Antis and their Infatuation With “Smart Guns”

Even the title is misleading:

Smart Guns Save Lives. So Where Are They?

It’s not even misleading in the sense that it’s pushing bad information or a bad faith question, it’s simply a fallacy in it’s own construction. Yogi Berra once said “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded!” Just like Mr. Berra’s quote, we all understand the MEANING of the title, but once you think about it the logic of it falls apart. He’s asking where the smart guns are. Why? Well because they essentially don’t exist outside of low-number boutique guns and not-ready-for-prime-time prototypes. But he’s wondering because they “save lives”! Who’s life? I just did a search on several of the big gun sale sites for “Armatix iP1”, and I couldn’t find a single listing. There was a lot of hooplah about that ONE shop that allegedly had a few of them in stock, but honestly I don’t buy the story, and still we were talking ONE shop, how many units do you think he had? One? Two? Ten? I highly doubt ten! That’s the next best thing to industry vapor ware! So if nobody actually HAS any of these guns, who’s life has been saved by them?

That’s just sets a really good tone at what kind of piece we’re looking at.

JUST after Christmas, Veronica Rutledge of Blackfoot, Idaho, took her 2-year-old son to a Walmart store to spend holiday gift cards. As they strolled by the electronics section, according to news reports, the toddler reached into his mom’s purse and pulled out a handgun that she legally carried. He pulled the trigger once and killed her.

Now we talked about that story here. It was a terrible story, but the bottom line was the woman was carrying in a purse that was NOT in her direct control. There is a solution to this problem, and it is NOT some uber-expensive untested technology, it’s simple training. I remember standing at the counter of a gun shop when a guy was looking at a Springfield XD. Having noticed that the gun didn’t have a manual safety on it, he mentioned that he’d probably just carry the gun without a round in the chamber. I decided to but in at this point and told him that that wasn’t really a good idea because so much can be going wrong when you need your gun you may not be physically able to rack a round into the chamber, or might be under enough stress that you might do something foolish like short-stroke the gun and jam it. I pointed out that like most modern guns, it was perfectly safe to carry fully loaded, and that focusing on safety devices over proper gun handling is NEVER a good idea. Real World example:

Look at that, a 1911, which has a grip safety, and a thumb safety, and this gentleman still managed to shoot himself. A lot of talk (some of it reasonable) was said about the design of the holster, but in the end that would only spot him the Rule 3 violation, he still was pointing the muzzle at his leg when the gun discharged. He also had flicked the safety off as soon as he was able, and it didn’t save him. I know some people train with manual safety guns to only disengage the safety when the sights are on target…I personally am the same as the man in the video, my firing grip disengages the safety, and I rely on the trigger finger, and practice to make sure the muzzle NEVER crosses my body when I draw. The only “Safety” that will keep somebody from shooting their own foot, or shooting something that doesn’t need to be shot is a safety that renders the gun 100% inoperable at all times. If your gun can shoot a bad guy or a deer, or a target, there is NOTHING that will stop that gun from shooting you or a friend. YOU need to not shoot yourself or your friend.

He also references two stories I’m not terribly familiar with that reeks of young, untrained kids playing with guns they shouldn’t. Yeah maybe some of these “Smart Guns” could have prevented this, but then again somebody so short-sighted as to leave LOADED guns where young children can access them is somebody who just simply isn’t safe from the start. I find this claim to be highly speculative.

About 20 children and teenagers are shot daily in the United States, according to a study by the journal Pediatrics.

And most of them are involved in street gangs and/or dealing prohibited substances, or are suicides. This is a false dichotomy, these “Smart Guns” are designed to prevent accidental shootings. Switching subjects on INTENTIONAL shootings is intentionally misleading. Sure many gang guns are stolen property, so MAYBE this could help…or maybe not. We haven’t actually SEEN any of these guns to figure out how they prevent the gun from firing. It could be as simple as 5 mins with a cutting tool would reduce the “Smart” gun to a “Dumb” gun, or there might be an easy way to hotwire the electronics to either set it as always on, or reset it to factory settings allowing new fingerprints/grips/whatever to be re-entered allowing the thief to now fire the gun.

Oh yeah, and guns are durable goods, so even if the gun shops are FLOODED by smart guns tomorrow…and even if a law is passed making it a crime to own any firearm that is NOT a “Smart Gun”, 100 years from now there will still be countless old guns floating around.

