Thursday, September 4, 2014

Smart Guns for Shall Issue Carry Permits - A Compromise?

I had an idea. The politicians running Maryland will likely never switch to Shall Issue carry permits on their own unless forced by a higher power (i.e. Supreme Court). But what if we sweeten the deal? Can the gun-control crowd do the thing they're always talking about; compromise? Simply put. What if we could get Shall Issue carry permits in Maryland (or other May Issue states) but we can only carry a Smart Gun? To those on both sides, can you agree?


There aren't many smart guns in existence right now and none appear to be available on the market. But there are quite a few gun-control advocates pushing for smart gun technology regardless. The closest to having a smart gun on the market that I'm aware of was the Armatix iP1. Unfortunately, the iP1 is just a .22 rimfire handgun which wouldn't be suitable for the roll of self-defense. Sure, it's better than nothing but a larger caliber than .22 should be used for self-defense in my opinion (anything above .380 ACP). The iP1 was supposed to be sold at a retail store here in Maryland (and maybe one in California) but many pro-gun people made threats (which sucks) that caused the owner of the store to back-out at the last minute. To be fair, however, many pro-gun people are seriously concerned about laws that force smart guns onto the people. New Jersey is one such state with that sort of law. The law, from what I understand, says that as soon as a "Smart Gun" becomes commercially available in any state in the US, the NJ state government has to begin a study to look at the viability of smart guns. If the study approved, NJ would then require all handguns sold in the state to be smart guns. I think Maryland may also have a similar law. I don't like the idea of politicians forcing people to buy only smart guns, even if it's specific to handguns for reasons regarding government overreach and Constitutionalism. Smart guns need to have a proven track record that they will work and be reliable under a verity of conditions. To make a joke, I'm not interested in having to boot-up my handgun. It's not like I can ask the baddie to wait while my handgun boots up; of course then it will decide to check for updates.

Jokes aside, I do understand and appreciate the many upsides to a smart gun (like preventing unauthorized user access) but there are many concerns (such as, will the "smart" parts correctly ID the authorized user 100% or 99% of the time) that people, myself included, have. Having the electronics work or fail on you at the moment of need could literally be the difference between life and death. You've already got to worry about the reliability of the mechanical aspect of firearms and now you're adding an unproven electronics package that may or may not work 99% of the time (you'll never hear anyone talk about a 100% up-time in the electronics world, only 99%). In all fairness, there really needs to be public access to smart guns (I believe the people have a right to choose) but forcing smart guns on people is just the worst. Public access will force improvements making the guns and smart package better. You have to remember that many, if not most, of the (legal) people buying handguns are buying them for some form of defense. Having a firearm that doesn't have good reliability is a firearm that doesn't work. Having a non-functional firearm for defense completely negates the intent of defense by making it unusable. Look at it like this, if it only works 50% of the time, 50% is not 100% nor is it 90%. At 50% failure rate, the gun is jamming or not firing 1 out of 2 times. That's basically useless. The Second Amendment does protect FUNCTIONAL firearms. Forcing an unreliable gun on the people is almost like requiring the firearm to be disassembled; it prevents the immediate access of the weapon, which prevents it from being used in a self-defense roll.

If you need some imagery, imagine you have a smart gun that scans your finger prints that you can get to work maybe 80% of the time on the first try. There is now an intruder in your home or your being mugged as you walk to your apartment building after you parked on the street. Will you be able to get the gun's scanner to work while you're under duress? Let's add to that, the intruder/mugger just stabbed your non-shooting arm and your shooting hand is now covered in blood. Your dominant/shooting hand is bloody because you grabbed your arm in reaction to being stabbed. After you get stabbed you try to pull your smart gun. Instead of blood, maybe it's raining and your hands are wet. Will the scanner be able to pick up your prints while covered in blood/wet? What if it's cold out and your wearing gloves? Will you be able to get your glove off before your attacked?  All the finger print systems I've used are pretty finicky under normal, calm and clean conditions. The ones that were the most first-try, reliable required me to figure out some little trick or technique to make the read as reliable as possible. None of them worked better than 90% (educated guess) of the time after learning said tricks and it took me quite a while to figure out those techniques (like how do I hold my finger or do I need to rock my finger from left to right then add light pressure). Outside those normal, calm, clean conditions, it's a crap shoot and reliability becomes questionable. I've seen were a few of my colleagues that used the EXACT SAME SCANNER had to be re-scanned into the system several times over a months time, because the system didn't recognize them or they didn't know how to make the system work.

What if the gun uses an RFID tag imbedded in a watch? Do you go to bed with a watch on? I don't. Hopefully you'll remember to put on the watch before you leave, though that shouldn't be much of an issue. What is the range of the tag? Is the watch's tag active or passive? If the watch's tag is an active system then it requires batteries, if it's a passive tag then the gun needs to have batteries. Maybe BOTH the watch AND the gun needs to have batteries; in most cases, it's highly likely the gun will need batteries regardless. I don't even want to think about having to buy special charging cables. Maybe they will be so kind as to use micro-USB like cell phones use. Even better would be those wireless charging pads. Then I wouldn't have to actually plug the gun in; just set it on the pad. A ring might be better then a watch but now you will need to have the ring sized if you intend to actually wear it. Sizing it could mess up the RFID tag. I would probably just wear it on a necklace.

