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Smart Gun Help

Eugene Volokh is looking for some input into a law review topic of smart guns and the Second Amendment.  Some thoughts:

The electromagnetic pulse problem can be solved with shielding.  You basically just need to build a Faraday cage around the sensitive electronic parts.  The real problem is such electronics will need to rely on batteries, which either must be replaced or charged.  The power distribution system is definitely vulnerable to EMP, and would be out in such an attack.  Batteries might be in short supply.

Personalization requirements on smart guns could interfere with lawful self-defense in the instance where the gun is registered and assigned to a family member, and another family member requires its use for self-defense.  In New Jersey, for instance, it’s technically unlawful to pass a firearm to your spouse, even in a self-defense situation, if that firearm is lawfully possessed by you.  Presumably smart technology would be mandated to enforce laws regarding transferring, loaning or selling firearms.

Electrical motors and actuators, which any smart gun would presumably need to function properly, are not nearly as reliable as the mechanical linkages present in ordinary firearms.  Motors and actuators can be made fairly reliable, but firearms need a very high degree of reliability to be useful.

I’m skeptical that smart gun technology will ever be reliable enough for the purpose of defending life.  Certainly the problem that smart guns purportedly aim to solve can be more easily and cheaply solved by a quality, quick open handgun safe.  Given that, smart guns seem like a solution in search of a problem.

21 Responses to “Smart Gun Help”

  1. Curtis Lowe says:

    It’s really simple…I will NEVER own a gun with “smartgun” technology. If I ever want a gun that has this technology built in, I will make damn sure I can disable it before I buy it.

  2. JamesLee says:

    Doesn’t seem smart at all! I’m not even happy about my MkIII 22/45 having that hex-key safety lock on it.

    Also, anyone who knows much about electronics should be able to bypass this stuff fairly easily should they wish to do so. Just look at all the millions of dollars and research that has gone into anti-piracy of software, and how quickly bootleg copies of nearly everything show up.

  3. Mike w. says:

    “Given that, smart guns seem like a solution in search of a problem.”

    I think you can categorize many gun control proposals as such.

  4. Sebastian says:

    The electronics could be made to require a high degree of sophistication to bypass, but I don’t see why it would be difficult to just engage the servo motor until the firing mechanism is engaged to the trigger, and then burn the motor out, disable it, or otherwise lock it into that position. Then you have a fully functional non-smart gun!

    Now, you can always get into sophisticated electronic firing mechanisms, and there have been firearms developed with electronic ignition, but my understanding is that it never worked too well.

    But regardless, when you’re speaking of conventional firearms technology, you’re basically just starting a chemical reaction no matter how you cut the mustard. That can never be all that sophisticated.

  5. Ken says:

    I’m skeptical that smart gun technology will ever be reliable enough for the purpose of defending life.

    That’s not what it’s for. Not for defending the owner’s life, anyway.

  6. Robb Allen says:

    There’s too many comments over there, so I’ll speak my mind here.

    The technology doesn’t pass Constitutional muster in my mind. Let’s say the technology is 100% – You and any member of your family that is authorized can fire the gun at an instant’s notice. You could leave the gun on the front lawn and even if someone stole it, they could never fire the gun.

    Oh, and it’s powered by centaur spunk which never dies and is EMP proof.

    Fast forward a few years where technology has ensured that 100% of the dumb guns have been removed from society. Only smart guns exist now in the hands of citizens. Obama, now in his 5th term, decides to revoke the bill of rights and we finally say “Enough” and revolt.

    You and I are side by side in a fire fight. I eat a newfangled heat-seeking bullet (made from 100% recycled SUV parts) but you still have plenty of fight left in you. Unfortunately, your AR-18 has a squib and is no longer functional. Now what? You can’t use my firearm. You can’t just pick up any arm and continue to defend yourself, only those that have been authorized for you. This severely limits your access to arms. It wipes out the concept of a militia being that the arms ‘expire’ with their owners rather than being transferable.

    Now, also, are the parts of the firearm encoded as well? Could I grab your upper and put it on my smart-lower? Because how could you maintain a firearm well enough if simply switching a barrel requires recoding?

    Let’s also transfer the technology over to another right – speech. What if you were allowed to blog / write / type, but ALL written communication be done with smart-writing devices? When you write, it automatically checks to ensure that only you can be the author on a particular device. You still can say whatever you want, but only from ‘approved’ devices.

    I think that wouldn’t pass muster myself. Why would a gun be any different?

  7. Anon says:

    http://www.isarapix.org/pix47/1233777338.jpg

    This is the only smart gun I endorse.

  8. Sebastian says:

    I think there are good arguments against it even with perfectly working technology. But in a practical, rather than theoretical construct, any smart technology should be trivially easy to circumvent. At least as long as we’re carrying firearms, rather than electromagnetic or energy weapons that function off electric power in the first place.

  9. Jdude says:

    What kind of smart technology will they put on knives? I hear England has a big stabbery problem.

