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United States Technology

Using Technology To Make Guns Safer 1013

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Farhad Manjoo writes that there are a number of technologies that gunmakers could add to their products that might prevent hundreds or thousands of deaths per year. One area of active research is known as the 'smart gun' — a trigger-identification system that prevents a gun from being fired by anyone other than its authorized user. Researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology created a working prototype of a gun that determines whether or not to fire based on a user's 'grip pattern.' Gunmakers have been slow to add other safety technologies as well, including indicators that show whether a gun is loaded, and 'magazine safeties' that prevent weapons from being fired when their ammunition magazine is removed (PDF). That could save 400 lives a year. So why aren't gunmakers making safer guns? Because guns are exempt from most of the consumer safety laws that have improved the rest of American life. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, charged with looking over thousands of different kinds of products, is explicitly prohibited from regulating firearms. In 2005, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which immunizes gun makers against lawsuits resulting from 'misuse' of the products. If they can't be sued and can't be regulated, gunmakers have no incentive to make smarter guns." Note that gun safety features (not universally loved) like loaded-chamber indicators, grip safeties, and magazine disconnects are constantly evolving and have been available in some form and in various combinations for many decades, so gun makers seem to have some incentive to produce and improve them, and that the PLCAA does not prevent consumer safety lawsuits, but does shield gun makers from suits based on criminal conduct by gun buyers (though imperfectly).
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Using Technology To Make Guns Safer

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  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @10:51AM (#42347519) Journal
    The article and especially the summary is completely wrong about their central claim "gunmakers have no incentive...". Of course that's typical - anti-gunners would never shoot, never handle a firearm, so they normally have no idea what they are talking about. The supreme requirement in a firearm is RELIABILITY. If you are in a situation where you actually have to fire your sidearm, you die if it doesn't work right that time. A defensive weapon has to work every single time. That's why the 1911 design is still the second most popular model over a hundred years later - because it's been proven reliable. That's why you keep firearms simple - complex things break. That's also why you definitely don't add a bunch of complexity designed to make the gun NOT WORK if something isn't perfect - it has to fire, or an innocent person dies. It's only people who don't know about firearms, or about dealing with bad guys in general, who think something like "fingerprinting" one persons particular grip sounds like a good idea. It does sound good, until you think about the fact that the user is UNDER ATTACK. They may very well have to fire with their other hand, after the BG smashes their right arms with a baseball bat, car, stabs them with a knife .... These "smart guns" look cool in movies, but anyone with any tactical experience or training knows they are only movie props. In real life, these ideas would get good guys killed every day. If you've never even been trained in USING a firearm, please don't pontificate about how they be be designed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 20, 2012 @10:54AM (#42347547)

    I know NOTHING about guns, being a Brit

    Congratulations, you know more about guns than most of the anti-gun crowd, as well as a disappointing number of gun owners. What you go on to describe is basically the first 3 pages of the NRA basic pistol safety manual - always treat a gun like it's loaded, always point it in a safe direction, and always keep it unloaded until you're actually using it. You're absolutely right - "accidental" shootings are virtually always negligent.

  • by MachineShedFred ( 621896 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @10:58AM (#42347591) Journal

    If you're a pedant, sure. However, you can verify it's not loaded if you have disassembled it, ass.

  • Re:Lousy ideas (Score:4, Informative)

    by LehiNephi ( 695428 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @11:02AM (#42347643) Journal
    It's fairly well understood that the sound of racking (that's the proper term, I believe) a shotgun actually will not scare away an intruder. I wish it did--I'd much rather have the bad guy run away than have to shoot him.
    Secondly, if you want a larger spread, you don't get a larger barrel--it's 12gauge (or 40, or whatever) all the way down. You can get barrels with different chokes, which constrict the opening at the end of the barrel to various degrees.
  • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @11:02AM (#42347655)

    "you don't point a gun at people EVER"

    Fixed that for you. Always assume a gun is loaded - even if you have absolute, undeniable proof that it isn't. It's the kind of crap they teach before kindergarten in rural areas.

  • by suprcvic ( 684521 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @11:08AM (#42347727)
    Handlers are unsafe. There is no such thing as an "accidental discharge", there are only negligent discharges. Basic rules of firearm safety:
    1. 1. The gun is always loaded. Even if you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that there are no rounds in the magazine or chamber, you always treat a gun as if it is loaded.
    2. 2. Never point a gun at anything you aren't willing to destroy.
    3. 3. Finger OFF the trigger until you are ready to fire.

