Pew Poll Shows “Smart” Guns Could Cost Thousands of Lives

Smart Guns

courtesy popsci.com

Among those who dearly desire a disarmed populace, any measure that makes firearms harder to access, possess, and use is considered a positive thing.

Thus, equipping firearms with with complex, delicate electronic circuitry, that only allows certain users, possibly at certain times and in certain places, to fire a gun is being promoted as something that can save lives. Never mind that none of this technology actually exists yet in any reliable form. Or that it would price guns out of reach for many buyers.

 

This is a one sided argument that pointedly ignores the fact that widespread adoption of “smart” gun technology can and will cost lives.

According to a Pew poll published in June of 2017, one percent of people who say they have never owned a gun, have used one for defensive purposes. Seventeen percent of current gun owners say they have used a gun for defensive purposes, and nine percent of people who owned guns in the past have used one for defensive purposes, as defined in the Pew poll question.

Pew found 30 percent of adults in the United States admit to owning a firearm. Forty-nine percent of the remaining 70% say they’ve never owned a gun. One percent of those say they have used a gun for defensive purposes. That’s about 840 thousand adults who say they have used one for defensive purposes, who also say they never owned a gun.

 

How many of those adults would have been prevented from defending themselves if gun use were limited by “smart” gun technology?

The claim that thousands of lives would be saved by smart guns rests on the assumption that many illegitimate uses of guns would be prevented, while legitimate uses of guns would be unimpaired.

Very few suicides would be prevented. The vast majority of suicides are committed with a gun owned by the person committing suicide, so widespread adoption of smart gun technology wouldn’t stop gun owners from shooting themselves.

If a person can’t access a gun, many other methods are readily available. In Australia, when access to guns was made more difficult, single vehicle crashes and suicide by hanging increased to offset the decrease in suicide by gun.

Similarly, very few murders would be prevented. Most murders are committed by people with a long history of violent, irresponsible behavior. Murders are deliberate acts. Very few murders are committed with guns that are accessed only moments before the crime is committed.

And very few accidents would be prevented. There are only about 450 fatal firearm accidents in the US each year. Most of them occur with adults who have access to firearms, but who are irresponsible in their actions. Electronics won’t stop irresponsible behavior.

Very few murders involve criminals who take guns from the hands of police or armed victims. The number of police shot with their own gun used to be higher, around 20%. Retention holsters and retention training has significantly reduced those numbers.  In the last 10 years, the number of officers who have been killed with their own weapons has averaged 2.2 per year.  2.2 per year is a little more than 4%. It is very far from thousands a year.

To the contrary, complicated electronics installed on firearms would cost lives through a higher failure rate. Guns are a safety tool for life and death situations. No one is suggesting installing complex electronics to control the-use fire extinguishers.

Smart guns are inherently more expensive than mechanical, time-tested designs. More expensive guns means fewer poor people will be able to afford them.

At the heart of the issue is a divide over whether guns provide a net benefit or a net detriment to society.

Those who have made the decision to own a firearm, don’t want “smart” guns. They see them as unnecessarily complicated with electronics that can fail when the gun is needed most. They are wary of complicated electronics that might have bugs or “back doors” allowing the gun to be rendered useless. And they don’t want to trust their life to potential battery failures.

Those who have made the decision to be unarmed see “smart” guns as yet another way to prevent guns from being used.

The Pew numbers show hundreds of thousands of people who have never owned guns, but who have used them for defensive purposes.

Many of those people could have been prevented from doing so if the guns they used had the electronic circuitry in place to severely limit who use them. “Smart” guns are more likely to cost lives than to save them.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

Gun Watch

comments

  1. avatar Disgruntled Floridian says:

    Ironic. Smart guns are dumb guns.

    1. avatar Binder says:

      No they are not, they have roles. In situations that have a extreme risk of being disarmed. For example, prison guards who are in direct contact with the population or possibly during transportation.

      1. avatar Leighton Cavendish says:

        As long as you can register all the guards to use all the weapons…sure
        and we know electronics never fail and can’t be blocked or hacked…right?../s
        maybe for range guns…register and delete user each time…have memory automatically wipe after limited time
        perhaps after the Secret Service, FBI, military adopt it 100%….

