or another, the issue is back in the news. As a free market guy, I see no reason why “smart guns” shouldn’t be available for sale. As a gun guy, I see lots of reason why you should never buy one. Here are my top three . . .
1. “Smart guns” will never be foolproof – and you’re the fool
I don’t care how much you’ve trained for a defensive gun use. When the excrement hits the rotating air circulation device, you’re an awkward fool. For one thing, a massive adrenaline dump moves blood away from your extremities (a hard-wired reaction to protect you from bleeding). As the Rabbi puts it, fingers turn to flippers. Fine motor skills go bye-bye.
For another, your cognitive abilities (i.e. higher brain functions) go walkies. The idea of adding an extra step to the process of armed self-defense is inherently, not to say profoundly dangerous. (The main reason you should never carry an unloaded gun.) A “smart gun” that requires any additional manipulation — including precise hand placement — is potentially catastrophic.
“Smart gun” developers know this. That’s why they’re trying to develop supposedly foolproof firearms.
At least one potential manufacturer has developed a weapon requiring an access code for initial activation. Others have opted for systems dependent on a functioning watch (as above) or ring. The danger of a mechanical or behavioral malfunction in those systems is pretty obvious.
Most “smart gun” makers are working on creating guns with automatic user identification embeded in the firearm, usually relying on your finger or palm print. When you grab your gun the system recognizes you and “allows” you to fire the weapon.
Any gun-mounted user identification system would have to be lightning quick and 100 percent foolproof. It would have to work under all conditions, including temperature variations and in the event of a bad (i.e., poor or emergency) grip.
By the same token, a fingerprint or palm print recognition system will be defeated if you’re wearing a glove or your finger or hand is covered in a substance preventing recognition. A substance like…blood. Gunfights can be bloody affairs. Now what?
If you believe that a foolproof “smart gun” is a possibility, consider the fact that existing guns — machines which rely on simple, highly evolved mechanical processes — can and do fail. For example, I shot a Smith & Weson revolver where a basic mechanical lock seized up in the middle of a string of fire. Magazine failures are relatively common (the reason you should always carry a spare).
In other words, guns already aren’t foolproof. No matter how well designed and manufactured, adding an electronic system on top of the mechanical functions increases the risk of a malfunction. Some people will be willing to accept that risk. You shouldn’t. You should take responsibility for your firearm’s security. Period.
2. “Smart guns” are personalized — and that’s a problem
The “smart gun” concept: you and only you should be able to fire your gun. There are potential circumstances where you’d want someone else to fire your gun. For example, you could be incapacitated during a gunfight. Someone like a friend, family member or nearby good guy could use your gun to save your life. Unless they can’t because it’s “smart.” By the same token, you might want to use someone else’s gun to save your or someone else’s life. Remember: you’re not a cop. You may find yourself in a chaotic self-defense scenario where you need to take possession of the bad guy’s or a fellow innocent’s gun.
What are the odds of this happening? About the same as the odds of a revolver locking up. Which is to say extremely low, but not impossible. Smaller than the odds of an authorized user taking your gun and using it to commit suicide or a crime? Probably. Again, it’s up to you. Again, your gun’s security is your responsibility.
3. “Smart guns” are open to outside interference
Any electronic device is open to “jamming.” Admittedly, your average criminal is unlikely to carry a gun jamming device — if only because his or her intended victims could still have a “dumb” gun. Unlikely, but not outside the realm of possibility. And don’t forget that there is such a thing as an above average criminal.
The greater danger: police could use a jammer to disable your natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to use a firearm for self-defense. Make no mistake, if guns can be jammed, the government will have jammers. Who’s going to [successfully] argue that people guarding sensitive locations like schools and nuclear power plants shouldn’t equip themselves or the facilities with electronic gun jammers?
Even if your “smart gun” isn’t jammed, it could be remotely monitored. The NSA’s enthusiasm for cell phone interception indicates that the government is ready, willing and able to remotely monitor “smart guns.” If you’re one of those people who believes “If I’m doing nothing wrong, I have nothing to worry about,” by all means, carry a “smart gun.” If you’re not, don’t.
Something to think about. Meanwhile, I’ll just leave this here: the road to hell is paved with good intentions.