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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 Anrego (830717) * on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:29AM (#46980031)

    Just like many of the current rube goldberg-ish "less-lethal weapons", the tech to make a "smart gun" just isn't there yet. Every entry in this field has it's list of failures and impracticalities.

    That's not to say we shouldn't stop trying. We'll probably get there eventually. It's just not something we can do right now. At the very least progress has clearly been made. I remember years ago they'd talk about "smart guns" and they'd involve special clips or holsters which would have been absolutely ridiculous in the kind of scenarios where you'd want a gun. At least now the ideal case seems practical and we are arguing about reliability.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:33AM (#46980069)

    Because I can get a decent handgun for about 500 bucks, or I can buy a $2000 smart gun and ruin it with my soldering iron?

    I wouldn't mind buying a smart gun if it was a good, quality firearm. Choices are good. I just don't want it to be the only kind of gun I can get.

    You know The Party will demand a killswitch on your smart gun, right? And telemetry metadata on where the gun has been. Perhaps a smart round that the gun owner must digitally sign with two-factor.

  • Flawed reasoning (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GlobalEcho (26240) on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:33AM (#46980073)

    the last thing you want is another avenue for failure

    That's not a very bright statement. What you should wish to avoid is for something bad to happen. One way that can happen is indeed for a gun to fail when it needs to work, but there are others, for example having an unseen companion assailant seize the gun and shoot you with it.

    It's all about the probabilities of various scenarios, and anyone failing to incorporate that that in their evaluation is not worth listening to. (For the record, I have no opinion about what those probabilities are, but live in such a safe place that I don't consider bothering with a gun.)

  • by tthomas48 (180798) on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:33AM (#46980081) Homepage

    [bad guy disarms person with smart gun] "Wait, hang on"... [he pulls out soldering iron]... "I'm gonna shoot you".... [soldering].... "hey where are you going?"

  • Life or death (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:35AM (#46980105)

    This probably isn't going to be a popular post but as someone who lives in a country where guns aren't allowed, having a gun or not is not a difference of life and death. Like not even remotely.

    That sentence makes it sound like where the poster lives he has to deal with gun violence daily. Like going to a supermarket might have you end up in a gunfight where you better be prepared to go Rambo on someone's ass.

    That's not a place I'd want to live in and luckily I don't.

    Surely this is scaremongering right? Or does anyone actually worry about such scenarios on a daily basis?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:35AM (#46980119)

    I'll start using "smart" guns when the police and military issue them as primary guns. Any reason for those organizations to use or reject them applies to the citizens.

  • by Lord Kano (13027) on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:36AM (#46980129) Homepage Journal

    Gun enthusiasts have no interest in this technology. Who wants something that will reduce reliability and increase price?

    The only people pushing for it are those who dislike the idea of civilian firearm ownership.

    That's more than enough to make me suspicious.

    LK

  • The bigger picture (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wytcld (179112) on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:37AM (#46980141) Homepage

    The odds of your gun being grabbed and used against you are high. The odds of your toddler picking up your gun and using it on family or friend are significant - it happens at least several times a week in this country. So any instances of this new tech failing and depriving you of use of your gun when you need it should be balanced against the lives saved, including your own, by the tech working as designed.

  • by fche (36607) on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:41AM (#46980181)

    A sign that all this legal posturing is not about what it claims is the perpetual exemption of law enforcement from being subjected to technological gun-tracing / -smartening efforts. The lives of police are no more important than ordinary citizens'. If it's not good enough for the boys and girls in blue, it's not good enough for civilians. After all, civilians are almost always closer to the place & time of crime than the police.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:42AM (#46980195) Homepage Journal

    Should that battery die, the gun could fail to fire. In fact, most models designed for civilian use are designed to fail if the battery dies. It's been suggested that smart guns designed for law enforcement should automatically disable the safety if the battery dies.

    If a government agent won't carry a default-LOCKED "smart" weapon, why should anyone else have to? The people pushing for such mandates apparently slept through Civics class.