        1. avatar Binder says:

          Dude, do you just hate smart-guns because of NJ or just mental. Were did you come up with your rant. I’m just pointing out that there are use cases were a “smart gun” will make sense. I have a relatives that are prison guards, and the idea of losing control of a weapon their #1 concern. The idea of a “smart gun” is huge for them. Even if the “gun” is a less-lethal weapon.

        2. avatar Indiana Tom says:

          I have a relatives that are prison guards, and the idea of losing control of a weapon their #1 concern. The idea of a “smart gun” is huge for them.
          Well, then not only the guns they use at the prison should be smart, but all the guns used by the government should be smart enabled as well. Oh, and their private guns should be smart enabled as well. The should be brave pioneers going into a brave new world!

        3. avatar Indiana Tom says:

          perhaps after the Secret Service, FBI, military adopt it 100%….
          See, you have caught the spirit!

        4. avatar Fred says:

          Seems like a problem solved with different weapons or tactics. Like maybe keeping the armed officer outside mr.grabby hands while an unarmed officer escorts them, or using a taser with smart gun technology in it.
          If you’re in a situation where you need a gun to work reliably then you probably don’t want an electronic trigger lock in it.

        5. avatar Binder says:

          You know what Fred, you are right. But the reason they uses those techniques is because there is no other option with current technology.

      2. avatar Are you kidding me says:

        You just made a case for a Limited Use weapon. Not a general use weapon. Consequently, smart guns should be regulated so that only people that need it can carry it, such as your relative, the prison guard.

        1. avatar Binder says:

          “Consequently, smart guns should be regulated so that only people that need it can carry it” OK so how is the NOT and anti second amendment augment. “need it” , yikes.

          Again what is with all this hate. Someone said that they are useless, so I gave and example.

          The problem is that both sides (pro and anti) think smart guns are something that they are not. They are more of a level 5 retention holster. And the fact that both sides think that they are anything more than that makes both sides look stupid.

      3. avatar Jeh says:

        Prison guards should never have guns….except for shotguns shooting rubber bullets or gas cannisters.

        1. avatar Whyaretheresomanypopups says:

          Tower guards should have rifles and prisoner transporting between facilities/Court or medical care.

  2. avatar Mark says:

    Another issue would be the inevitable electronic failure of a smart gun that allows a weapon to be fired by someone unauthorized.
    Someone will eventually leave such a weapon unsecured literally betting someone’s life on the electronics.
    And sure as hell someone will pick it up and play with it ignoring the basic rules of firearms safety. And someone will get shot.
    So who do you think will be responsible?

    1. avatar MDB says:

      Other gun owners and the NRA will be held responsible of course.

      Obviously Smart Guns won’t be safe enough for simple civilians, and they’ll have to be banned as well, for the children…

    2. avatar Binder says:

      So what do you recommend that no one can get into in a half hour? I personalty understand that if my kid REALLY wants to get to my guns, there is no way to stop him. I will know about it him getting to them, but how can you stop him? Really I would love to hear your answer.

  3. avatar Swarf says:

    Hey, I am all for smart guns. I’d love to have one… after at least 5 major metropolitan police departments, the enforcement branch of the ATF, and the Secret Service have been using them for 10 years with no major complaints.

    Until then, keep your janky, easily hackable bullshit “off my body.”

    1. avatar Ranger Rick says:

      The first use of “smart guns” should be made mandatory for law enforcement only. They are the most professionally competent to prove the concept.

      1. avatar California Richard says:

        I want P-Ditty, 50 Cent, and the ATF to prove the concept. They are the only ones professional and compitent enough to use that weapon.

    2. avatar TheUnspoken says:

      I am all for smart guns: electronic triggers linked to tracking and aiming systems, maybe as part of an electronically launched primer or a rail gun, or laser weapon, with night vision, infared, maybe a defensive drone cloud. And maybe if it is doing all that it can include a personal assistant (Google, Cortana, etc) who can recognize my voice and chat with me while I attack my foes… Or enemy training drones on the proving target range. Still I like retro stuff so I will want to keep my old classic guns

      But a “smart” gun with electronic locks isn’t exactly an exciting or useful addition. Personal weapon technology is still very mechanical and chemistry driven, and still heavily attached to early and mid 1900s tech, a smart weapon should look to get beyond that. Otherwise we are going to end up like Firefly, roaming the Galaxy with mare’s legs, Navy or army revolvers, and surplus/3D printed G36s.

