This recent WaPo story on so-called “smart guns” isn’t the worst I’ve read on the topic. The author gives some space to the objections that gun owners raise concerning reliability. In all, it’s a pretty solid look at the smart gun debate, even if it does err on the side of a bit too much enthusiasm for a technology that is absolutely doomed in the commercial market.
But apart from reliability, which is by itself enough of an objection to ensure that most gun buyers will never go near a smart gun, there’s another objection that I’ve not yet seen raised to the smart gun. As a guy who knows a thing or two about technology, I’d like to raise the objection now: the smart gun and the second amendment, at least as many modern gun owners understand the latter, are fundamentally incompatible. Here’s why.
In September of last year, Apple introduced a technology that would let police remotely disable protesters iPhones. So if the police think that you might film them while they’re doing their thing, they could set up a “no pictures” zone by sending a wireless signal to disable the smart phone cameras in a certain vicinity.
ZDNET quotes the following bits of the patent, which provide Apple’s rationale for the technology:
As wireless devices such as cellular telephones, pagers, personal media devices and smartphones become ubiquitous, more and more people are carrying these devices in various social and professional settings. The result is that these wireless devices can often annoy, frustrate, and even threaten people in sensitive venues. For example, cell phones with loud ringers frequently disrupt meetings, the presentation of movies, religious ceremonies, weddings, funerals, academic lectures, and test-taking environments.
Covert police or government operations may require complete ‘blackout’ conditions.
Now, substitute “phone” in the above quote for “gun,” and you’ll see where I’m going with this.
Cops are going to love the idea that they can turn off suspects’ guns before doing a no-knock raid, but it’s hard to see gun owners getting fired up about it.
If you’re one of those folks who believe that the second amendment is the people’s last bulwark against tyranny, then you’re probably never going to buy a gun that the government can magically render inoperable. To give the government the ability to remotely disable your weapon would turn the second amendment, at least in the “first the soap box, then the ballot box, then the ammo box” sense, into dead letter.
Of course, there are many people out there who think that the idea of armed amateurs fighting off the world’s mightiest military is a bunch of cowboy fantasy hokum. I’m not going to wade into that debate, other than to say that given the amount of highly publicized grief that armed insurgents the world over have caused the U.S. and other organized militaries in recent decades, the number of people willing to make this argument seems to be shrinking.
Either way, my point still stands: whether it’s valid or not, the “bulwark against tyranny” argument for the second amendment would be completely moot in the smart gun era.