Saturday, January 23, 2016


Defeating the Essential Purpose

Whenever some anti-gun nut brings up the subject of "smart guns" I'm always reminded of this give and take between the President and George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove:

President Merkin Muffley: And why haven't you radioed the plans countermanding the go-code?
General "Buck" Turgidson: Well, I'm afraid we're unable to communicate with any of the aircraft.
President Merkin Muffley: Why?
General "Buck" Turgidson: As you may recall, sir, one of the provisions of Plan 'R' provides that once the go-code is received, the normal SSB Radios in the aircraft are switched into a special coded device which I believe is designated as CRM-114. Now, in order to prevent the enemy from issuing fake or confusing orders, CRM-114 is designed not to receive at all - unless the message is preceded by the correct three-letter recall code group prefix.
President Merkin Muffley: Then do you mean to tell me, General Turgidson, that you will be unable to recall the aircraft?
General "Buck" Turgidson: That's about the size of it. However, we are plowing through every possible three-letter combination of the code. But since there are 17,000 permutations... it's going to take us about two-and-a-half days to transmit them all.

I know that allowing only our guys radio contact with our bombers attacking the USSR is a sound tactical decision but the movie always made it sound like it was a horrible idea to design a radio not to receive at all. And I guess it is--which is why I always think about this when someone mentions designing a gun not to shoot at all.

The idea behind a smart gun is to have a watch or ring which gives out a very short range signal, which if the gun receives it, allows the gun to work. Eventually they plan to make guns recognize finger prints (or perhaps instantly analyze the DNA of the hand that holds it). But under any circumstances, there has to be a power source (battery) in the gun to recognize the signal, etc. and allow itself to work. And the signal has to be generated (another battery). And the signal has to be recognized. In trials with prototypes, things are not going well.

But I think the problem is not with the technology but with the idea of a gun that only works sometimes. There were here in the US, according to FBI Crime Statistics for 2014, 166,790 aggravated assaults using guns and 8,124 homicides with guns. Since a murder by gun is just an aggravated assault with a gun that results in a fatality, I added the two figures together to get about 175,000 people who faced a person with a gun intent on harming them. That's not a huge number in a nation of 320,000,000, but it was very meaningful to the 175 thousand victims of the gun violence. To those people, the ability to access and use a gun in self defense was probably a valid concern and because each gun assault could kill or maim the victim, that concern was indeed vital.

I don't know how many of those victims were surprised, were at home, had access to a gun, or a dozen different details, but the essential nature of the self defense concern is a loaded gun that will work reliably right freakin' then. The idea that the gun has been designed not to work at all unless something electronic happens is anathema to the vital concern of the victims. It's just a bad idea. It will always be a bad idea no matter what the state of technology regarding smart guns is.

So of course the government will have to mandate their use in order to get us to use them, if they are ever made even marginally reliable. I don't think I'll get one.


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