I’m using educated speculation, but again it’s highly speculative that this crap will work in the first place, so I think I have license. You also won’t be surprised that there is almost no skeptics position in this article.

Indeed, more preschool-age children (about 80 a year) are killed by guns each year than police officers are killed by guns (about 50), according to the F.B.I. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another misleading number. First these are raw numbers not adjusted for rate. According to the US Census there are approximately 20 million children under the age of 5 in the US, and according to this site only 780,000, according to wikipedia counting part-time and volunteer officers it’s probably closer to 900,000. So that gives us a per 1000 rate for children 0.004 and for police officers 0.05. So talking raw statistics, police are VASTLY more likely to be shot to death than little kids…but we’re talking numbers SO small that it can be easily said that it is highly unlikely EITHER group will ever take a bullet. Claiming these numbers as justification is purely tilting at windmills.

This toll is utterly unnecessary, for the technology to make childproof guns goes back more than a century.

I would actually argue that because the numbers are SO small that small rate is technically necessary. Not sure what I mean? Remember when Bob asked Joan Peterson “How few murders have to be committed with firearms before the push for new, more restrictive laws ends?” Joan answered “O”. Now she’s an idiot and wrote a capital letter “o” instead of the number “0”, but we got the point. Still in countries that 100% outlaw the ownership of guns, there are still shootings. You can’t have NO children or cops getting shot EVER, it’s wishing an impossibility.

Beginning in the 1880s, Smith & Wesson (whose gun was used in the Walmart killing) actually sold childproof handguns that required a lever to be depressed as the trigger was pulled.

“No ordinary child under 8 years of age can possibly discharge it,” Smith & Wesson boasted at the time, and it sold half-a-million of these guns, but, today, it no longer offers that childproof option.

Man, another false dichotomy! So we’re talking about biometric and RFID guns, and now you’re blathering about how awesome the S&W lemon squeezer was? Good lord! Also the author doesn’t seem to find it odd that S&W still primarily makes revolvers, and with the exception some materials and some trivial construction details most of S&W’s revolvers are SOLIDLY 19th Century technology. Also while the Lemon Squeezer isn’t around anymore, just about all of their guns come with that stupid internal safety lock. Lock one of those things and NOTHING is touching off that gun, not an 8-year-old-girl, not a 25 year-old body builder. I’ll have more on that in a second!

Doesn’t it seem odd that your cellphone can be set up to require a PIN or a fingerprint, but there’s no such option for a gun?

No more odd that a fire alarm, my car’s airbag, or my toilet lid doesn’t have on. That last one isn’t entirely tongue in cheek, The census doesn’t break down the “under 5” demographic enough to calculate the rate of children drowning in toilets, but I bet it’s comparable to the insanely small rate of young children or cops getting shot. Still either way, when you suddenly realize that the oysters you had last night were bad, you don’t want to be fumbling with a password or fingerprint scan (and would it work if you are severely sweating, which is a symptom of food poisoning?).

The same goes for when somebody is assaulting you, and your blood pressure spikes, your vision narrow to a pinhole, and you need to ACT NOW or die…sorry I don’t want to remember my Mom’s birth date, or wonder if the blood running down my arm, or the mud on my hand will mess with the print scanner.

Still this is again a false dichotomy! Has this guy never heard of gun safes and lockboxes? They come with electric keypads and even biometrics, and people use them! When I bed down at night, and until I’m dressed and ready to go out all my guns are locked up. I have no issue with this. What this article is about are guns that are essentially locked up like my guns when I’m sleeping ALL THE TIME, except for the moment before I touch off a round. That’s a HUGE leap.

Which brings us to Kai Kloepfer, a lanky 17-year-old high school senior in Boulder, Colo. After the cinema shooting in nearby Aurora, Kloepfer decided that for a science fair project he would engineer a “smart gun” that could be fired only by an authorized user.

“I started with iris recognition, and that seemed a good idea until you realize that many people firing guns wear sunglasses,” Kloepfer recalls. “So I moved on to fingerprints.”

Kloepfer designed a smart handgun that fires only when a finger it recognizes is on the grip. More than 1,000 fingerprints can be authorized per gun, and Kloepfer says the sensor is 99.999 percent accurate.