    How about this: If a person wants to buy a "smart" gun, let them; if a person wants to buy a regular gun, let them. If a person wants to use any weapon of any kind to harm another in a non-defensive manner, let them suffer the previously agreed-upon social consequences (i.e., jail time, fines, death, etc.). Thus freedom is preserved, and only those who are actually guilty of harming others are punished, rather than the population as a whole.

  • by fallen1 (230220) on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:44AM (#46980213) Homepage

    That's the only "safe" thing I need on a gun. I know the risks of my gun being taken away from me during a break-in/robbery/assault or anything else that a criminal can perpetrate against me and mine.

    The ONLY thing I want to have to deal with or worry about is "Did I flip the safety off?" Most guns are purely mechanical in nature and I see no reason to introduce electronics into making them "safe," do you? Let's add in additional points of failure into what should be a mechanical object that needs to JUST WORK.

    This falls under the "Just because we can do a thing, should we do a thing?" category. For fuck's sake, leave guns alone. If you don't like them, feel you don't need them, or just don't understand them then please sit quietly in the corner while those of us that do defend your life, liberty, and pursuit of whatever the hell you want to do.

    And remember one thing: Criminals are criminals BECAUSE THEY DON'T FOLLOW THE LAWS ALREADY. One more isn't going to make them change their mind. Removing guns from the hands of (mentally stable) citizen's is absolutely not the answer. It is a path to disarmament, oppression of the people, and a new class of slavery. Read your history.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:44AM (#46980215)

    . . . shouldn't be messin' around with guns.

    Folks who know even less about guns . . . shouldn't be legislating about guns.

    If you do want to learn about guns, visit a nearby shooting range. You'll be surprised how friendly these "gun freaks" are, and how polite and patient they are with newcomers. It's just like any other sport. People like to show off, when they know a lot about something, and are good at it.

    All these smart guns ideas . . . well, we know where that's coming from, and where it is going . . .

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:47AM (#46980243) Homepage Journal

    [bad guy disarms person with smart gun]

    Until I see someone cite an actual statistic of how many people are disarmed and shot with their own weapons, I'm going to continue to see these sorts of claims as hyperbole, and rightfully so.

    "Wait, hang on"... [he pulls out soldering iron]... "I'm gonna shoot you".... [soldering].... "hey where are you going?"

    I think OP's contention is that the criminal is going to steal the gun and, at some later point, disable the disabling mechanism, at his leisure. Hell, mayhaps someday there will be groups of criminals that specialize in de-smarting firearms, presuming there's ever an actual market for the damn things to begin with.

  • Re:Camera gun (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:51AM (#46980293) Homepage

    Disabling shots are irresponsible, unsafe, and ineffective.

    If you can deal with a situation without lethal force (accounting for disparity of force, ability to do act, and reasonable-person standard of self defense), then you are obligated to do so. You are more likely to miss (especially under stress), will achieve far less knock-down, tells a jury that you are so goddamn awesome that you probably didn't need to shoot, and you are trying to hit something still filled with things like femoral and brachial arteries so it may result in you BOTH being dead.

    Center mass if you can, Mozambique if you have to.

  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:52AM (#46980317)

    The odds of your gun being grabbed and used against you are high.

    Weird that we carried guns at all when I was in the Marine Corps then, huh? The enemy might have taken it away from me!

    The odds of your toddler picking up your gun and using it on family or friend are significant - it happens at least several times a week in this country.

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

  • by mojo-raisin (223411) on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:53AM (#46980337)

    Having a gun fail is bad.

    We have a Right to functioning guns and "wish[es] to avoid is for something bad" are irrelevant. I always want my semis to work. Always. What someone else wishes is up to them.

  • by Kenja (541830) on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:56AM (#46980373)

    The odds of your gun being grabbed and used against you are high.

    No... not really. The odds of you EVER needing your gun to fight off a "bad guy" who may try to grab your gun are slim to not.

