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A Look at Smart Gun Technology 765

Posted by samzenpus
from the shoot-first dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Engadget takes a look at smart gun technology currently available and what the future might hold. From the article: 'While the idea of a gun that couldn't be turned on its owner seems like an obvious win for everyone involved, there are a number of problems with the concept. Chief among those worries: the safety mechanism will fail when it's needed most. If you're relying on a weapon for defense, the last thing you want is another avenue for failure. Electronics aren't perfect. Sometimes cameras can't autofocus. Cable boxes freeze up when browsing the channel guide. The equivalent, seemingly small glitch in a smart gun could be the difference between life and death.'"
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A Look at Smart Gun Technology

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  • by Smerta (1855348) on Monday May 12, 2014 @01:00PM (#46980441)

    I was recruited by a company working in this area, to help them fix their electronics & firmware. Seemed like the classic case of a product that started as a prototype by one guy in the company as a side-project or skunkworks, then management saw a bandwagon they should jump on.

    The quality of the engineering was horrible. Most of my work is in safety-critical or life-critical applications, and I've seen it all, from poor to excellent, but this was appalling. Needless to say, I ran! (Yes, I see the jokes coming a mile away). But seriously, I was worried about getting sued if somebody got injured, and even worse, I was worried about somebody getting injured or killed by defective electronics or firmware. This isn't the kind of industry I work in anyway, but I thought I'd give it a look out of curiosity, and man was I shocked.

    I know this is anecdotal, YMMV, blah blah blah... just thought I'd provide a little "real world" insight based on my (admittedly very limited) experience and exposure.

  • by sribe (304414) on Monday May 12, 2014 @01:06PM (#46980507)

    Wow, really? A couple hundred deaths a year from toddlers alone? Please cite a source for that, other than your ass.

    A couple hundred deaths per year of children 12 and under, not toddlers, with no info on the ages of the shooters.

  • by wiggles (30088) on Monday May 12, 2014 @01:11PM (#46980579)

    > Please cite a source for that

    Hard to find a non-biased source for this, most of my searches pulled up anti-gun advocacy pages whose figures wouldn't stand up to scrutiny, but I did find this article from 2009 [cnn.com] that cites a CDC report stating that around 100 children annually, on average, died from accidental shootings between 2000 and 2005.

  • by Wdomburg (141264) on Monday May 12, 2014 @01:39PM (#46980975)

    According to CDC data, there were 62 firearm deaths among children 1-14 in 2012. Considering that range goes far beyond toddler, and includes deaths resulting from negligence by older household members, your assessment of the odds seems unlikely. I would suspect that older children are far more likely to misuse firearms.

    But the idea that accidental deaths are "high" in general bears scrutiny as well. For perspective, each year about 390 children drown in swimming pools. There are somewhere in the range of 32-37 million households that own guns, while only 8-10 million households own pools. Even if you don't have a pool, drowning is still a more present danger than a gun, with at least a hundred children a year drowning in bathtubs.

    Other dangers lurk around every corner. Poisoning sends hundreds of children a day to the emergency room, and kills several every week. Over a hundred a day die in car accidents. Then you have fires and accidental suffocations.

    TL;DR: the absolute level of risk is not particularly high.

    So the main question is what the countervailing benefit is. Citing only statistics about gun deaths is disingenuous. People do not only kill in self defense; they may not even discharge their weapon. The broader measures of defensive gun use vary pretty wildly, from as low as 67,740 from pro-gun control sources to as high as 2.5 million from other surveys. The true number is likely somewhere in between, but difficult to discern because the survey data does not include all categories of crime, unreported incidents, unrealized incidents (surveys of prisoners have stated they avoided households where they suspected there were firearms), and do not reliably ask whether firearms were employer.

    But even if you look at the low water number conceded by control advocates, the number of defensive uses is far higher than the total number of firearm deaths (~ 31k in 2012) including not just homicides and accidental deaths, but also suicides.

    That isn't to say efforts to mitigate risks are not valuable, but the efficacy of fire arms as a defensive tool should be kept in mind. The consequence of forgetting to put on your watch should be having to ask what time it is, not being raped or murdered. Even if these sorts of things became mandatory, the kind of gun owner irresponsible enough to leave guns where small children can get at them are probably the type who will just velcro the damn watch to the gun.

  • by nyet (19118) on Monday May 12, 2014 @01:44PM (#46981027) Homepage

    From the user manual for the Armatix iP1:

    "The iP1 pistol is intended for target shooting only and will not function if it is not within 10" of the referenced iW1
    wristwatch and the PIN code entered, or it or the referenced iW1 wristwatch do not have sufficient battery power, or
    communication between them is blocked. It should not be relied upon for purposes of self-defense."

  • A recent report by Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states [nap.edu] "“almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year. [slate.com]” (Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2013.)

    I've never seen a gender breakdown of defensive gun use, but with a lower bound of a half million annual, the 250K number is not unreasonable. Even the extremely anti-gun Violence Policy Center estimates average annual defensive gun uses at around 67K.

  • Mozambique Drill (Score:4, Informative)

    by Firethorn (177587) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @03:12AM (#46987359) Homepage Journal

    He was referring to a common 'failure to stop' drill called the Mozambique (Drill). Translation: 2 to the chest 1 to the head.

    It works out very quickly because of muzzle climb. First round to around nipple level, a bit below the armpits. Second round to just below the collarbone area. Third round to the face, forehead specifically.

    The idea is that even if somebody is wearing body armor it doesn't protect against head shots. So you shoot twice to the chest, the largest easiest disabling target. If that doesn't work, you put a round into the brain.

    I'm a bit hesitant to believing that a fold up shield can withstand small arms fire, but I agree with deescalating to the maximum extent possible. But if you have to shoot, you should be effective at it. Tueller drills help reduce your reaction time if somebody is coming at you with a knife, as well as help inform you how close you can get and not be threatened by a knife. Mozambiques help in case you encounter somebody wearing armor. Or hopped up on crack/meth/bath salts for that matter.

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?

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