Well-Regulated Smart Guns Are Here
The Hidden History of Guns and the 2nd Amendment
Well-Regulated Smart Guns Are Here
The biggest enemy of western people is not war or terrorism, it is their own governments’ lack of regulation of public health and safety.
―British author and engineer Steven Magee
In the United States (as with every other developed country in the world), we regulate a wide variety of consumer goods. Children’s toys must be safe, designed in ways that they don’t present a choking risk and don’t contain paint or ingredients that are toxic or cancer-causing. Our furniture and carpets have to meet minimum fire standards. Cars, because they’re capable of killing people, are heavily regulated to be safer in collisions and designed with sight lines that make collisions less likely.
From the development of seat belts and airbags in cars to lawsuits that highlight safety dangers with toys and push manufacturers to improve things, virtually every time dangers are identified or new “safety” technologies become available, they’re applied to products manufactured and/or sold in America.
A company named Safe Gun Technology, Inc., for example, developed a fingerprint reader that’s built right into the grip on handguns and rifles, preventing the weapon from being fired by anybody except those people “authorized” to shoot it by having their fingerprints in its system.1 Their fingerprint reader, simply a flat spot on the grip where a fingertip would normally lay, can even be retrofitted onto existing weapons.
Another company, Intelligun, offers a similar fingerprint-reading product and is working with the US Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center to come up with a stock that, instead of recognizing fingerprints (which can be obscured by dirt, etc.), measures exactly how and where the authorized user grips his or her gun, another biometric measure that’s highly personalized.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) recognition of a gun’s owner, thus unlocking the weapon, has become a mature industry; TriggerSmart Technologies sells a gun that unlocks when handled by a user who’s wearing a ring that the gun recognizes. The Germany company Armatix sells a gun that unlocks by RFID with a watch worn by the owner.
Microstamping is a technology whereby the firing pin has a tiny serial number etched into it, which transfers to the bullet when it’s struck by the pin, leaving a dent with the number on it. This allows law enforcement to instantly identify the gun from which the bullet was fired and, if it’s registered, instantly identify the owner as well. California passed a law in 2007 to mandate this and was immediately sued; however, the law withstood judicial review.
But none of these technologies are making any significant inroads in the American gun market. In fact, gun dealers who’ve tried to sell these products have been threatened, including explicit death threats.
Fortune magazine reported on a man named “Doug” who started and ran a website, now closed, at smartgunz.com, that promoted safer guns and offered the Armatix (RFID with a watch) gun for sale. He wouldn’t give his last name to Fortune, though, because he feared for his life.
As Roger Parloff wrote in Fortune, “And that’s why Doug has to be so hush-hush. If his last name were made public, people would try to put him out of business and, perhaps, threaten to kill him. That’s what happened to the last two gun dealers who tried to sell this gun.”2
It’s as if the car industry had succeeded in their 1970s campaign against having to put seat belts and airbags into cars, and thus instead of only around 35,000 people a year dying in car crashes, the number was two or three times that. And car enthusiasts or agents of the auto industry were threatening the lives of people offering to sell aftermarket seat belts or running websites advocating for them.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., introduced legislation requiring one of these sorts of safety devices to be built into any new guns sold in America; Republican leadership in the Senate refused to even consider it in committee, much less bring it to the floor for a vote.
“Gun violence has become far too common in America,” Warren said when introducing another law that would close the gun-show loophole. “Thoughts and prayers just aren't enough. Congress has a moral responsibility to take common sense actions to stop this epidemic. . . . [I]t’s time to take these weapons of war off of our streets. And we need to do more to fix our broken background check system, to keep guns away from felons and other dangerous people.”3
It’s time to regulate guns in the United States. Variations on the word “regulate” appear eight times in the body of the Constitution and, ironically, in the Second Amendment. There’s no practical or legal impediment to regulating guns to make them safer—except the lobbying power of the gun industry and the few gun owners who behave like cultists.