Guns in America: Smart Guns and the Folks Who Keep ‘Em Dumb

  • There are an estimated 4.6 million children living in U.S. households with guns that are kept unlocked and loaded. (Huffington Post
  • Boy with gun

    (Image by Mojpe)

    In 2016, 3,000 children were unintentionally shot, and 127 were killed in shootings, often with improperly stored guns.

  • School shootings like the one in Sandy Hook involved minors taking guns belonging to adults.
  • Thousands of guns are stolen every year and sold on the black market.
  • Studies have shown that most of the guns used in criminal assault are not owned by the perpetrator.  (Buzzfeed
  • A number of suicides are committed with guns that are owned by another person, sometimes a family member. 
  • More than 5 percent of police officers killed in the line of duty are shot with their own weapons.

Technology offers what is at least a partial answer for all of these problems. It’s called the smart gun and it’s smart because it can identify the owner of a weapon and prevent anyone else from firing it. A number of smart guns have been developed using different technologies including fingerprint scanners like we use to unlock our phones, PINs, radio frequency identification (RFID) and biometric sensors. There are also location guns that use geometric fencing to restrict the firing of a gun to a fixed geographic area. That would suit the gun owner who wants the gun for the purpose of protecting his or her home or place of business. Location technology could also alert a gun owner if a gun was removed from its proper location or restrict the firing of a gun in certain places, like schools or police stations.

Smart guns have been around for a couple decades. The location gun was invented in 1984. Yet most of the smart guns that have been designed and tested have never been produced commercially. A German smart gun exists that is sold in Europe. But there aren’t any smart guns on the store racks in the U.S. Why? Because of the gun lobby and specifically the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the millions of dollars it spends on lobbying and direct campaign contributions to lawmakers to dissuade them from any legislation that would regulate guns. The NRA spent $30 million to elect Trump and a report by CNN showed that all but six Republican members of Congress received money from the NRA. Eight of them got over a million dollars.

Gun on the ground

(Image by Jens Lelie)

Why would the NRA not support safer guns? Why would they not want to see firearms that protect children and possibly reduce crime? Per their Web site, here is the official NRA statement: “The NRA doesn’t oppose the development of ‘‘smart’ guns, nor the ability of Americans to voluntarily acquire them. However, NRA opposes any law prohibiting Americans from acquiring or possessing firearms that don’t possess ‘smart’ gun technology.”

That statement is disingenuous because the NRA has fought against every attempt to research, manufacture or sell a smart gun. At one point the gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson announced a initiative to research and develop smart guns. The NRA led a boycott of Smith & Wesson that impacted their business to the point of laying off 125 workers. Not surprisingly, the manufacturer abandoned that effort.   

The State of New Jersey has been in the middle of this battle over smart guns. Back in 2002 the state enacted what was called the Childproof Handgun Law. The law stated that once “personalized handguns are available” anywhere in the U.S., all guns sold in New Jersey must be smart guns. This legislation seemed to confirm the argument of gun advocates that the availability of smart guns would lead to regulation that would restrict other guns. That of course led to a redoubling of the efforts by the NRA and others to keep smart guns off the market.

Newark-based New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) was one of the leaders in researching smart guns. They had developed a gun with an owner recognition system based on biometric sensors embedded in either the handle or trigger. Their scientists developed a viable offering, but no gun makers or sellers would touch it. Eventually funding dried up and NJIT closed down the unit.

Woman with gun

(Image by Sofia Sforza)

This story, however, does not end here. There are any number of entrepreneurs prepared to disrupt the gun manufacturing industry, potential manufacturers who don’t have a legacy business that can be threatened or bullied. One such effort is a Philadelphia-based start-up LodeStar Firearms which plans to introduce next year a semi-automatic handgun with a user recognition lock. LodeStar is hoping to score a contract with a metropolitan police department and surely will be pointing out the statistics of how many cops get shot with their own guns.

And New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg, the originator of the Childproof Handgun Law, hasn’t given up either. She introduced a revised bill in 2015 that would simply have required gun sellers to offer one smart gun option. At the time New Jersey had a Republican governor Chris Christie who was hoping to be the party’s Presidential candidate in 2016. He vetoed the bill. Christie has since left office and been replaced by a progressive Democrat so another attempt is likely.

In the meantime, our President and Congress assure us that we will maintain the freedom to own a gun that isn’t secured in our home. A gun that one of our children could get his hands on and shoot himself with. A gun that could be stolen and used to rob the local convenience store,


Other Guns in America posts

Who Fired the First Shot?

The Americanization of the Duel

Prominent Americans Shooting Each Other Up

‘Well Regulated’ Militias and the Right to Bear Arms

Where’s the Blaze of Glory

Prohibition and Gun Control

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11 Responses to Guns in America: Smart Guns and the Folks Who Keep ‘Em Dumb

  1. sportsdiva64 says:

    I don’t understand how the NRA can be against smart guns. But then we all know that the NRA and the president don’t give a crap about the poor and middle class people of all races who have to live with gun violence every day of their lives. Nothing wrong with being a responsible gun owner but when you have little children in the house , lock those suckers up. That p.o.s. who killed those little precious babies in Sandy Hook, his dumbass mama BOUGHT him a gun and she was the first person shot by him. The Republicans can talk all that second amendment boo crap all they want to but it’s everyday folks who have to suffer the consequences . Until it happens to someone close to them, the NRA and their supporters in the house and Senate won’t do a thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bumba says:

    Down you masters of war. It’s a long and shameful story.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What an interesting article. So glad Australia is not like America with respect to gun laws!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. pjlazos says:

    I guess it’s a start, right, assuming it catches on, but still doesn’t do much for the 8 gazillion guns that are already out there. :0(

    Liked by 1 person

  5. BroadBlogs says:

    Interesting. I find it interesting also that so many people who are pro-gun are anti-education, like billionaire political donors.

    Also, do you think that toxic masculinity and masculinity are the same thing? I don’t but a number of men wrote into my blog thinking they were the same. Curious about your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ken Dowell says:

      I don’t think they are the same. There is masculinity, like some of the things that you mention in your blog post, that is by no means toxic, like acting stoic and not showing your feelings. (That is, by the way, something I do.) Masculinity becomes toxic when it has a negative impact on the people around you and that can be men as well as women. For example, a drive for success, money and power is not in itself toxic but it becomes so when the tactics you use to achieve that hurt or degrade others.


  6. America, the more guns the better it seems. Having grown up in a house filled with my father’s guns and having taught in a rural school district where going out and shooting guns is a common form of entertainment, and my absolute favorite is taking pre-prom pictures posed with one’s big ol’ gun! Gun ownership is so ingrained in our culture, it’s hard to say that will bring in safer measures.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Guns in America: The DIY Specter | off the leash

  8. Ken, this is such an issue. And I’m ready this after Saturday’s shootings in my favorite Pittsburgh neighborhood. Words aren’t coming out very well.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Guns in America: How’s It Working Out for Us? | off the leash

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