Smart Gun Technology

handgunThere have been many recent news articles that aim to talk about whether personalized guns, dubbed “smart guns”, can make an impact on future incidents of gun violence. As is the case with this invention, there are people that believe that smart guns can really reduce gun violence overall, even citing that past incidents, such as the Sandy Hook (December 2012) and the Santa Monica (June 2013) incidents, could have been prevented if the person wielding the firearm was instead holding a smart gun. However, there are also those who believe that smart guns would not make any difference and that they actually cause more trouble than they are worth. Although smart guns have its positive sides, there is legitimate reasoning as to why it would not be able to change the firearms industry, and as such, would not be a widely accepted innovation in the future.

Basically, a smart gun is a firearm that only lets authorized user fire it. The firearms uses human-recognition technology, such as RFID or fingerprint recognition, that identifies these authorized users. The concept is simple; if you are approved, then you will be able to fire the gun. Conversely, if you are not approved, then the gun will not go off. By integrating this into firearms, this innovation, in a theoretical sense, reduces the chances that people can get hurt from acts of gun violence in the future.

Despite it being an interesting idea, one must wonder if something like this can actually succeed in the future firearms industry. Although the concept of a smart gun existed for a long time, in today’s developed society, there are more potential implications to this idea. Discussions about smart guns have recently surfaced following various acts of gun violence happening in the nation. As technology grows, it isn’t exactly surprising that something like a smart gun has been made.

The idea of a smart gun goes back to the mid-1880s, where a child was accidently shot by a gun. Despite a valid attempt, the project was dropped. It was revived in the late 1990s, when the government wanted to develop smart guns to protect police officers from their own firearm should it get into the wrong hands. In other words, the entire idea of smart guns existed, but only recently has it become a more serious discussion than it has ever been, given the recent acts of gun violence.

The first functioning smart gun, introduced in February of this year (2014), is called the Armatix iP1, and it was sold at the Oak Tree Gun Club, a firearms distribution center in California. Although looked at as the first step toward reducing gun violence, Oak Tree came under fire from New Jersey gun owners just for actually selling the firearm. Set at a price of $1,400 for the new model, by simply selling the Armatix, Oak Tree infringed on their second amendment rights, as cited by said gun owners. As it turns out, New Jersey has a law that states that if a smart gun were to be sold anywhere throughout the nation, all firearms sold in the state would need to be smart guns within the next three years from its introduction into the market. This also means that all “traditional” firearms would be considered illegal. Reactions to the Armatix were fairly harsh. In an article from Michael Rosenthal from the Washington Post, he quotes various feedbacks, starting with a Facebook post saying, “These people are anti-gunners, I will never step foot in this dump.” A Yelp post was also quoted, although less harsh than the former quote, which said, “If you care about the ability to exercise your Second Amendment rights, I would suggest that you do not continue to frequent this place.” What is assumed is that, because the law would be telling citizens that they cannot use their current traditional gun, it contradicts that idea of “the right to bear arms.” When you tell citizens that they can no longer carry that traditional hand gun, you basically tell them that you can’t bear arms to a certain extent.

There is also the issue of reliability. Smart Guns are also criticized in the case that the worst-case scenario happens to the gun, which is that it does not work when it needs to. The scenario here is what happens if the gun fails on you when you need it the most. Say you need to defend yourself, but it will not work, what happens then. Sure, you could throw it at your target, but obviously, that is not a great idea. Also, it is worth noting that the human-recognition technology is electronic, meaning that it needs to be charged at some point. What happens if the gun cannot recognize you because the gun was not charged when it was supposed to be? If it is battery powered, what if that runs out? You can even argue about what could happen if you accidently drop the gun, and now the recognition technology stopped working, similar to how people accidently drop their phone on then concrete and it shatters. Yes, these are miniscule details, but after all, we are only human.

Of course, that is not to say that the idea of smart guns is completely bad. Proponents of smart guns actually make a good argument for them, in which they state that it can reduce gun violence overall. Smart guns use either human recognition technology or other accessories in order for the gun to actually work. In other words, only authorized users would be able to fire it. In a fact sheet from the Violence Policy Center in Rhode Island, the statistics relate to suicides and accidental injuries from firearms. Although they don’t take a stance on smart guns, it is clear that they see some kind of impact in reducing deaths related to guns. In a written article by John Rosenthal on the Huffington Post, he also believes that combining the technology into firearms could reduce gun violence, especially if the firearm does not belong to the person wielding it. To introduce his argument, he cites the events of the Sandy Hook incident.

The overall idea of a smart gun, or at least the intent of it, is not at all bad. At the very least, the idea to build and distribute it had no hate behind it toward existing gun owners in the first place. The discussion is not so much if smart guns are good or bad, but rather, if this is this something that can exist in future society and markets. Despite that, it is hard to see something like this working, given the negativity and price. It’s only when you look deeper behind the implications of a smart gun will people start to argue whether this can be impactful or not. Rightfully, there is a lot of criticism toward it, which leads many to believe that this idea cannot work and that it will not revolutionize the firearms industry like it is believed to. Obviously, there needs to be more research and development that goes into this technology, so it’s reasonable that there are those for and against it, given its early stages. After all, smart guns are nothing like smart phones like it is somewhat compared to. People are not going to make that switch in the first place from a traditional handgun that they are already used to and is reliable, to a smart gun that could fail on them when they need it the most.


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