  • Re:Camera gun (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ganjadude (952775) on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:58AM (#46980409) Homepage
    how about we just learn to respect the constitution in all regards again

    the second amendment is literally 3 or 4 sentences long. I dont know why its so hard to understand the law that says the government "shall not infringe" Mandating ANYTHING is infringing

    And dont give me that BS about how well regulated means regulations, it does not. It means well armed. I am all for smart guns, as long as I have my choice to buy a non smart gun signed, this non gun owner in a home with many
  • Re:Life or death (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday May 12, 2014 @11:59AM (#46980433)

    This probably isn't going to be a popular post but as someone who lives in a country where guns aren't allowed, having a gun or not is not a difference of life and death. Like not even remotely.

    Glad to hear you live in a country with zero deaths from violent crime ever.

    Where is that again, exactly? So we can check your statistics.

  • by KermodeBear (738243) on Monday May 12, 2014 @12:00PM (#46980443) Homepage

    Not to be conspiratorial, but here we go. The first step is to have "smart" guns that will only fire when in the hands of the owner. The second step is to require all firearms to be "smart" guns. The third step is, for everyone's safety, to combat crime, and of course for the children, is to require that all smart guns now have a kill switch. That way the government can safely disable a criminal's firearm.

    Since people like Bloomberg are unable to remove firearms from the populace entirely (right now), this is the kind of thing they will push for because it will effectively give them the control they want.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2014 @12:02PM (#46980463)

    You've watched too many Hollywood movies.

    Bludgeoning somebody is a very hard action compared to firing a gun.

  • by Lord Kano (13027) on Monday May 12, 2014 @12:07PM (#46980517) Homepage Journal

    I too have small children. I too am concerned for their safety.

    I buy safes to store my firearms. For far less than the cost of one of these guns, you can buy a regular gun and a good safe.

    LK

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Monday May 12, 2014 @12:12PM (#46980593) Journal

    > Until I see someone cite an actual statistic of how many people are disarmed and shot with their own weapons, I'm going to continue to see these sorts of claims as hyperbole, and rightfully so.

    Yes. The argument often made for women not to carry firearms is that it'll be taken away from them and used against them. (...which is a bit condescending and sexist but let that pass for now.) Although I don't have my copy of the book in front of me, I think it was Paxton Quigley that pointed out the difficulty of finding instances where this has actually happened, as opposed to the quarter million or so of women yearly who successfully use firearms in self defense. In other words, the "smart gun" appears to be a solution in search of a problem.

  • by stoploss (2842505) on Monday May 12, 2014 @12:17PM (#46980645)

    [bad guy disarms person with smart gun]

    Until I see someone cite an actual statistic of how many people are disarmed and shot with their own weapons, I'm going to continue to see these sorts of claims as hyperbole, and rightfully so.

    Right, and after they provide those statistics, they can also provide a stat showing how this smart gun + watch technology would have prevented said shootings. The gun will fire if it's within 10 inches of the watch. In an up-close scuffle (you know, the only kind where a disarming is plausible), would the distance be great enough to prevent the criminal from shooting the owner once he grabbed the gun from the owner's hand?

    I wouldn't count on it.

    This is a "solution" in search of a legal mandate to force people to buy it. Welcome to modern capitalism: "building a better mousetrap" is secondary to regulatory capture.

  • by NEW22 (137070) on Monday May 12, 2014 @12:24PM (#46980741)

    I'm guessing that at least some of the people pushing for this aren't necessarily against the idea of civilian firearm ownership, but are against gun violence or gun accidents that lead to injury or death. I can imagine such a person might like the idea that a child might not shoot themselves or a sibling accidentally because such technology prevented the weapon's discharge.

    Now that you know there is more than 1 type of person who might be for this technology, maybe you won't need to be so suspicious.