Another thing to think about would be open carry. Many people think that concealed carry means the gun needs to be CONCEALED. There should be ZERO indicator that you have a firearm. If the RFID watch you're wearing is super unique, and people notice, then people might be able to figure out you're carrying. It's unlikely but people do notice things.

You could also have voice recognition on the gun but my experience with voice recognition systems has not been good. A many years ago I used a voice system as part of my job. After programming it twice, I was able to get it to work for about half the day. After that, the system would no longer recognize me which was stressful as hell. The added stress changed my voice making it even harder for the system to recognize me. My voice also changes as I get tired so that makes 3 things that impair the success of the system. I can't imagine how hard it would be for the gun to recognize me after I wake up. My car has Sync which can be a pain in the ass sometimes. Imagine you're scared and there are intruder(s)/mugger(s) shouting at you. You now have to shout at your gun UNDER STRESS and you have to get the pattern AND the password right and hope that the gun isn't getting confused by the attacker(s) yelling at you at the same time.  More jokes, if Siri was used then most of us would likely be dead; not very funny is it?

If we have to go the RFID route then I would rather have a small implant with a passive tag that I could implant into my hand as opposed to wearing some gaudy "modern" watch. I would definitely not choose the finger print scanner system just because of the experiences I've had with them and I think voice recognition is possibly the worst idea of them all. In addition, how can you force a mute person to have a voice recognition based smart gun? Answer is you can't because it's unconstitutional and it's also discrimination against disabled people. Speaking of medical conditions, how can you force a person with severe burns on their hands into using a finger print scanning gun if their prints are burnt off?

Yes the examples I gave above are narrow and "what-ify" but the people demanding smart gun only laws are basing their laws on "what-ify" examples as well. Pro-; "Well what if a criminal takes a cop's/carry permit holder's gun and tries to shoot them with it? The gun would prevent it because the RFID tag is too far away/scanner would lock them out." Con-; "What if a wife is trying to save her husband's life after he was shot/stabbed and she has to shoot the attacker as they try to kill her but can't because her hands are bloody/she's not scanned into the gun/the RFID tag is too far from the gun? Now she and her husband are dead and there's a useless gun on the ground ready for the coroner's pictures." In reality, each system has strengths and weaknesses. Some systems are better than others and some just really suck. Many situations can be hypothesized where one of the systems could work but that same system would cost someone their life in another situation. And this is all assuming that the system works 100% of the time in every condition which is not likely to happen. Can anyone think of any piece of advanced computer electronics that works without failure all day, everyday? I can't think of any and that's another reason why I can't say it's okay to force people to have smart guns.

Also, what if terrorists detonate a nuke or EMP bomb and it fries the circuity in the smart guns in the area. Guess who has a useless gun in a disaster situation? Hopefully, not the cops' guns because then they'd by totally boned; and not in a fun or enjoyable way. That means that the government isn't likely to force the local PD into smart guns just for that reason alone. At this point, we're basically trading tragedies here and, to be fair, we're not likely to end up with saving more people's lives. We're not going to get anywhere deaths wise. I know some people are willing to trade innocent people's ability to save themselves to try to prevent a few bad guys from committing another crime or some unfortunate children from tragically shooting themselves.

Let's talk about cost. Cost is involved here, so local PD's might not be able to spend the extra money for a smart gun. How much is a smart gun? Well, the Armatix iP1 is around $1400 according to Google who also says the watch (which isn't included) is $400. That's $1800 for a .22 rimfire handgun that isn't target grade or custom; which is outrageous. To compare the iP1 to similar .22 rimfire semi-automatic handguns, like the Ruger SR22, the SIG Mosquito or the Walther P22, the iP1 is MASSIVELY more expensive. How much more expensive? The Ruger, Walther and SIG retail for around $350 which means the iP1 is around 5 TIMES more expensive than the most popular firearms in the same category. Yes, the cost will drop as new models show up but if cost anywhere like that for these smart guns, then the cost is going to be too prohibitive for your everyday citizen. Which may end up being another reason laws forcing smart guns might be unconstitutional. It might cost your local PD around $450 for a new Glock 19. I figure it will probably cost around $200+ (just a guesstimate no evidence to support the claim BTW) for the same gun but with integrated smart gun technology. That said, there is a drop in kit for 1911's that's about $100 that is supposed to be an easy install that converts your 1911 to a "smart gun." Based on the pictures, it looks like the system isn't electronic but it does use magnets and a magnetic ring. It's also probably an easy uninstall which defeats the purpose of a smart gun. I imagine the anti-gunners will want integrated, hard to defeat technology making it more expensive to produce.

So with all that said, states that prevent the everyday citizen from carrying are also usually those with smart gun laws on the books. If I have to live in one of those states, then maybe I'm okay with smart guns as long as they have Shall Issue permits (no Good and Substantial Reason required) and my gun is reliable. Outside of those states, smart guns should not be required. I'll have to do some soul searching but a smart gun that works 50% of the time gives me a better chance than no gun at all.

Sorry folks, I made God knows how many edits and tweaks to this after it was up. It's still not that clean but I hope I get the point across.

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