    There are more, but those are the most basic and most important. Guns aren't responsible for violence anymore than cakes are responsible for fat people.

  • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @11:11AM (#42347761) Homepage Journal

    Norway, at least.
    A provision for servicemen keeping weapons at home is that they store the bolt away from the weapon itself. Similar for handguns with removable firing pins.

  • by fifedrum ( 611338 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @11:31AM (#42348057) Journal

    NRA basic pistol, rifle, every single hunter's education course in the nation (and many other nations) as well as thousands of safety websites, videos, and general use books. Jeff Cooper put it this way, and this is the way it's taught in safety courses world wide.


    And yes, the shouting is on purpose.

  • by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @11:37AM (#42348127)

    They will often say that someone accidentally discharged a weapon while cleaning it in order to keep the family thinking that their loved one is damned to hell for all eternity, or that they were responsible for the mental anguish that caused his suicidal thoughts.

  • by beren12 ( 721331 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @12:11PM (#42348565)
    I hope you realize there is no such thing as non lethal weapons. The technical term is "Less than Lethal" because they can still kill or seriously injure. The military uses basically a hard core paintball gun in detention camps. It does serious damage if you shoot it in the wrong area. Ever get a frozen paintball in your eye? Tazers kill too, especially if the person has some sort of electrical implant. just google around. The argument you didn't mean to kill the person with a tazer wouldn't hold, just try explaining it to the family. It's the same as if you stabbed or shot or made someone beed somehow and they bled to death. "Well, I didn't mean to kill them I only sliced him up with my kitchen knife."
  • by bjdevil66 ( 583941 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @12:11PM (#42348569)

    I can tell you that you don't point a loaded gun at people EVER,

    Whether the gun is loaded or not doesn't matter at all. Just pointing a gun - loaded or not - at someone is considered "assault with a deadly weapon". It's a felony that can put the gun wielder in jail for a year or two (or more, depending on the circumstances), if convicted.

    Supporting anecdote: An old friend of mine caught his wife cheating with someone at his house, freaked out, went to get his gun, and pulled a gun on him - ordering him to get out of their house. He left (quickly), and the police showed up in short order. The net result: the friend did 2 years in jail - and the cheating wife and lover walked away.

    Moral(s) of the story:

    • * NEVER, EVER just brandish or wave a gun at someone. If you pull a gun out, you absolutely, positively must pull the trigger.
    • * When you do use it, you'd better kill your assailant/target to avoid civil lawsuits (Sidenote: Here in Arizona, a proposition just passed last month that takes away the right to sue if the plaintiff was in the act of committing a felony when they were harmed.)
  • by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Thursday December 20, 2012 @12:17PM (#42348633)

    The 2nd amendment was only for the purposes of the formation of a militia.

    Actually, it's purpose, like the rest of the "Bill of Rights," was to get the Constitution ratified. The public wanted assurances that a new, stronger federal government wouldn't be able to reinstate the abuses of the British (who would do things like quarter troops in private residences and confiscate guns). There is also the implied, though not explicitly stated, implication that citizens would maintain the means to revolt again, should the government abuse its new power. Of course, that didn't help out the Whiskey Rebellion revolutionaries, but what do you expect from Pennsylvanians?

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @12:19PM (#42348673)

    RULE 1 is not violated when you clean a firearm. If you understand it means operational firearms. Aways disassemble before cleaning. Rule 2 is the same. Until the weapon is in pieces that pose no more danger than bits of metal, do not point the end that goes bang at anything you don't want destroyed.

    Besides, shot "cleaning a gun" often means no one wanted to admit to it being suicide.

  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @12:21PM (#42348711) Homepage Journal []

    A lot of people play games with statistics. Statistics in the US are pretty much meaningless, when it comes to an armed population. Anyone who manipulates numbers seems to have an agenda, so they manage to make the numbers say whatever their agenda demands.

    The fact is, most of our most dangerous cities are the very cities with the strictest gun control laws.

    Go ahead, read the report. Tell me how safe it is to live in a country with very strict gun control laws.

