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May 4, 2014

Should those who really favor gun rights protest the right to sell and own a safer gun?

The question in the title of this post is a little of my usual topics, but I need to vent a bit about this discouraging story in the Washington Post highlighting that some folks who support gun rights are against the idea of using technology to produce a safer gun.  The article is headlined "Maryland dealer, under pressure from gun-rights activists, drops plan to sell smart gun," and here are excerpts:

A Rockville gun store owner who said he would sell the nation’s first smart gun — even after a California gun store removed the weapon from its shelves to placate angry gun-rights activists — backed down late Thursday night after enduring a day of protests and death threats.

Andy Raymond, the co-owner of Engage Armament, a store known for its custom assault rifles, had said earlier this week that offering the Armatix iP1 handgun was a “really tough decision” after what happened to the Oak Tree Gun Club near Los Angeles. Oak Tree was lambasted by gun owners and National Rifle Association members who fear the new technology will be mandated and will encroach on Second Amendment rights.

Electronic chips in the gun communicate with a watch that can be bought separately. The gun cannot be fired without the watch....

[A]fter hundreds of protests on his store’s Facebook page and online forums — a repeat of what Oak Tree faced — Raymond released a long video on the Facebook page saying he had received death threats and would not sell the gun. He apologized and took responsibility for the decision. He had sold none of the smart guns and would not, he said.

Earlier, Raymond had said he’s on the “right-wing vanguard of gun rights” but is vehemently opposed to gun rights activists arguing against the idea of a smart gun — or any gun. “To me that is so fricking hypocritical,” Raymond had said. “That’s the antithesis of everything that we pro-gun, pro-Second Amendment people should be. You are not supposed to say a gun should be prohibited. Then you are being no different than the anti-gun people who say an AR-15 should be prohibited.”...

Besides reliability in the face of danger, the opponents’ most pressing fear is that sales of the iP1 will trigger a New Jersey law mandating that all handguns in the state be personalized within three years of a smart gun’s going on sale anywhere in the United States. Similar proposals have been introduced in California and Congress.

Raymond said he didn’t want the law to kick in and didn’t think he’d be responsible if it did, because Oak Tree already had the gun for sale. He said the law was not his problem or Armatix’s. “This is not Armatix screwing over the people of New Jersey,” he said. “It’s the legislature screwing over the people of New Jersey. Bushmaster didn’t screw over the people of Newtown. Adam Lanza did. It’s just disgusting to me to see pro-gun people acting like anti-gunners. What is free if it’s not choice?”...

The demand for smart guns is subject to debate. Gun rights advocates, including the National Shooting Sports Foundation, say there seems to be little desire for such weapons at the moment. They point to a survey the group commissioned last year showing that 14 percent of Americans would consider buying a smart gun. “We think the market should decide,” Lawrence G. Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told The Post this year.

Gun-control advocates believe that smart guns could reduce gun violence, suicides and accidental shootings. A dream of researchers and politicians for decades, the idea found renewed interest within the federal government following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. A group of Silicon Valley investors led by Ron Conway recently launched a $1 million contest to encourage smart-gun technology.

Numerous approaches are in development. Armatix uses RFID chips like those in anti-theft tags attached to clothing in stores. Other companies use a ring to enable the gun’s operation. Grips that recognize an owner are being tested, as are sensors to detect fingerprints and voices. The iP1, developed over a period of years by Armatix, a German firm, is the first smart gun to be marketed in the United States.

Increasing gun ownership is what Raymond said he was after in planning to sell the iP1. “If this gets more people, especially those on the fence, to go out and enjoy their Second Amendment freedoms, to go sport shooting and realize how much fun it is, then I am all for it,” Raymond said before changing his mind. “This is really not a bad thing.”

Regular readers know that I am both a supporter of the Second Amendment and of smart gun technology. If developed effectively, smart guns ought be be able to increase gun rights and reduce gun violence: e.g., smart gun technology might be a way to allow a former non-violent felon, who now is prohibited by federal law from possessing any firearm, to own a gun for self-protection that can only operate from his home. And smart gun technology ought to be able to provide effective digital evidence of gun use (and misuse) to be used by police and other law enforcement officials to investigate and prevent crime.

I understand the fears that some gun rights advocates may have about possible "misuse" of smart gun technology, but these folks should realize that these kinds of concerns about the misuse of a good technology (i.e., guns) are exactly what motivates gun control advocates.  Moreover, as smart gun technology improves, I suspect it is only a matter of time before the real issue is how these guns are made and sold, not whether they are available.

A few recent and older related posts:

May 4, 2014 at 10:59 AM | Permalink


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while I think the ideal of security on the gun this is NOT the way to go with it. when they can put it into the gun itself without outside units we can talk. till then NO.

Posted by: rodsmith | May 4, 2014 4:20:55 PM

as for this bit of criminal stupidity!

"smart gun technology might be a way to allow a former non-violent felon, who now is prohibited by federal law from possessing any firearm, to own a gun for self-protection that can only operate from his home."

sorry the LEGAL constitution of this country does not allow this lvl of control period.

Posted by: rodsmith | May 4, 2014 4:22:17 PM

No such thing as a "safe gun". How about "safe poison", like what they use to kill the Oklahoma human the other day? A gun controlled by the igPays? No.

Posted by: Liberty1st | May 5, 2014 12:55:01 AM

Rodsmith, I'm not sure I follow your arguments. The first argument seems to be that it's slightly less convenient requiring two pieces of equipment. Surely the consumer can decide if it's worth it, no?

As for the second, you realize they're currently banned entirely from owning a firearm. "This level of control" as you describe it is a reduction of control. Now I think there's a good argument that the currently constitutionally permissible level of restrictions should be declared unconstitutional (although I'm unsure at the exact line to draw), but Heller currently seems to allow it. Given this, a legislative return of partial rights when not required by the Constitution is a good thing.

Posted by: Erik M | May 5, 2014 9:03:59 AM

well erik based on a plain reading of the language in the 2nd amendment as well as the history behind it. There is no gov't hook to pass any controls on our right to bear arms. Ex-con or not!

as for the new tech. it's a nice ideal but retarded and I can see many lawsuits following it's use when people get hurt because they needed the weapon and the tech failed because someone wasn't wearing the right watch when they needed the damn weapon. or the wearer was already down from an attack and a friend or family member on the spot tried to use the weapon. Sorry it's just NOT ready.

I don't think it's a good thing! sorry no restriction on a god given constitution right to defend ourselves is ever good when gov't wants you to think they are doing you a favor!

that bit of stupidity is right up there with "if you have nothing to hide you'd talk to us!" as used by all gov't agents anywhere UNLESS the shoe is on the other foot.

Posted by: rodsmith | May 5, 2014 6:41:43 PM

If this debate were truly about safety, we could say that once the police and military thoroughly test and adopt these firearms, then it might make sense to sell them to civilians for self-defense. Of course no one in the political world is suggesting that this would be a reasonable approach since their goal is to ban citizen ownership of firearms altogether.

The truth is, no self-respecting citizen concerned with self-defense would buy a "smart gun" that had not been previously tested in this way. And as far as I know, no military or police agency is clamoring to test them.

Posted by: TyrannyOfEvilMen | May 5, 2014 10:40:43 PM

Very Very good point tyranny

Posted by: rodsmith | May 6, 2014 12:30:55 AM

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