      Either way, I expect to face this scenario: “ok Google, blast Terminator robot before he kills me!” “ok, playing ‘Last Terminator’ movie on your holoscreen.” Arg…

      1. avatar Swarf says:

        Was that directed at me? You think a nonelectronic, magnetically-activated-by-a-decoder-ring gimmick no one uses and no one but you has heard of constitutes ten years of problem free use by major departments across a wide spectrum of government agencies?

        Because I don’t.

      2. avatar Binder says:

        Yes.

        The “Until then, keep your janky, easily hackable bullshit “off my body.”” comment shows how you “feel” about it.

        We keep putting better locks on car but they can still be stolen, so why do we bother. People break into safes all the time, so why other locking up your guns.

        The point of a “smart gun” is to keep another person from picking it up and firing it. It doesn’t matter if the gun uses unicorn farts to achieve the this.

        We should not expect that anyone who steals the gun will not be able to bypass the lock. That is almost impossible to do. And somehow the pro-gun side who KNOWS BETTER, expects a “smart gun” to do exactly that. But like the anti-gun side, the pro-gun side willing to tell any “half truth” necessity to promote our own perceived agenda.

  4. avatar GunGal says:

    “If it just saves just one life it’s worth it”

    No it’s not. I don’t allow just anyone to fire one of my pistols. It’s called a gun safe! Don’t let your kids or unstable people to know or ever see the code.
    My dad had a Colt Mustang 380 pistol in a metal box upper shelf in his closet. During the summer with my brother’s at baseball practice and mom at work. He would tell me to get that pistol if there was someone who came up to the house I didn’t know to get the pistol and stay out of sight.
    Never happened but was never afraid to be at home alone.
    After his passing, I inherited it. Recently gave it to my nephew, his grandson. Grew up to become an Austin LEO., thinking he might work night shift on rotation.
    He was happy to have it.

    1. avatar Swarf says:

      That’s a cool story, and I don’t mean that sarcastically.

  5. avatar D says:

    Every time there is an adjective in a name, it’s a lie.

    Affordable health care
    Intelligent design
    Common sense gun control
    Smart gun

    1. avatar Risky says:

      Safe Action Pistol

    2. avatar Are you kidding me says:

      This is all very 1984. The Left loves coming up with sound bits to sell garbage ideas to the populace. If the “smart gun” is such a great idea, why doesn’t the army adopt it. Then weapons captured by our enemies are worthless. Such BS. Geezzz…

      1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

        You think the police would be just gaga over smart guns as well.

  6. avatar Jim Bullock says:

    Let’s see … “social” media is more about monitoring us than enabling us, even turning features and data we use on and off. Medical e-records live all together in some big filing cabinet in the cloud, with “access controls” that keep you from seeing them whenever you want, but somehow get hacked all the time. Of course, the fact that you tried to access it, creates its own record. Vs. say, a plug-in gizmo that holds your records, that you carry around on your key chain. Somebody wants to see they, you plug it in to the port. Then your gizmo asks you: “Snoopy Tech 2.0 is asking to see your anti-biotic and contraceptive purchases for the last 5 years. You wanna show them that?”

    Meanwhile this subscription-based electronificaton of things (Bruce Schneir’s term “The Internet of brokien things.”) turns stuff you own into a subscription. And like all your data held “for” you in “services”, it creates lock-in. You gotta keep paying; keep playing along or your stalled in your tracks.

    It’s like it’s all about surveillance and control, not safety. I do wish these people would at least try to be a bit less creepy. Tinfoil hat is not a good look for me.

  7. avatar Bierce Ambrose says:

    “Updating Windows … please wait.” is not helpful when someone’s kicking in your door.

    1. avatar Geoff "Mess with the Bull, get the Horns" PR says:

      ““Updating Windows … please wait.” is not helpful when someone’s kicking in your door.”

