SMART GUNS: INTERVIEW WITH BBC ON TUESDAY, JUNE 6, 2017, AT SENECA SPORTING RANGE, LOCATED IN RIDGEWOOD, QUEENS, NEW YORK.
SMART GUNS: INTERVIEW WITH BBC ON TUESDAY, JUNE 6, 2017, AT SENECA SPORTING RANGE, LOCATED IN RIDGEWOOD, QUEENS, NEW YORK
In early May 2017, a researcher with a BBC affiliate, BBC Radio 4, contacted the Arbalest Quarrel by email, informing me (Stephen D’Andrilli) that the BBC was doing a Documentary on “Smart Guns,” titled, “Guns and Coders,” and invited the Arbalest Quarrel to take part in it.
I informed my Business Partner, and co-founder of the Arbalest Quarrel, Roger Katz, and we agreed that the Arbalest Quarrel would be interested in taking part in the Documentary. A series of back-and-forth emails followed. We pointed out that we were very busy but would take the time to prepare for the Documentary, researching and publishing articles.
In one email, Roger wrote to the BBC researcher with this: “Thank you for contacting us. I see that my business partner, Stephen L. D’Andrilli, contacted you. I have been in phone contact with Stephen this morning as well. We would like very much to assist you in your research on ‘smart gun’ technology and would like to set the record straight. We have much information to share with you, to help you better understand the problems associated with ‘smart gun’ technology. In that regard, there are four basic areas, pertaining to ‘smart gun’ technology we would like to touch upon: (1) media related matters apropos of social and political messaging; (2) technical and pragmatic issues; (3) economic considerations; and (4) legal issues.”
Roger and I felt it important to establish parameters for agreeing to take part in the Documentary. In that regard, Roger elaborated with a further email, which he directed to the Producer of the BBC Documentary, stating:
“In preparation for the upcoming interview, be advised: 1) Stephen has arranged for you to meet with the owner at the owner’s NYC licensed in-door firearms range in Queens. The owner of the range holds a Federal Firearms License (“FFL”) and will be able to answer technical questions related, generally, to proper firearms use and safety. 2) We have provided for your perusal links to two articles we wrote and posted on our website, on smart guns. They are, one, “Smart Guns are not a Smart Idea;” posted on August 1, 2016;” and, two, “‘Smart Guns for Gun Owners: A New Monitoring Device,” posted on May 2, 2014. You will note we present a specific slant to the issue of firearms ownership and possession, just as those, on the other side, present their own slant. We don’t apologize for this. We readily admit it. But the points we make, in the articles on smart gun technology are sound and valid. We trust they will operate as a useful springboard to further questions you may wish to pose to us. In that regard, we ask that you provide us with specific questions. We will respond to you, in writing, and discuss and expand upon the points made, during the interview in June. You may wish to consider the following, in posing specific questions to us, to which we will gladly respond in depth. A) TECHNICAL: Understand that there is no one specific “smart gun” technology. There are several. Each has defects. Real world, in depth, tests have not, to our knowledge, been undertaken. Questions remain whether police departments around the Country would recommend use of such technology for their rank and file officers. And, if not, why not? B) ECONOMIC: Quality firearms are not cheap. Factor in the cost of ammunition, cleaning supplies, accessories, cost of licensing, and an individual could spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars. If smart gun technology becomes a requirement, the cost of producing firearms will skyrocket. Those costs will be passed onto the consumer. Only the most well-heeled individuals will be able to afford such firearms. Further, question remains whether application of certain “smart gun” technology is feasible from a manufacturing perspective. It is the firearms manufacturers alone who can best answer that question. C) LEGAL: The right of the people to keep and bear arms is an “individual” right. The 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case, District of Columbia vs. Heller, has made that point clear. Smart gun technology would “lock out” poorer Americans ability to exercise their right of self-defense inherent in the 2008 Heller decision. Keep in mind a basic tension that exists between Government that seeks increased regulation of firearms ostensibly to promote public safety versus the right and duty of each individual to take responsibility for his or her own life and safety. Public safety does not equate with personal safety. There is no one-to-one relationship. State Governments have no duty under their laws, with few exceptions, to protect the life and well-being of individuals, only communities. That idea tends to be lost in discussion. D) MEDIA RELATED: The mainstream media is antithetical to the notion of civilian gun ownership. That is not conjecture. It is fact. We ask that you keep in mind, as you approach the subject matter of “smart guns,” that the specific matter you wish to address exists within the context of two fundamental, contradictory