I was very happy to see this article about smart guns in Tech Crunch, where the reporter in question seems to have actually taken the time to understand this issue from our perspective.
It’s bad that the general public — including the majority of casual gun owners — are so confused about guns that they don’t know how much they don’t know. But what’s worse, at least if you’re a gun person, is that lawmakers and activists who know less than nothing about guns often find themselves in a position to confidently enshrine their technological ignorance into law.
This, then, is what the NRA is terrified of: that lawmakers who don’t even know how to begin to evaluate the impact of the smallest, most random-seeming feature of a given firearm on that firearm’s effectiveness and functionality for different types of users with different training backgrounds under different circumstances will get into the business of gun design.
This! The author goes on to give examples of existing follies of lawmakers getting into the business of gun design. I encourage you to read the whole thing. This is especially timely because the media is going nuts over the Friday release of Obama’s Smart Gun Report, which is 17 pages of meaningless platitudes (i.e. par for the court with this Administration).
Miguel notes that NPR has been reporting on this as well. They are focusing on the entirely wrong problem. If they put money into making better safes, it would be far more likely to be a) accepted by the gun community, and b) actually make a difference.
RFID techniques are useless, because they depend on radio transmission which is easily jammed. Anyone who has a smart phone with fingerprint recognition can tell you it’s not nearly reliable enough for life and death situations. For instance, my iPhone won’t unlock if my hands are wet, and it doesn’t work at all if I’m wearing gloves.
Despite the fact that the Administration listed “Limiting misuse of lost and stolen law enforcement firearms” as one of the three primary benefits, anyone who knows anything about how a smart gun would work knows this is bunk. The obvious design technique would be a disconnector attached to a solenoid that when activated would cause the trigger to engage the mechanism. This is not terribly different from magazine disconnect “safeties,” which are pretty easy to circumvent. The only way to make something truly difficult to circumvent would be to seal the mechanism, which means it will never be cleaned and thus will become unreliable, or alternatively, develop electronic triggers. There was one firearm introduced to market with such a trigger and it was not a commercial success, and had numerous problems.
If you look at the report, you’ll notice the prizes the Obama Administration is offering in his three stage competition are a pittance. Stage 1 is the proposal. You get nothing for that, despite needing a design. They note a dozen manufacturers submitted proposals (I’d love to know who. Someone should FOIA that.) and only Armatix and Protobench, LLC advanced to Stage Two.
Stage Two is basic testing at Aberdeen Proving grounds. If you pass Stage Two and advance on to Stage 3 you get $5000 bucks. That wouldn’t even pay an inexperienced intern’s salary for a summer, let alone cover the cost of the prototype that has to be submitted for testing.
If you advance to and pass Stage Three, which is heavy-duty and expanded product testing, which requires multiple guns to be submitted, you get $10,000 dollars. That would likely not even be enough to cover the cost of the guns.
By my reading of the report, they’ve only just begun to give this any real thought, and there’s nothing in this report that’s even 1/4 baked, let alone half baked. Fools like Obama, who have never developed any kind of product in their lives, seriously underestimate how difficult this problem is. It’s probably not that hard to make an unreliable piece of shit, but it’s going to be very difficult to develop a smart gun that would we reliable enough and fool proof enough to see wide adoption by the police, who are probably the group who would most benefit from the technology if it actually worked well.
This whole smart gun thing is pretty much blowing smoke. It’s not a serious effort. Nonetheless, I expect the fools in the gun control movement to sing his praises over this pile of dog shit just like they did over his executive orders.