All Things Considered is an iconic program from National Public Radio (NPR). They have a reliably “progressive” approach to the world. Sometimes they stumble onto inconvenient truths. That happened a month ago when NPR ran this story on how a naive investor pushed Colt to develop a so called “smart” gun, which is actually a very stupid gun . . .
First, the push for the “stupid” gun came from the new owner of the company, Donald Zilkha, a banker from New York City. He didn’t own a gun (go figure). I suspect he knew nothing of American gun culture. He made a very human mistake. He assumed that everybody thought about, and had assumptions about the universe that were the same as his. From NPR:
ZILKHA: Initially, I thought this would be something that could be adapted over 20-30 years and everybody would say, wow, this is a good way to own a handgun.
ROSE: But almost right away, Zilkha discovered that the customers he imagined were not as enthusiastic as he was. Let’s start with police. Stephen Albanese is a retired New York City police officer.
For 20 years, it was his job to make sure the department’s guns worked like they were supposed to. Albanese says he and other officers weren’t sure they could trust smart guns to fire every time.
If the owner of the company tells you they want something, especially if they have no cultural connection with you, people are loathe to contradict them. It takes great courage to risk your job in an already shaky company with a new owner.
Somehow, through miscommunication or misunderstanding, Zilkha thought that Colt engineers had made the company’s “stupid” gun reliable. He scheduled a demonstration with a reporter from the Wall Street Journal. I have a hard time imaginging the pressure that the Colt engineers were under.
So, in a near laboratory environment, on Colt’s terms, at their range, without weather, blood, hand-to-hand combat, or long storage times, the reporter, Vanessa O’Connell, watched the demonstration. It failed. Spectacularly.
ROSE: The timing was awful. Just when Colt needed to convince potential customers they could trust this new smart gun, here’s a front-page story in The Wall Street Journal saying they can’t. Not long after, Colt pulled the plug on smart gun research. Seventeen years later, no American gun company wants to pick up where Colt left off. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York.
The fact is that “stupid” gun technology is a really stupid idea, virtually designed to make guns fail. It operates under the assumption that it is better for a gun not to fire than to fire. Proponents of the idea are either blissfully ignorant of real world problems or simply love the idea of making guns less reliable.
As RF pointed out in a previous post, “smart” guns present three basic problems that cannot be overcome technologically.
First, they use electricity, so they’re dependent on batteries. Batteries are one of the components most prone to failure. Not because of the design of the batteries, but because of their nature. They are time limited. They have a shelf life. They use up the power that they have stored. Batteries introduce multiple points of failure into a firearm that are not there without them.
Second, because they are electronic systems, they’re subject to jamming and interference. Have you ever had your phone lose a call, for no apparent reason? Similar problems apply to electronic gun controls.
Third, the design function of the system is to restrict the use of the gun to a very small number of people. Yet one of the great positives about a gun is that it can be used by a large number of people, reliably.
Your partner may need to pick up the gun that you left behind to answer the door, now that you are down and fighting for your life with the home invader. Your child may need to pick up the gun and defend themselves from the burglar that just broke in. Your neighbor may need to use the gun as part of a neighborhood security system during a riot, or after a hurricane, tornado or flood.
Gun owners don’t want so-called “smart” guns. They have demonstrated this in the marketplace with existing systems that are more reliable than many proposed ones. Gun owners, from across the United States, including the military and police, reject the idea that this stupid idea is in any way smart. As usual, with many simplistic solutions to complex problems, it doesn’t work.
It’s nice to see NPR make this important point to its nationwide audience. Many people who would reject the NRA as a source out of hand may accept the story coming from NPR.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.