Now first up, it’s a cool design. We’ll talk about that a bit later. Still let’s have a quick look at it:

First up he’s a kid, so that isn’t a REAL gun. He used an airsoft gun for his project. You can see more pictures here, there’s one shot that shows a rather large protrusion that was added to the frame which would be a deal breaker. Still there is also just one small cell that reads your prints. Awesome if you’re target shooting at the range, but I think you can see how thing could easily go bad in a defensive situation, even if the device is 99.999999999% reliable. Also I’m VERY curious how he got those numbers, and how he tested for them. I’m betting he didn’t.

There are other approaches to smart guns. The best known, the Armatix iP1, made by a German company and available in the United States through a complicated online procedure, can be fired only if the shooter is wearing a companion wristwatch.

This is even worse technology. First up take away all the fancy bells and whistles, this is no different than the plethora of guns that have key locks built into them. The big advantage to this technology is there is no fumbling with the key, the big disadvantages is that the key takes batteries and won’t always work. Still it’s just a lock and key no matter what you call it, and it does little good if the key is stolen with the gun. Further in the walmart shooting, I’d be willing to bet that the mother was in RFID range of the gun when her kid shot her, this goes double if you game the scenario in your head. You kid has pulled out your carry gun from it’s bag (I’ll be unisex for all readers) and is fumbling with it. What do you do? Duhh you try and take it away before something bad happens…with your dominant hand, which likely has the RFID chip on it.

That’s not even getting into this shit:

The National Rifle Association seems set against smart guns, apparently fearing that they might become mandatory. One problem has been an unfortunate 2002 New Jersey law stipulating that three years after smart guns are available anywhere in the United States, only smart guns can be sold in the state. The attorney general’s office there ruled recently that the Armatix smart gun would not trigger the law, but the provision has still led gun enthusiasts to bully dealers to keep smart guns off the market everywhere in the U.S.

Remember when I mentioned that Mr. Kloepfer’s design was cool? It is! Now I have a S&W 617 that has the key lock

I actually USE this lock to comply with Mass laws, and might also use it in the future if I travel with my daughter to a place where I don’t have a lockbox available where I’ll be shooting it. It’s a training gun, so there will be no real immediacy in using it, so safety is cool. Also I mentioned that people use all sorts of safes, lock boxes, and trigger locks on their guns.

The NRA is NOT opposed to “Smart Guns”…oh hell, I’ll let them speak for themselves:

The NRA doesn’t oppose the development of “smart” guns, nor the ability of Americans to voluntarily acquire them. However, NRA opposes any law prohibiting Americans from acquiring or possessing firearms that don’t possess “smart” gun technology.

Yeah, I think that says it all.

Opponents of smart guns say that they aren’t fully reliable. Some, including Kloepfer’s, will need batteries to be recharged once a year or so. Still, if Veronica Rutledge had had one in her purse in that Idaho Walmart, her son wouldn’t have been able to shoot and kill her.

“Smart guns are going to save lives,” says Stephen Teret, a gun expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “They’re not going to save all lives, but why wouldn’t we want to make guns as safe a consumer product as possible?”

David Hemenway, a public health expert at Harvard, says that the way forward is for police departments or the military to buy smart guns, creating a market and proving they work.

So let’s hit each paragraph individually.

Yeah, if Ms. Rutledge’s gun had a fingerprint scanner on it, she’d be alive today. If her gun had an RFID tag in it, she’s probably still be just as dead. And then there’s the question if the countless people who have used guns to defend their lives in this country had such technology (or let’s face it, were priced out of the gun market because these guns aren’t Taurus price levels!), It doesn’t take much speculation to think that many of them might be dead today. Anti-gunners NEVER want to talk about self defense, because when it comes to guns SAVING lives, most of their arguments fall apart.

Next we have an interesting admission that no technology is 100% effective. Still we’ve just seen above that the numbers of people in the potentially “Saved” list is near zero, and further people can get relaxed around technology and lulled into a sense of false security, so it could easily be argued that somebody might do something with a “Smart Gun” that they wouldn’t do with a “Dumb Gun”, so if the net effect isn’t zero, it statistically would be. Further he notes that “Smart guns are going to save lives” which I can imagine would be true, but he doesn’t factor in them COSTING lives if somebody’s smart gun fails when they need to defend their lives.