  8. avatar neiowa says:

    30 percent of adults in the United States admit to owning a firearm. Forty-nine percent of the remaining 70% say they’ve never owned

    49% of 70%? What loon came up with this. Do you mean 34.3% of the people survey have never owned?

    So 30 admit to own and 34% have never owned. That least 36% missing. Once owned but now do not? BS. That # would be less than 5%. “I used to have a fire extinguisher but I’ve determined I’m not going to have a fire.” BS. I’ll add 30% admit and 34% don’t admit = 64% own a firearm.

    1. avatar Chris. says:

      It also includes the people who “I grew up with firearms I know all about them”. By which they mean they got to plink with Grandpappy’s .22 once or twice.

      1. avatar Klaus Von Schmitto says:

        LOL. Those people.

        I grew up with guns and shot guns all the time. Oh yea, what kind of guns? I dunno but it kicked real hard.

  9. avatar little horn says:

    there is a level of intellectual dishonesty to this argument. you basically are going off the notion that they aren’t going to test these devices before releasing them to the public. which you know is false. so you are basing your argument off fictitious, if not fabricated, results that do not exist YET. Yet is the operative word here. Yes, i know, the more you add to it the more that can go wrong, especially with electronics. this is kinda one of those things that you have to let grow to fruition, let it hit the REAL world, let the results be seen on a large scale that we did not create, then let everyone go back to the “tried and true” method.

    1. avatar Andrew Lias says:

      What computer system do you know of that’s infallible? I have worked on some of the most computer systems in the world, in the 7-8 figure cost range. Think stuff that’s of a similar paradigm to mainframes. They still fail, and the impact potential is huge. You’re talking the best systems that are available at any cost (very expensive btw) and literally have 2 of everything. Your gun won’t have 2 batteries, CPUs, actuators etc. when you buy it.

      The tech could take a decade to get right or longer if it ever does. This says nothing about the issue of user error. I mean there are documented cases of people forgetting to flip their safety off. I’ll take my chances with some steel, polymer and aluminum vs electronics.

      1. avatar Binder says:

        Andrew, I’m sorry, but do you any common sense? A MUCH better analogy would be a modern car key. And they work fine for the most part.

        1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

          they work fine for the most part.
          Uh, huh, for the most part.

        2. avatar Binder says:

          Ya, Just 99.99% of the time (as long as it is not Italian). Better than most “dumb” firearms.

    2. avatar TheUnspoken says:

      I would imagine you could make a reliable smart gun or electronically augmented weapon eventually. Red dots, night vision, illuminated scopes, these have gone through a lot of development, testing, and advocacy to get to the state they are now, where a large number of rifles, shotguns, and even pistols are used. A lot of people swear by them, though still use a backup sight, spare batteries, or backup weapon… But others prefer iron sights. Or separate guns with both.

      Still, the New Jersey mandate/poison pill dominates this discussion. And the fact that the people pushing for smart guns are conveniently the same people pushing for banning this, register that, oh and isn’t Australia the perfect model of gun ownership, repeal the second amendment… And also the same government with secret lists of citizens they think are terrorists and wants back doors to hack your iPhone, er, investigate. So yeah, that kinda kills the enthusiasm for swapping out all your dumb guns for mandated smart ones.

      1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

        And the fact that the people pushing for smart guns are conveniently the same people pushing for banning this, register that, oh and isn’t Australia the perfect model of gun ownership, repeal the second amendment… And also the same government with secret lists of citizens they think are terrorists and wants back doors to hack your iPhone, er, investigate. So yeah, that kinda kills the enthusiasm for swapping out all your dumb guns for mandated smart ones.
        Bingo! Give the man a hand, folks!

        1. avatar Binder says:

          But the people building them are not “anti-gun”. It’s just that most people think that they are going to do something that they can’t do. Smart guns are designed to prevent any person just picking it up and firing it. But in no way should you expect that the safety can’t be defeated.

          Most any security on any device can be defeated. Why would a “smart” gun be any different.