  • Re:Camera gun (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ganjadude (952775) on Monday May 12, 2014 @12:26PM (#46980777) Homepage
    im all for individual freedom, not being told what I can and cant do. If you dont like it, get a constitutional convention together, and get the congress to amend the constitution, as was intended when the constitution was written, and has been done a handfull of times over the years.

    Without doing that, all gun regulations are unconstitutional.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2014 @12:50PM (#46981125)

    No machine is 100% reliable.

    Exactly!!! And the more gear they strap on the gun then the further from "100% reliable" it gets.

    Example: My car speed sensor went out on me. When the sensor started sending erroneous signals my cars computer thought I was going faster than 120mph and cut out my engine to slow me down. Although my speedometer was pegged at 120, I was really putting at 5 mph on the freeway because the computer also made my transmission drop to 1st gear and wouldnt let it upshift. All the needed parts of my car were functioning correctly ( transmission, engine, drive train, etc ) but it was a piece of add-on crap sensor that left me stalled. This is a great example of how an add-on unnecessary part made the core parts misfunction.

  • Re: Camera gun (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sed quid in infernos (1167989) on Monday May 12, 2014 @01:14PM (#46981475)

    "Handguns" didn't exist in 1789, so if you're holding up a 1789 piece of paper, you should only get to use a 1789 gun! If you accept a gun made in 2014, then you have to accept ALL the technological features required. It's not that complicated.

    Handguns existed at the time the Second Amendment was passed. They weren't nearly as good, no question, but they did exist. More importantly, though, I doubt you'd accept that kind of limitation with respect to the First Amendment, which would allow only handwriting, unamplified speech, acoustic megaphones, woodcuts, manual printing presses, and a few other, mostly one-off or impermanent, means of expression. No internet. No microphones. No audio recording and playback. No video or photographs.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Monday May 12, 2014 @01:16PM (#46981515)

    im all for individual freedom, not being told what I can and cant do.

    So you are an anarchist then? Personally I prefer to live in a civilized society where we have meaningful and ongoing debates about what rules we should all live under including those relating to weapons. I'm generally a supporter of the right to bear arms but I also recognize that there are significant real world issues with how to manage weapons while simultaneously ensuring people's rights to life and security. "Anything goes" is not a sane position to hold on the issue.

    Without doing that, all gun regulations are unconstitutional.

    The Supreme Court disagrees with you [latimes.com] and their interpretation of the law is the one that actually matters.

  • by uncqual (836337) on Monday May 12, 2014 @02:27PM (#46982433)

    If this bill were to pass and the second smart gun approved for sale also had the "not intended for self defense" notation in its manual (as it surely would - I doubt any gun manufacturer would open themselves up to lawsuits because defective smart guns failed to work and, as a result, the gun operator was injured or killed), I doubt the law would survive the scrutiny of even the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

    Much as most of the judges on the Ninth Circuit court hate it, they have to follow Heller (recognizing a Second Amendment right of individuals to keep and bear arms for self-defense) and Chicago (via application of the Incorporation Doctrine and the Fourteenth Amendment to Heller, subjecting state and local governments to the constraints of Heller). Any law which bans the sale of any handgun which is effective for self defense is unlikely to survive.

  • by ganjadude (952775) on Monday May 12, 2014 @02:51PM (#46982745) Homepage
    im a libertarian, not an anarchist. As I said below, if you dont like guns, remove them the way the law was intended, via constitutional convention. Why are the most important laws in the land less important to you than unconstitutional laws pushed by people with an agenda??
  • Re:Camera gun (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spritzer (950539) on Monday May 12, 2014 @03:45PM (#46983429) Journal
    Let me sum the whole argument up. The 2nd amendment is often misinterpreted to mean that a militia is required for gun ownership. In fact, it is the opposite. Guns are required in order to have a militia. Put into simplified modern language, the amendment reads "Because we need a well regulated militia, we must ensure that the people have a right to carry weapons".

    In other words, the militia is not a condition for gun ownership. Gun ownership is a condition for having a militia.

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