Originally posted on May 7, 2014 at 12:25 PM
Recently Rockville, MD gun shop owner Andy Raymond felt forced to remove Smart Guns from his stock of personal weapons. In doing so he responded to numerous death threats and even threatened action from the National Rifle Association. Earlier this year a Los Angeles gun store made a similar decision for identical reasons. A Smart Gun as defined here, is a firearm, in this case a pistol; which has an electronic lock which won’t allow the weapon to be fired unless it is within ten inches of a watch band worn on the owner’s wrist.
Thugs will be unlikely to respond to blog entries but the NRA should take note. Though I’ve never been a member of the NRA, I’ve generally supported them, not that I’ve agreed in all cases with their campaigns and other actions but the opposition is typically so asinine that one feels that maintaining the status quo is about all that can be managed. Gun control can be compared only to the abortion controversy for acrimony and steadfast resistance to compromise. With the smart gun however, there is some glimmer of hope for some meeting of minds between persons who demand the right to armed self defense (like myself) and those who have a sincere concern about the dangers of firearms being dropped, lost, or snatched by assailants (such as I). The crux of the controversy for the NRA appears to be a New Jersey law which states that three years after smart guns are marketed anywhere in the U.S. all hand guns in New Jersey must contain a similar locking feature. This flies in the face of everyone being able to choose her or his mode of hand-held fire power.
While I don’t take kindly to persons telling me what mode of tools, transport, clothing or food I must adopt, it is true we do live with restrictions of one kind or another in all of these areas. Sure the smart gun can be seen as a slight curtailment of a person’s ability to choose, it can also be seen as a stipulation on the part of gun non-enthusiasts that personal firearms may be appropriate in some situations. I wouldn’t support a smart gun requirement for all firearms, not even all handguns, merely those who are sold for concealed carry. We already have laws requiring gun locks, which rather fly in the face of armed preparedness. Since by nature, the personal self-defense handgun needs to be available and ready for action it would stand to reason that some extraordinary precautions are in order when such a weapon is being carried or kept in a bedside nightstand.
Smart guns are a largely unexplored area of technology. A revolver can be supplied with a small unit, fastened to the barrel, which projects a solenoid-driven peg into the groove between the revolver’s chambers, making the weapon unable to be cocked or fired, unless a signal is sensed from a wristband or bracelet. This is a fairly cheap and easy approach. With automatic weapons, other sorts of safety locks can be introduced into the gun without compromising the operation or effectiveness of the gun. Future models could be designed to sense via a laser or infra-red range finder so the gun won’t fire unless a target is within a certain distance, say 100 feet. This would eliminate wild shots or hitting persons outside the target area. Self defense weapons should be used for taking out assailants who are directly threatening the gun user, not for chasing fleeing assailants or for long distance hits.
The attitude of gun extremists that there should be no restrictions of any kind on firearms, can I think be shown as untenable to most people. Should we be walking around with recoilless rifles? How about a howitzer? Bombardment mortars anyone? Yes it is difficult to draw the lines when emotions on both sides are so high but most of us accept that there are limits. We don’t typically use semi trucks for personal transport and most of us get sanctioned if we eat human flesh so though the basic right to keep and bear arms is appropriate (and is protected for “the people” in the Second Amendment) we should be able to have some restrictions without inviting death threats. Perhaps the New Jersey Legislature could be prevailed upon to slightly modify the previously-mentioned restrictions in the interest of making smart guns more popular nationwide (probably not but the point could be made). It’s also worth mentioning that New Jersey is a state in which it’s not all that easy to have a hand gun in the first place, if you want it for self defense. I do think it is wrong and nonproductive in any case to treat the smart gun as a make or break issue for gun rights generally in the same way that hand gun bans are put forward as reasonable “since you can still have rifles or shotguns.” If we can’t agree about guns, let’s at least be open to some degree of interchange and compromise. It would be the smart thing to do about guns.