It’s 1:00 in the morning. You wake up to the sound of a smashed window from your living room. In your groggy state, you get up, head to the bathroom. The sound of glass cracking underfoot, yanks you out of dreamland. You grab your gun and run to your kids room. The last thing you will be thinking about is how the RFID chip in your gun only reads your partner’s fingerprint.
Smart Guns: Are They Here to Stay?
Let’s make this short. Most likely, no.
Think of the above situation, think of that time you setup your printer, or bluetooth in your car. Think about the time you didn’t plug in your smartphone and struggled to find a charger during that phone interview. The smart gun adds complications to already traumatic experiences. You weren’t going to be thinking clearly enough to remember it before, now you are going to struggle with finicky smart tech during home invasions.
What are Smart Guns?
Smart guns can detect their authorized owner and are meant to be a safer solution to the current guns that exist on the market. Because the gun is only supposed to work when it’s in the specific owner’s hands, this should (in theory) reduce the number of gun crimes that happen.
Smart Guns, the Solution to a Problem that Never Existed
When you need a weapon, every second counts. When you are in danger and you are willing to go through the legal, ethical, and moral issues from destroying whomever or whatever, you are in dire need of aiming your weapon at. Do you need complex bureaucratic and technology restrictions as well?
Are Smart Guns Currently Used by Consumers?
As of late 2018, there are no smart guns on the US market. The closest thing we have to a smart gun is the Armatix iP1 Pistol. The iP1 requires a watch to be within 10 inches of the firearm to function. Using RFID signals, the gun and watch are used in conjunction to limit the pistol’s ability to fire. Except, it has already been hacked! It also costs nearly $2,100 and illegal to import into the US.
Types of Smart Guns
Smart guns are, in theory, a method to limit who can fire a specific gun. This is done through the use of biometrics, RFID chips, or the magical use of “intelligent ai” and encryption. Some prototype weapons link to the biometrics of defined users through fingerprint readers, like those on a smartphone or laptop. Others use RFID chips in cell phones, smart watches, bracelets or even within gun ranges themselves.
More complex options have also been proposed, such a using Wi-Fi enabled smart guns that would not function in gun-free zone such as schools, public streets, or government buildings. These even have the options to allow police or government officials to disable specific guns in the event of criminal activity or mass shootings.
Advantages of Smart Guns
The biggest advantage of smart guns is that they can help to reduce the amount of gun crime that happens. Since a smart gun can only work in the hands of its owner, if someone were to steal your gun, it would not do them much good.
Additionally, if you keep guns in the house and your children happen to find them, your kids would not be able to trigger it. This is huge in terms of safety, though we recommend always keeping your guns in a safe place where kids cannot easily access them!
The Major Flaws of Smart Guns
Overall, there are 5 major flaws with smart guns:
The simple fact is that adding features to a gun is going to increase cost. Smartphones, laptops or even simple locks increase in cost once biometric sensors are added. Guns are especially suspect to increased costs from a simple mechanical safety measure to electronic. The increased cost from a simple glock to a iPistol is nearly four times the cost.
Overall, smart guns are not reliable. No matter how reliable smart guns are made they will likely be less reliable than standard gun safeties. Of the 320,000,000 guns in the United States there are only 489 accidental discharge injuries each year, or 0.15 accidental discharge injuries per 100,000 people (roughly the same frequency of being injured by a cow).
Currently, smart gun on the market so far has been hacked. Usually the gun was hacked before it was released to the market. Gun owners know that in order to use a firearm effectively you need to be able to take it apart to clean. Once the hardware is available to be open or changed by the consumer the gun will immediately be hacked.
Guns are bought and sold at a high rate. Many gun owners don’t believe that they should part with a gun. Yet, many gun owners looking to purchase entry level pistols will then sell their pistol and upgrade to high end models.
Resale value matters with gun purchasers. Unfortunately, every major gun manufacturer stopped their production of smart guns due to public backlash.
The current number of firearms in the US is 325 Million – 612 Million. The cost of refitting that number of firearms is staggering. The bigger problem is politically, many want to see standard firearms outlawed once smart guns become available. This has lead to several major protests against smart guns, with gun stores unwilling to sell this product.
The problem with smart guns is they require power, add weight, and add complexity. Smart guns have so far been proven easily hackable. Creating a hack proof design would not allow the end users to clean, repair, or modify their guns.
The added “safety features” decrease a gun owner’s reliance on their own brains and training to know that a gun is safe and clean. Increasing the cost and complexity creates a barrier for new gun owners. Many supporters of smart guns feel this barrier can reduce violence, while other believe that income levels and technology is not a should not be a barrier for owning self-defense weapons.