  • by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @12:22PM (#42348723)

    The Bill of Rights of 1689 said otherwise. To quote Wiki, []

    It reestablished the liberty of Protestants to have arms for their defence within the rule of law, and condemned James II of England for "causing several good subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when papists were both armed and employed contrary to law".

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday December 20, 2012 @12:31PM (#42348857) Homepage Journal

    That's why you keep firearms simple - complex things break.

    I find this to be an interesting sentiment coming from a technology oriented community like Slashdot.

    "The more complicated the plumbing, the easier it is to clog the drain." -- Scotty, Star Trek III

    There used to be an engineering strategy called the "KISS principle". KISS was an acronym for "keep it simple, stupid." Today's nerds, especially those who work for Microsoft and at most web sites, have thrown this concept out the window.

    But look at an iPhone or an Android -- their designers did what they could to make the sevice as simple as possible for the user. No good coder will write a thousand lines of code when fifty will do the same job.

    Maybe it really is up for debate, but it seems to me that cars have became vastly more complex over the decades, but reliability is on the rise, and cost of maintenance has gone down

    Yes, they're more complex and more reliable, but unlike firearms, automobiles were always complex. Firearms are simple machines requiring little maintenance... and BTW, cars are a hell of a lot more expensive to maintain these days. There was no such thing as a "brain box" or a "climate control module" in a 1970 Ford, and if one of these goes out it will cost you hundreds of dollars to replace. If your water pump went out you could fix it yourself in twenty minutes with a $20 part. Today? Good luck even finding the water pump, you're going to have to hire a mechanic. Gun owners don't want to take their gun to a gunsmith every damned hunting season.

    My point is, we can in fact make complex AND reliable things when we want to, and when we spend the time and resources required. Why are guns exempt from this?

    Just because you can do a thing doesn't mean you should. This topic is kind of a straw man anyway; none of these measures would have stopped the bloodshed last week; these measures mostly make the liklihood of it going off prematurely and killing the owner. And if a hunter's gun doesn't fire when that nine point buck is in his sights, you're going to have one pissed off hunter who will never buy that brand of gun again.

  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @12:34PM (#42348883) Homepage Journal

    I believe that disarming the general population causes criminals to feel safer while committing crimes. Did you read the PDF?

  • by Dimensio ( 311070 ) <darkstar.iglou@com> on Thursday December 20, 2012 @01:08PM (#42349395)

    The term "assault weapon" is a nebulous term based upon the presence of features that do not affect actual firearm function. Most "assault weapons" are in fact civilian sporting rifles featuring a pistol grip and at least one other defining feature that are most commonly seen at target ranges and occasionally in the hands of hunters.

    The term is applied for the specific purpose of confusing those unfamiliar with firearms into believing that common civilian sporting firearms are actually military weapons.

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @01:19PM (#42349535)

    Why and when do you have to dry fire to clean? Why does the gun have to be assembled to do that? If not why are you not depressing the catch with another tool?

    Why can you not purchase inert ammunition for dry fire exercises?

    Dry fire activities should be taking place only at the range or other place safe to fire said weapon and pointed at a target. Please tell me you are doing that. ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED, RULE #1.

  • HS Football: (Score:4, Informative)

    by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @02:04PM (#42350095)

    While a lower rate (football alone) isn't American Football responsible for approximately 25 deaths or catastrophic injuries per year?

    (4+ direct deaths such as severed spines, 9+ indirect deaths like heart attacks, and an average of 13 injuries such as total paralysis)

    I'm not saying this as a plea to ban football in HS. (However, I think we do put our HS players in too much danger), but to illustrate that I believe people are wildly overreacting to the actual threat. Mass shootings average 100 deaths per year. That is an astonishingly small number when you factor in the population size, and when you also consider the risk due to things that are completely avoidable like HS football.

    The hysteria just bugs the hell out of me.

  • by MachineShedFred ( 621896 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @03:18PM (#42351289) Journal

    Marlin .22 LR semiautomatic rifle [] + 10 round magazine = Assault Weapon under the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.

    Ruger .22 LR semiautomatic rifle [] + 10 round magazine = NOT an Assault Weapon under the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.

    The difference? The Marlin has a vertical magazine, rather than a rotary magazine that fits flush into the receiver. Legally, an "assault weapon" is a largely a cosmetic definition.

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