WASHINGTON, May 14, 2014 — There is a recent nationwide push in regards to smart gun technology, and the push is not necessarily in favor of implementation. Millions of dollars are being spent urging tech companies to research safe methods of gun ownership, including funds from the newly minted Every Town for Gun Safety, and Mayor Against Illegal Guns. These groups see smart guns as a way to dissuade gun ownership, and so they are using their money to force products on a market that is perhaps not ready for it yet.
The federal government of course has also thrown their dogs into this fight in the form of the Handgun Trigger Safety Act. This program, if passed, would grant $2 million to companies seeking to develop smart gun technology, as well as requiring all guns within two years to be retrofitted at the cost of the manufacturer. This would essentially transform the firearms industry, and dissuade future gun ownership.
The backlash of gun owners over the introduction of smart guns into the market has been bizarre and confrontational. Understandably so, because of the issues discussed above, gun owners believe smart gun technology is nothing more than a way for the government, or hackers, or anyone, to make their firearms inoperable. Many believe that smart guns add an unnecessary step to the self-defense process, potentially endangering the lives of the user, and the user’s family in a life and death situation.
The backlash has been so negative on the part of gun owners, that when Engage Armament in Rockville, Maryland attempted to sell smart guns in their store, the store owner received death threats. People even protested outside of his store, attempting to force him to take the smart gun off the shelves.
This is wrong in the extreme.
First, it paints a picture perfect example of a group of individuals that Every Town for Gun Safety, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, NBC, CNN, and the Huffington Post can point to and say “look how intolerant and violent they are, they shouldn’t have guns.” It provides the other side of the argument with far too much ammunition when gun owners protest a gun store for selling a gun they don’t like.
Second, it is ironic. Gun owners tend to be Republican, if not Conservative, free market, capitalism loving individuals who value the existence of the free market and one’s right to free speech. The owner of Engage Armament was exercising his right and abilities under a capitalist system to test the waters of the market to see if there was indeed a demand for smart guns. If you do not want a smart gun, do not buy a smart gun. The same rhetoric gun rights advocates use on those who attempt to curtail their rights is the same rhetoric that should be used everywhere. If you do not want it, do not buy it. Exercise your rights as an American, and do not create participate in the demand for that product by purchasing it. Do not stand outside the store it is being sold in and protest its existence, as if it for some reason offends you.
This is a terribly confusing aspect of the entire smart gun argument. Those who support firearms are the same people who decry news stories of Democrat activists protesting the sale of guns in large retail sporting goods stores. They are the same people who are furious when products are pulled from shelves for being “offensive.” It makes no sense that they should be the same people to protest a store for selling a smart gun, much less threaten the life of the owner.
Lastly, we are all seeing smart gun technology in the wrong light. I am a gun rights supporter, I believe that we should all own the most reliable, best priced firearm that we as an individual can own. This comes through research, reading reviews, watching videos, and getting a feel for it at the store. People who have been gun owners, and who reject the idea of smart gun technology will most likely never buy smart gun technology, but here is the thing.
It is not for you.
We have been looking at smart gun technology as if it is going to replace the current firearms standard of technology. As long as we keep the legislators away from forcing an industry change, it will not. So we have to see smart guns for what they are, and that is a way to bring potential firearms owners who are nervous, or apprehensive about owning firearms, into the camp of gun owners.
Smart guns are for the parents who want more than a security system, but are afraid of their children getting a hold of guns. They are for those who see the news stories about children getting into accidents, about shootings which happen after parents guns are stolen, and they want a little extra security before they purchase a firearm. To them, to those people sitting on the fence of gun ownership, smart technology is a way to bring them in.
We should not decry smart gun technology, or lament its inclusion in the market. We should look at it as a means to bring in new gun owners. If there is a market for it, then people will buy it. If more people become gun owners, even with smart guns, it will increase the support base of gun rights advocates and more Americans will be armed. More Americans will at least have something to level the playing field against an armed attacker. These are the things we should think about, these are the benefits of smart gun technologies.
But there is a line here, as Chris Cox of the NRA-ILA said on Chris Plante’s show yesterday, between allowing the free market to respond to an actual demand for smart gun technology, and the government mandating and essentially taking over the firearms industry. That is what the people need to be keeping an eye on. Smart gun technology has the potential to be useful, but it also has the potential to invite further government control.
There are those in government who support legislation, such as the Handgun Trigger Safety Act, that would mandate all new and old guns possess “smart” technology, they say it will make us safer. But when opponents say that adding that extra layer of potentially malfunctioning equipment to a weapon could endanger the life of the wielder, those supporters of such changes say that with sufficient research and money, there should be no problems with the operational abilities of these weapons.
Well, as Chris Cox pointed out on the Plante show yesterday, if they are so operationally functional, why haven’t the police and military made plans to implement smart weapons into their arsenals?
In fact, the Handgun Trigger Safety Act explicitly excludes military and law enforcement from complying with proposed smart gun laws.
If the government entities responsible for tasks that require equipment necessitating the highest level of functionality are either exempted from, or refuse to implement, smart gun technology, one would think that the confidence of smart gun technology leaves much to be desired.
There is nothing wrong with investing in new technologies. There is nothing wrong with attempting to create a product that people may want to purchase. But there needs to be a line drawn between mandating a change in an industry while exempting the government, and creating demand within the free market.
The free market is where smart gun technology needs to exist, not in a government program. As of now, the cost of a “smart” handgun, in .22 caliber is $1,800. There is not much one can do with a .22 outside of shoot at tin cans, the caliber is in no way ideal for home defense. And at that cost, the technology making guns safe is arguably prohibitive. One can buy a low end .45 ACP for $450, and not have to deal with the possibility of malfunctioning technology.
The market needs to grow if it is going to stay around, that is of course unless it is mandated to stay by the government. But in order for it to grow new firearms chambered in defensive calibers need to be developed. They also need to address the issue of reliability, “smart” gun likens too much to “smart” phone, which suffer from constant bugs and malfunctions. The industry also needs to market to the fence sitting, potential gun owning, gun curious individuals who are interested but unsure. Smart gun technology has the potential to bring them, but not at $1,800 a piece for pea-shooter.
I am trying to learn more about the need/want for “smart gun” technology. If you could please take this survey, I would appreciate it.
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