For quite a while, there has talk about developing and then mandating so-called “smart guns”; that is guns that use an electronic system to prevent anyone but their owner from firing them. This idea is touted as a way to prevent criminals or children from misusing firearms, but in reality it will result in guns that are less reliable for self defense, and considerably more expensive.
How so-called “smart guns” would work in theory
The goal of so-called smart guns is to have a gun that only the owner can fire. One idea is to have a very short ranged radio transmitter worn by the user, and a gun that would only fire when this transmitter is closely behind the gun. Another idea is to have the gun recognize the user’s grip, and only fire when that user is gripping the gun.
Why so-called smart guns are a bad idea
Guns are the most effective self defense tool, and a good part of that effectiveness comes from their reliability. When a person pulls the trigger of a loaded gun, it is virtually certain that the gun will fire, as it was designed to do. That certainty is why police officers are willing to trust their lives to their guns, and why home owners who own a gun have a special peace of mind.
This cherished reliability comes from the fact that guns are mechanically simple devices, with few moving parts and no reliance upon electronics and computers. Introducing an electronic system whose whole purpose is to prevent the gun from firing is one of the worst I’ve heard in a while, as reliability is guaranteed to suffer. Batteries could drain, circuits could break, sensors could fail, etc. If faced with a violent home invader, I would hate to have my gun crash the way my computer or web server could crash.
Furthermore, even if reliability were not an issue, the sensor systems used by such “smart guns” would require that the user wear a radio transmitter or grip the gun in a similar fashion each time it is fired. That is not realistic, given the fact that guns used in self defense may be fired by someone who has just woken up and has no time to get their radio-transmitter-watch onto their wrist. Also, people firing guns under stress often fail to grip their gun in the same way that they would under ideal conditions at the firing range. Other people like to wear gloves while shooting. Finally, a 3rd party (such as a friend who is in the home) may need to fire the gun during such a home invasion emergency, and a “smart gun” would prevent this person from defending themselves or the gun’s owner.
The proper remedy for children misusing guns or criminals stealing guns is not to try and childproof/criminal proof a gun. During so will result in guns that are less reliable for self defense, and completely useless in some self defense situations. Instead, gun owners should practice safe and responsible gun storage.