  10. Sebastian says:

    There are some theoretical ways you could make a smart knife :)

  11. Robb Allen says:

    Sebastian, I’m arguing from Prof. V’s point of view. He uses the specter of EMP (which I’m glad to see his commenters remind people that EMP only affects long, closed circuits) as the disabling technology to then decide if requiring them is unconstitutional.

    I say yes. Let’s say the technology is PERFECT. Never can die / break / go wrong / or jam when you need it most. The fact that it mates a person or a small group of people to an individual weapon makes it unsuitable for militia use. People die in wars, their gear should still be serviceable. Stockpiling weaponry is nigh impossible with smart tech and the pool of ‘able bodied men and women’ would be limited to ‘gun owners’. You couldn’t arm the non gun owners to help you fight.

    Even if it were limited to just handguns, that’s an important tool in combat – i.e. see the FP-45 Liberator!

  12. Sebastian says:

    The key would be keeping, or allowing it to retract or fold the blade, and only opening for an authorized user. Hell, if you really wanted to be fancy you could probably even have a mechanism to figure out when it’s cutting into living flesh, using an IR signature, measuring the capacitance of the blade. They already make a device which uses a similar method for wood saws.

  13. Sebastian says:

    Of course, the really funny part about that is, if you had such a knife, it would be a switchblade under many states laws (including Pennsylvania) and would be a prohibited offensive weapon :)

  14. kaveman308 says:

    I won’t even consider buying a smart gun until every LEO and American soldier is using them exclusively.

    That means I’ll never own one. Period.

  15. Weer'd Beard says:

    The Big Problem I see with “Smart Guns” is the basic day-to-day multi-person use of a gun. How many of us own a gun because we shot a buddy’s and decided it was the gun for us? How many of us have test-fired a gun before buying it? How many of us have bought a gun for somebody as a gift or done a private sale? How many of us have taught a new shooter, or a family member to shoot with a gun? How many households have multiple guns that are shared? Have how many of us have had a gun worked on by a gunsmith which required test-firing?
    How many of us carry a back-up-gun, and know we can use it to arm a friend in a crisis?

    Even before you get to the rubber-hits-the-road defensive/offensive uses you have things that would come to a compleat stop with “Smart Gun Technology”.

    The other stuff be damned, as “Smart Guns” would simply crush the US Gun Culture very quickly

  16. Hal says:

    If “smart guns” and “smart bullets” ever become the only type of guns and ammo which we mere taxable and expendable peasants of these United Socialist States of America may legally possess, I predict that there will be a sudden increased and unprecedented demand for home workshop machine tools such as the Smithy 3-in-1 Lathe-Mill-Drill, along with steel stock and spring steel, and reloading presses and supplies. The sales of gunsmithing instructional home videos will go through the roof, too.

    Many of us will simply choose to defy these blatantly unconstitutional and oppressive laws and become our own gunsmiths and armorers, showing that these gun-grabbing tyrants that can be defeated from the privacy of one’s basement, garage, or shed in the backyard.

  17. persiflage says:

    But, with “smart gun” technology, what would happen to the unarmed off-duty policeman who suddenly comes upon one of his “brothers in blue” down on the highway, and grabs the injured officer’s gun to repel the perp who shot him? The gun won’t work, is what happens. Wrong “user”.
    Oh wait, the government and its agents will be exempt from the law, so the law-enforcement gun will work for anybody – even a criminal who steals it! I feel reassured. Never mind.

  18. mobo215 says:

    One of the biggest problems with smart guns is that some of my favorite guns could never be made with smart technology. 1911s and Hi Powers would go extinct.

  19. chris says:

    keep in mind that any electronics put into a “smart” gun have to basically be able to withstand the repetitive motion of very high g forces… basically, imagine the electronics put into a baseball and then slammed into a brick wall a couple of thousand times…

    no electronics currently made are even remotely that durable at any cost let alone at a price that would be affordable to the average person.

  20. Wolfwood says:

    What about just making it so that you have to insert the handcuff key to disengage the safety?

    *It’s EMP proof.
    *It utilizes a tool common to police but not to the general public, although if they found a downed officer they should be able to get the gun working (as far as I know, there’s been no rash of criminals hiding handcuff keys for use on actual handcuffs).
    *It allows for transferability between militia members (not only because a gun used in a firefight will already be unlocked but because, like we’ve seen with holsters, it’ll be the “good guys” who bother to carry the proper keys).

    Now, I think such a measure would be unconstitutional, but if you were looking to reduce the number of officers killed by their own weapons this might be a way. Alternatively, you could fire all the police and immediately reduce your police fatalities to zero.

    Also an alternative: holsters that require pushing of a series of buttons in a special order (kinda-sorta like http://www.ftknox.com/redesign/images/safe_images/HandgunSafeBoxClosed.jpg) that could be done by one hand.

    I think that either of these methods will result in more dead police than fewer, but malfunctioning chips will, too (if even purely mechanical guns have problems, adding in a computer system isn’t going to help things).

  21. Tom says:

    Smart guns?

    I think the biggest issue to their adoption is giving the guns life. Once we do that we can educate them.

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