Last, it is a strange moment in history when I actually AGREE with David Hemenway. Yeah, I think if we’re going to pass “Smart Gun” laws and/or policies they should ONLY be for police and military. The fact that all laws on the books right now do just the opposite, and EXCLUDE police and military from the laws, should tell you all you need to know about this technology. Funny how the author mentions the New Jersey law, but fails to include that it ONLY targets private citizens and exempt New Jersey Military and Police…

Smart guns aren’t a panacea. But when even a 17-year-old kid can come up with a safer gun, why should the gun lobby be so hostile to the option of purchasing one?

Again, NOBODY in the gun world is for BANNING “Smart Guns”, what we’re opposed to is MANDATING that all guns sold be “Smart”.

Something is amiss when we protect our children from toys that they might swallow, but not from firearms. So Veronica Rutledge is dead, and her son will grow up with the knowledge that he killed her — and we all bear some responsibility when we don’t even try to reduce the carnage.

Yeah except this technology won’t. It might change the numbers in some way, but the numbers will remain the same.

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4 Responses to Antis and their Infatuation With “Smart Guns”

  1. Bob S. says:

    One problem has been an unfortunate 2002 New Jersey law stipulating that three years after smart guns are available anywhere in the United States, only smart guns can be sold in the state.

    I haven’t read the actual law but I can’t imagine it would stand up if people could sell their existing stock or property. Given that many gun stores (not even talking about private sales) have more then 3 year supply of some firearms, given that distribution centers and manufacturers have stocks, it would be unlawful restraint of trade – wouldn’t it?

    Kloepfer designed a smart handgun that fires only when a finger it recognizes is on the grip. More than 1,000 fingerprints can be authorized per gun, and Kloepfer says the sensor is 99.999 percent accurate.

    Can’t read a fingerprint if the person is wearing gloves. Just how exactly is that going to work when it is winter time in the North? I was in Wichita back in November; the high temperature never got above 25 degrees F — any time I was outside, I was wearing gloves. Not for fashion (ala sunglasses) but to keep from getting frost bite.
    Am I going to have to choose between frostbite and being able to access my firearm?

    Or how about sweat interfering on the other side of the thermometer; given that it gets up to 100+ here in Fort Worth, I could see a little problem with getting a good read. I bet that 99.99995% is based on lab testing, not real world testing.

    And I really hate to be cold and logical about this; but how many lives is it going to save? Most of the suicides with firearms; the deceased owned the firearm. So only a few of the 18,000 deaths a year MIGHT be prevented. I say might because if the person doesn’t own the firearm, they might still be set up to be able to access it.
    How about children playing with guns? Many times the parents have taken their kid shooting and let them try out the firearm; wouldn’t their fingerprints still be authorized?

    And if the kids really wanted to play with the firearm; given how easily scanners can be fooled (and that information is on the internet) some would find a way.

    Oh and to address any issue that I didn’t see but given the behavior of our government under the past several presidents; how likely would it be the government would require secret access to the software controlling access?

    I know it borders on paranoia; but given the spying on citizens, the indefinite detention authorized by NDAA, etc — it isn’t that far fetched to assume the government would legally or illegally demand the ability to shut down RFID systems or be able to delete/disable fingerprint systems.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      Gun shops would essentially be fine because they could sell their merch to free-state FFLs. That’s what happens when somebody decides to get rid of an off-roster firearm and doesn’t have the sense/connections to find it a private sale home, or it’s an estate sale where the next of kin has no interest in getting an LTC that would allow them to privately sell guns. If the shop can verify the off-roster gun was “Pre-ban” they can sell it as normal, if not, they just contact other shops or put it up on gunbroker et al and sell it to a free state.

      All that other stuff is legit as well. Again NOBODY has a problem with “Smart Guns”, I just would personally have a problem with a “Smart Gun” being my personal protection gun, and I have a SERIOUS problem if the antis want to outlaw any gun that isn’t “Smart”.

  2. TS says:

    “Also I’m VERY curious how he got those numbers, and how he tested for them. I’m betting he didn’t.”

    Color me skeptical as well that he fired his gun 100,000 times and recorded one failure.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      And even if he did 100,000 reps, how many were with unauthorized users, and how many authorized users did he enter into the system. Further did he have a double-blind system where he mocked up a gun to look like it was “Smart” but worked like any other airsoft, and a few with the legit system, and distributed them via 3rd party to an airsoft match and recorded their results?

      100,000 is a LOT of trigger pulls, especially since I assume you would need to set the gun down or holster it between reps, but maybe he did most of them by himself….which really excludes a ton of variables, like different grips and hand size.

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