    3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      little horn,

      In order for a smart gun to have an acceptable reliability level, it would be too costly. Super mega reliable electronics and batteries are easily 20 to 50 times more expensive than consumer-grade electronics. Thus, a smart gun electronics and battery package that costs something like $15 would cost on the order of $300 to $750 in a super-reliability version. How many people want to add anywhere from $300 to $750 to the cost of a $400 handgun???

      And smart guns do absolutely ZERO to stop criminals from using them after a few hours time — the time it would take for them to leave the scene of their theft, go to a safe location, and remove the smart mechanism.

    4. avatar Occam's Laser says:

      “you basically are going off the notion that they aren’t going to test these devices before releasing them to the public. ”
      —————————————————-
      That’s EXACTLY what manufacturers (of all types of devices) ALREADY do–it’s called customer beta-testing. Even that paragon of virtue & reliability /sarc/, Gaston Glock had slam fire issues in early Gen 1 pistols, recoil spring issues in the early Gen 4s. Springfield XDs recall, Remington 700, not to mention the MOA Recalls–Remington R51…

      1. avatar Icabod says:

        Here’s the results of customer testing of a smart gun:

        “Does the Armatix operate perfectly? Well, no; we found it to be troubling at best. NRA’s tests, conducted with staffers trained by Armatix, found a number of very serious problems:
        The Armatix pistol initially required a full 20 minutes to pair with the watch, even with the aid of an IT pro trained in its use. Without pairing, the Armatix functions like any other handgun, capable of being fired by anyone.
        Once paired, a “cold start” still requires a minimum of seven push-button commands and a duration of 12 seconds before the gun can be fired.
        While the gun holds a maximum of 11 rounds (10+1), the best our experts could manage was nine consecutive rounds without a failure to fire (and that only once). Three or four misfires per magazine were common, despite using various brands of ammunition.
        Although the Armatix has a decent single-action trigger, it has the worst double-action trigger we’ve ever tested, requiring more force than any other pistol we’ve fired.
        The pistol must be within 10 inches of the watch during “start up.” This slows and complicates the use of the pistol if one hand is injured or otherwise unavailable.”

        The New Jersey law mandates that once a “smart gun” goes to sale all guns sold in the state will have such technology. Would you by this gun?

  10. avatar Texican says:

    The Pew numbers show…sentence doesn’t make sense. If people don’t own guns how could they have used them for defense? Probably missing a word or two.

    1. avatar Andrew Lias says:

      If my wife uses one of my guns for a DGU does she own it?

    2. That is the point. You do not have to own a gun to use it to defend yourself.

      If you are house-sitting for a friend, you know he has a gun there, and you use it for defense against someone breaking in.

      You happen to be the person who is closest to where a gun is stored, when you are at your friends house when he is attacked or held under gun point.

      There are plenty of scenarios where someone could use a gun for defense, where they did not own the gun.

  11. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    This says nothing of the ability of people to bypass the safety system. Mechanically I’m betting no smart gun will be dremel proof, and wasn’t the Armitix gun’s lock defeated with a magnet?

    Add a bit of JB Weld here, remove a bit of metal there bam gun’s unlocked for good. That says nothing of zapping it for a few seconds in a microwave either. Is it going to fail where it will shoot or where it won’t? Each has distinct upsides and dangers which make for a super challenging engineering compromise.

  12. avatar Rocketman says:

    It’s worse that you even think it is. Technology improves all the time. Imagine in the near future a firearm with a computer chip in it to tell anyone where the gun is at all times, just like a cell phone does now. The feds would not only have a record of your movements but also of the gun being fired.

  13. avatar Chris. says:

    Interesting too that they apparently had to rig the Glock to use a 1911 single stack magazine. So half-capacity too. (but wait, that’s a feature not a Bug.)

  14. avatar dlj95118 says:

    Let “smart guns” come to the market, then let the market decide.

    The Remington R51 debacle was a teachable moment. It came to market, the market rejected it (for various reasons), the gun was pulled from the market. Done deal.

    So let the “SGs” come. Just don’t “poison pill” or in any way force it to be my only choice on the market.

  15. avatar George from Alaska says:

    About 20 or more years ago I remember that Massad Ayoob was reviewing a handgun that was activated only when the user wore a special ring… I was not really interested but does anyone else remember anything else about this and if it was easily defeated?

