Last Friday the Wall Street Journal released a podcast that asks the simple question, “Has The Smart Gun Revolution Begun?”
This 26-minute discussion covers familiar bases, which might lead one to presume something new is happening. But it really isn’t.
The controversy over so-called “smart guns” was perhaps best summed up earlier in the year in Vice’s detailed program appearing on Motherboard that asked, “Who killed the smart gun?” The answer is that nobody killed it, because so far, the “smart gun” really doesn’t exist. Research and development is in progress, and people trying to come up with a 100-percent reliable product haven’t quite gotten there.
As the Vice story noted, the firearms industry doesn’t oppose such research or even marketing of such products. The concern is that once a fully reliable technology is developed, some politician will push to make it mandatory.
Vice’s story explains, “That fear is not unfounded. Critics of smart guns often point to the New Jersey Childproof Handgun Law, as a slippery slope of regulation-turned-ban. This bill passed in 2002, and would require all guns sold in the state to be smart guns within three years of the technology first making it to store shelves. The law was intended to spur smart gun development to cut down on accidental killings, but it had the opposite effect. It sent a chill across the gun industry and gun owners who assumed once one state goes all-in on smart guns, so the rest of the country would go.”
Firearms, especially those used for personal protection or carried by police officers, must function flawlessly, all the time. In an emergency, fractions of seconds count, and there is no time to wait for fingerprint identification or some other technology to kick in.
That’s the dilemma that smart gun developers are trying to address.
In the firearms community, people are quick to suggest that police officers should be the guinea pigs, or better yet, the president’s Secret Service detail. The reaction from law enforcement has been less than enthusiastic.
The Wall Street Journal’s discussion features Jonathan Mossberg and fellow innovator Kai Kloepfer, along with Ron Conway and Don Kendall. Mossberg also appears in the Vice program.
There is something else. Vice notes that “between 260 to 300 million firearms” are already in circulation. Proponents of “smart guns” will have a tough market in which to compete.
Industry and gun rights leaders have maintained that the marketplace should determine whether the technology will be successful, not some politician or bureaucrat.