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Maybe a sign of the times is really about smart bullets

Shelby Murdoc

A recent event in Wisconsin, a Firearm Safety Expo at Oak Creek’s Milwaukee Area Technical College, showcased a number of so-called “smart gun” technologies available today or under development. We’ve all been watching the topic for years now, mostly with a heap of skepticism about the viability of these ideas and the agenda of those most-heavily promoting them. And no matter how much the tech advances, the problems and concerns at the core of the matter remain no different than they were yesterday.

One headline-grabbing technology—“A Firearm That Sends a Text if it’s Moved”—had the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asking “After all, what’s wrong with a gun that sets off an alarm and sends a text if it’s moved?”

The device in question is a firearm grip that, not only keeps the gun locked on SAFE unless you enter a PIN, will sound an alarm if the device’s sensors detect that the gun has been moved and the PIN isn’t entered within ten seconds. If you release the grip’s switch, the gun re-locks in one-third of a second.

Never mind all the basic questions about needing the gun in a hurry or possibly being required to enter a PIN while facing a life-and-death situation, do you have to enter the PIN every time you shift the gun to another spot in your gun safe? What if you bump the gun in your gun safe while accessing a different gun? What if it’s in your trunk on the way to the shooting range and the car hits a pothole? What if the battery is dead? I’ll admit that at least it doesn’t use RFID or a fingerprint scanner. It’s available for pistols and now also for AR-15s.

Speaking of my iPhone which frequently fails to recognize my fingerprint…yet another biometric scanning device was on-hand at the Milwaukee-area expo, this one under development by a student who’s on leave from MIT to develop his invention. The inventor admitted to law enforcement officials that his device would probably not work for police, because guns that use it cannot be fired with either hand or with gloves on. Which, the article failed to mention, is also why the device won’t work for anyone outside the police department, either.

Another recent story, this one also featuring students inventing “smart gun” technology, noted that students at Plano West High School and Frisco High School in Texas developed what they call the “Secure Gun.” Their prototype, mounted on a Nerf gun, uses a camera to scan what the gun is pointed at and, if the target is a person or a crown, the gun limits the number of times you can pull the trigger to one shot every twenty seconds. Additionally, the Secure Gun uses GPS to determine the gun’s location and locks it completely in certain locations inside “geo-fences.”

There are some clear and obvious issues with all of these systems, of course. For instance, who gets to decide where the geo-fences are? How do people with a Secure Gun know that they’re inside a no-shoot geo-fence? What if I miss the robber/murderer/rapist with my first shot? Is it like “his turn” while I count “One, Mississippi. Two, Mississippi,” all the way to twenty?

Despite all of these problems, some of which are probably insurmountable and un-Constitutional, there is no question that the “smart gun” technology is advancing. Where a few years ago it was specialized research firms backed by big bucks from anti-gun organizations who were developing this stuff, today it’s college and high school students. The computing power is increasing and the cost is coming down. There is going to be more and more of these inventions, not fewer, and the pressure from certain sectors to mandate their use will not lessen.

Who knows? Someone might come up with an idea good enough that even the most passionate gun lover will decide that it’s worth it. Personally, I’d like a sensor that detects criminals, and aims the gun accurately for me. Maybe with a magazine-changer option if it’s not too much extra. Or a “magic bullet” that spins the air to shoot two guys seven times like Kevin Costner told us about.

Until then, I’ll leave the smart technology to the dumb toys.

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