Is Technology the Future of Gun Safety? Hopefully Not

by Daniel_Faris on September 30th, 2014

The future of firearm technology and gun control has warranted a lengthy national discussion, long before even the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. The arguments on both sides often involve the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution – specifically, the right to keep and bear arms – and how the amendment should be regarded in a modern age where guns are more accessible and powerful than ever.

While it’s true that the founding fathers probably did not foresee the future of firearm technology in 1788, when the Constitution was ratified, proponents of the unregulated right to bear arms regard the issue as more of a freedom-related concept than a firearm-related one. Many are of the belief that, if the government takes away their guns, what will they take away next?

These concerns prompt many to consider what the future of firearm technology and gun control will bring. The most talked-about potential technology is the “smart gun,” which, despite not having reached the general public yet, has already attracted its share of controversy.

Smart Guns: Big Potential, Bigger Concerns

The current thinking in some circles is that widespread use of smart guns could help to reduce instances of gun violence. These guns use technology such as fingerprint recognition to prohibit unauthorized users from firing the gun. Variations of this technology have appeared in futuristic movies like Minority Report, but smart gun technology has never taken off, partly due to the fear of government control.

Although smart guns would, ideally, prevent criminals and children from firing a gun, opponents of the technology fear the litany of privacy concerns that would arise from it.

For instance, to be implemented on a wide scale, smart guns would have to be mandated, and regulated, by the federal government. This would give them access to any fingerprint in the database, and would mean that every gun owner would be required to share their fingerprints and other personal information with the government.

Imagine for a moment that you’ve spent months or even years poring over blueprints and plans and you’re finally ready to build a new house from scratch. Then, suppose you found out that the government has insisted that each new home must be built with a comprehensive security system installed. In polite company, we call that government overreach.

In any event, the multitude of privacy concerns has prompted proponents of traditional gun rights to reject the notion of smart guns outright.

A Ban Would Be Met with Opposition

Another dramatic effect of smart gun implementation would be the outlawing of non-smart guns. For example, New Jersey's 2002 Childproof Handgun Bill makes it so that, when smart guns become available on the market, all “regular” handguns become illegal to sell.

A massive gun ban like this has raised concern among gun owners who will be unwilling to surrender their traditional weapons in favor of technological guns that have privacy concerns. I believe the New Jersey government is going to have its work cut out for it when the time comes to confiscate every now-illegal “traditional” gun in the state.

Will Smart Guns Weaken Reliability and Effectiveness?

Many gun owners who rely on their weapons for their safety and peace-of-mind are also concerned that the technology embedded in a smart gun may sacrifice the power and reliability of the weapon. One example is how a smart gun dependent on fingerprint technology may become unusable when touched by moisture, as some electronics do.

In a life-or-death situation, this possibility is something that gun owners do not want to encounter. Gun owners can deal with their computer freezing during a work day, but a gun freezing during a harrowing situation is simply not an option. Low batteries and temperature changes often impact gadgets, which is something gun owners want no part of.

What’s more, guns – traditional or smart – have the potential to kill, so testing and quality control are as essential in the gun industry as any other. Currently, there are no 100% safe options for smart guns, even if some options like Armatix's iP1 and Kodiak Arms’ Intelligun are showing future potential. Extensive testing would certainly need to be carried out before any of these smart guns became widely available.

What the NRA Thinks of Smart Guns

Many proponents of gun rights often side with the NRA, an entity that has consistently rejected pleas for gun control. As far as smart guns go, the NRA officially opposes “requiring guns to be made with electronic equipment that would allow the guns to be deactivated remotely, or with other features that gun owners do not want.” Their stance on this issue clearly exemplifies why the pro-gun community is so weary of smart guns becoming the exclusive option for gun owners.

The future of firearm technology and gun control continues to be a divisive topic, which is understandable considering the various benefits and disadvantages of this solution. It’s fair to say that everyone is in favor of keeping guns away from people who shouldn't have them, but gun rights proponents are concerned that even well-intentioned advances in gun safety could jeopardize the constitutional rights of gun owners who are already obeying the law.

 Filed under: Government, Gun Control, school shootings, second amendment

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