    1. avatar Chris. says:

      Magna Trigger conversion.

      http://gunssavelives.net/gear/smart-guns-have-been-available-for-decades-still-not-popular-the-magna-trigger-conversion/

      How easy to defeat? Very if you know it’s there. Grab a magnet. (or once the gun is in your possession put a conventional trigger back in).

      1. avatar Binder says:

        And a cop’s retention hostler is “easy” to defeat if you know how, so I guess they should just turn them in.

        1. avatar Swarf says:

          Why are you so hung up on convincing us that this terrible idea is not terrible? Do you have a stake in some company?

          Doesn’t matter, it’s a terrible idea. Give your prison guard family member that hokey decoder ring lock and stop trying to get the rest of us killed.

  16. avatar anonymoose says:

    They crammed so much crap into that G19 that they had to retrofit it with a single-stack 1911 mag? Jeeeez…

  17. avatar SurfGW says:

    It is important that we debate with accurate numbers. That Pew poll you quote for defensive gun use can’t be accurate. 17% of gun owners claim to have used guns for self defense:
    30% of a country of 350 million are admitted gun owners = 105 million gun owners
    If 17% of gun owners used their guns in self defense, that makes over 17 million uses. Assuming that a self defense use needs to be against serious bodily harm, that gives a 17million out of 350 million or 1 out of 200 not including the 1% (2.5 million or so) of non-gun owners who used a gun for self defense.
    That calculates to a violent crime rate of 500 / 100000 which is MORE VIOLENT THAN AMY WARZONE like Syria/Iraq.
    Those numbers have to be inflated.

    1. Consider that the numbers include defense of property, and occur over a lifetime, and only for adults. The 30% figure become 80 million, (probably low, because only admitted gun owners are included.

      Consider 35 years of average experience in the population (at a guess). The poll totals translate to 7 percent of 246 million adults, or 17.22 million defensive uses over a lifetime. Divide by 35, and the number becomes about half a million per year. Probably a little low, but in the mainstream.

  18. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    Pew found 30 percent of adults in the United States admit to owning a firearm. Forty-nine percent of the remaining 70% say they’ve never owned a gun.
    Yeah, I believe in the tooth fairy.
    So an unknown guy calls you up and asks if you have any firearms at your house, now how are you going to answer?

    1. avatar former water walker says:

      No one has ever polled me because I don’t answer unsolicited calls. Caller ID is a thing…

    2. avatar Swarf says:

      How am I going to answer a landline if I don’t have one?

  19. avatar Anon says:

    The law of unintended consequences: Toyota Prius, key fob, no key. Put car in park, forget to hit the button that turns it off when car is in garage. Car runs because there is no warning me that I didn’t turn off car. Some people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning, there are lawsuits.

    Their radar is not radar and can be misleading, having to have to SLAM on the brakes more than once. I know Toyota says don’t rely on it but they advertise it bigtime as perfect.

    This reminds me of the Titanic, it will never sink.
    Vietnam, M-16’s, Army said no need for cleaning kits. Check out the Ia Drang Valley.
    Which Apollo moon shot used pure oxygen that burned the astronauts to death, I’m sure they were told it was safe.
    You can keep your doctor.
    Don’t worry, we’ll protect your personal information.
    There are no bugs in our software.
    Blah, blah, blah………
    Give the smart gun to the ANA (Afghan National Army) see how many die in a year.

  20. avatar skiff says:

    Today, I took apart the failed computer in my VW Jetta to see what it looks like. I have always loved to take broken things apart. The circuitry appears similar to the circuitry in the butt of the handgun.

  21. avatar Kyle says:

    When the cops and military adopt them as primary weapons, I’m in.

    Until then,

    No thanks.

  22. avatar skiff says:

    Cops should use them. They’re the ones who leave them in the bathroom after taking a poop.

  23. avatar Enufistoomuch says:

    A “Smart Gun” is a brilliant idea except that they have it backwards. The technology should not control who can fire the gun. It should determine who gets hit by the bullets. When they can come up with a gun that only shoots bad guys, then they will have something to crow about.

    Until that magical wonder gets sorted out, it’s all so much silly stuff.

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