Smart guns, dumb politicians
Posted Mar 10th 2014 | By:
There has been a growing movement over the past decade or so to implement so-called smart-gun technology-- an idea in which a firearm could be made personalized to its owner and not able to fire for anyone else. This sound great if it would work, but gun grabbing politicians are eagerly grabbing at this immature technology and calling for its immediate use.
What is a smart gun?
Ever seen Judge Dredd, where the bad guy gets ahold of a Judge's gun and it blows his hand off? Or the latest James Bond flick, Skyfall, where Bond's newest Walther will only fire when it's in his hand? Well that's the basic idea of a smart gun. This tech uses biometrics to put an electrically controlled locking system on a firearm, making it incapable of firing.
The idea is that military and police could use it to prevent captured guns from being used against them while civilian users who lost their gun in a burglary or robbery would likewise be protected from said lost gun ever being used for bad purposes. It would also, in theory, prevent children from having accidents when playing with found guns.
While it's all a neat concept, it just doesn't work as of yet.
SIG Sauer, one of the biggest innovators in handguns over the past half century, came up with the SIG P229 EPLS in 2000. This gun had an Electronic Personal Locking System (EPLS) that secured the gun until a user entered a PIN number and then selected how long they wanted it to remain unlocked (half hour, two hours, etc.). Well it was bulky, unreliable, suffered from dead batteries, was prone to lock out if the user entered the wrong PIN or forgot the master code, and expensive. Just 20 or so were ever made.
The closest thing to a personalized gun on the market today is the Armatix iP1, made by a German firm that uses a RFID-coupled watch with an internal sear lock. To use the gun, you have to have on a matching watch that automatically deactivates the lock. Get the watch more than ten inches away from the gun and the gun locks. The bad news is, the gun costs $1400, the watch $400, its sold in .22LR only, and no one in the US carries it for sale so we cant tell you if it actually works or not.
What America wants
In a scientific poll taken last year, more than three quarters of US voters asked are opposed to smart gun technology at this time . Some 81 percent of those who responded said they would be unlikely to buy a gun that used this type of tech, and 84 percent doubting the reliability of any gun that used it.
A 2013 National Institute of Justice review of the technology reaffirmed that the concept has not been fully developed to the point where a safe and reliable product incorporating such a capability is available on the marketplace today. Despite considerable research, including at least $12.6 million in dedicated funding by the Justice Department and additional research by firearms manufacturers, the technology remains in the prototype stage.
California and New Jersey
On both the East and West coasts, anti-gun politicians have passed laws requiring smart guns be made mandatory. This happened first in New Jersey in 2002 then efforts in California. These laws are suspended due to the fact that there are not currently any guns on the market that make it possible for this 'one-day' technology to be implemented.
Some are citing the Armatix, with its wristwatch lock, as being a smart gun, and therefore calling for NJs and CAs laws to kick in, mandating that within a few years only these guns will be legal in those states.
Others are calling for worse.
Boston Senator Edward Markey last month introduced a bill that, if passed into law, would require all new guns in the country to use Armatix-like technology within three years and then require older guns to be retrofitted.
''No one wants children to get access to a handgun and hurt themselves or others,'' Markey said, calling his bill ''the type of gun safety legislation that everyone - regardless of political party or affiliation - should be able to support.''
Of course, the only place we have seen the technology work 100% of the time is in the movies.
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