Debate Magazine

Washington Smart Gun Push Ignores Key Issues

By Eowyn @DrEowyn

smart gun Gun control activists in Washington state are launching a new campaign aimed at pushing smart guns, which are, essentially, a type of gun with safety dictated by technology.

Some smart guns are only operable within ten feet of a companion watch, presumably on the owner’s wrist. Some only unlock with a unique fingerprint, like your iPhone 5 or 6. Some can be disabled with a timer or a pin code.

On Wednesday, Washington Ceasefire cosponsored a smart gun symposium in South Seattle. The message around smart guns is that they will make people safer. If only the registered person can use the smart gun, a gun theft is less meaningful, some kid who accidentally picks up a gun can’t use it, a depressed person can’t steal a gun and use it to kill himself or herself.

But proponents of smart guns say the NRA is blocking these types of guns because the NRA is evil and whatnot. The Verge writes, “The NRA wants to take America’s smart guns away.” Danny Westneat over at The Seattle Times says the smart gun industry, “Has gotten hopelessly bogged down in toxic gun politics.”

Ralph Fascitelli

Ralph Fascitelli

Ralph Fascittelli is the president of Washington Ceasefire and he’s been on this campaign for smart guns for a while. At the Freedom Series panel on gun control from our sister station AM 770 KTTH, he argued we should push for this.

“The upside here is tremendous, probably the biggest single opportunity to save significant numbers of lives in America,” he’s quoted as saying in the Times, comparing smart guns to what seat belts and airbags did for car safety.

Westneat writes, “Fascitelli is armed with fresh survey data showing that a younger generation of gun owners is less rigid on the issue. When you grow up using fingerprint activation for your cellphone, it then makes no sense there isn’t even an option for that high-tech safety feature with guns.”

“It can’t be mandatory — the issue is too inflamed for that,” Fascitelli said. “But if a fingerprint-activation gun grip was on the market, you’d have moms in homes with small children pressuring their husbands to get one. It would take off.”

Now, there’s a big problem with all of this, and we’ll start with the claim by Fascitelli that there’s a market for this.

I agree there is a market, but it’s a very small market. You’ll have as many people with smart guns as you do people with those 85-inch Sony 4D TVs.  The problem is that like the TVs, smart guns are incredibly expensive, especially when compared to the non-smart gun.

In the Verge article where they say, “The NRA wants to take America’s smart guns away,” they focus on the Armatix iP1. It’s a compact, .22 caliber, 10 round pistol. It looks pretty. I might even buy it if I could afford it. This gun sells for $1,800. You can by a comparable non-smart gun for a few hundred dollars. You think there’s a huge market for a gun that costs $1,800? When you explain the limitation of these guns, it gets even harder to make the case.

That particular gun only works if it’s within 10 feet of a special watch that, presumably, the owner wears. So if you steal the gun or if a kid gets the gun and doesn’t have the watch on, well, they can’t use it.

That sounds great until the battery runs out and you need it for protection. It sounds great until you leave the watch in the bathroom when you’re taking a shower, forget to put it back on, then someone breaks in and you need to protect yourself. It sounds great until you leave the gun at home, keep the watch on you as you go on a business trip, then your husband or wife needs to use it to protect themselves.

There are other guns where they unlock with a registered user’s fingerprint. Fair enough. But I hope they’re not like my iPhone, which won’t open if my finger is wet or if it’s not perfectly positioned over the sensor. I imagine if you’re using the gun in a hurry for protection, it makes it a bit harder to actually get it to unlock.

Last year, I spoke with Paul Barrett about smart guns. He is the author of “Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun.” Here’s what he says on this:

Many people who purchase handguns for self-defense, for home defense, their primary concern is will the gun work at the instant when I want it to work or need it to work. If you’re adding an extra layer of technology, a layer of technology that may not really be necessary in order for the gun to function as a self-defense weapon, as a self-defense tool, why do it?

There are a lot of significant problems with the technology, including what happens if it just doesn’t work when you need it. You already run the risk of the gun jamming. Now you have the added pressure of hoping the technology works. When you add to the potential problems and the hefty price tag, it’s not the most appealing. If you ask gun shop owners, they’ll tell you, there’s just no one clamoring for these guns.

Now, if you want to purchase this kind of gun, I think you should be able to. The NRA thinks that also. So why are they against smart guns? Why are some pro-gun activists against smart guns?

Because they care about the second amendment rights for every single resident of every single state in this country.

There is a law on the books in New Jersey called the Childproof Handgun Law. It passed in 2002 and it says that all guns sold in New Jersey must be state-approved smart guns within three years of a smart gun being sold anywhere in the country. The goal was to make smart guns mandatory as soon as the technology existed. That means the second anyone in this country sells a smart gun, the law goes into effect in New Jersey.

Why would the NRA support smart guns if it means people in New Jersey will lose their right to bear arms?

That’s what the intent of that law really was – they know the gun prices are so high, it’ll kick people out of the market for guns. They won’t be able to use the guns in a manner they feel is best for their own protection or sport.

If Ralph Fascittelli and other activists want to push smart guns and let the market decide, why attack the NRA and others for being against them when they have a reason to be against them?

Why not go to New Jersey and work on getting the law appealed? If they care about smart guns and they really don’t want to ban guns, wouldn’t it make sense to try to change the New Jersey law?

Why force people to jump on board the smart gun train when it may not be the best way to protect yourself?

We know why.


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