influences that overshadow the question whether “smart gun” technology is a good idea or not. On one side of the debate there are the antigun groups, which, together with the mainstream media, and like-minded politicians approach the “gun issue” from the standpoint that no civilian should own or possess a firearm. They believe the Second Amendment is archaic and they would seek de facto repeal of it if they could. This fundamental premise informs their argument in support of “smart gun” technology and cannot logically be separated from it. This antithetical view toward guns is visceral and functions as the raw foundation of the antigun movement, stripped to its essentials. On the other side are the proponents of civilian gun ownership and possession. That is the side we fall on. We begin with the assumption, as the Heller majority made clear, that gun ownership and possession is a sacred right, not a privilege, and that it is grounded in natural law. The Second Amendment does not create the right, but merely codifies the right that exists inherently in each American. Smart gun technology is an unnecessary restriction that, to use a cliché, appears, to us, to be simply “a solution in search of a problem.” We understand that, given time constraints and exigencies, you will be compelled to edit the responses we provide you with. Our concern is that our answers can, if improperly edited, be taken out of context. We ask that if you do edit our written responses, you allow us the opportunity to see the proposed edits before presenting them in a final cut. Thank you.”
In a third email, Roger provided further commentary which we felt the BBC should be aware of:
“This is a follow-up to the email I sent to you earlier this evening. I realized I had not responded to your query regarding specific case law pertaining to smart guns. The long and short of my response to you here is that no case law exists in any jurisdiction that I was able to find through legal research. That doesn’t surprise me because no laws have been enacted in any jurisdiction, as of yet (at least that I am aware of), that would require a person—who is under no federal or State disability and who seeks to own and possess a firearm—to purchase a firearm utilizing ‘smart’ technology. I have no doubt that there would be challenges to the Constitutionality of such legislation if or when a State enacts ‘smart gun’ legislation. The Constitutional challenge will rely, in part, at least, on the Heller case where the high Court, held—apart from striking down the District of Columbia’s total ban on handguns as patently unconstitutional—that ‘the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional.’ Extrapolating from that holding in Heller, this means that, if ‘smart gun’ technology delays reaction time in an emergency either due to the nature of the technology—assuming it is functioning properly and is not otherwise defective—or otherwise delays use of the firearm in an emergency due to the requirement that some manipulation of ‘smart’ technology is required by the user before the firearm will function properly, this may result in a successful challenge by a party plaintiff on the ground that such technology when employed in firearms is unconstitutional, consistent with U.S. Supreme Court holding that, if self-defense is a legitimate and well-founded ground for the right of the people to keep and bear arms, it is ludicrous, to preclude a person from having immediate, effective access to a firearm in a critical emergency self-defense situation. By the way, the Kolbe case that we have written extensively on does not involve ‘smart guns.’ [The Producer had asked about the Kolbe case as we had pointed out that we were doing a comprehensive analysis on Kolbe, at the time and the Producer had apparently erroneously made an association between that case and the issue of ‘smart guns’]. The plaintiffs in Kolbe challenged the constitutionality of Maryland’s ‘Firearms Safety Act’ that, inter alia, bans lawful ownership of firearms that Maryland defines as so-called ‘assault weapons.’ The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, en banc, held that the Act does not offend the Second Amendment. The Court employed the ‘intermediate scrutiny’ standard when it upheld the lawfulness of the Act. Plaintiffs will appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. That is a virtual certainty. But, whether the high Court will grant certiorari to hear the case is an open question. Two previous Second Amendment cases, one from the Ninth Circuit and one from the Seventh Circuit, coming on the heels of Heller, were denied cert. Justice Clarence Thomas and the late Justice Antonin Scalia were livid at the failure of the Justices to vote to hear those cases. Clearly, one or more of the conservative wing Justices, along with the liberal wing Justices did not wish to hear the cases, fearing an expansion of Heller. There is no other reasonable explanation for the high Court’s failure to grant certiorari in those two cases.”
The Producer responded to Roger’s emails, exclaiming:
“Personally I don’t have position on this, as I said, so I find the arguments interesting and strong actually. I look forward to meeting to discuss further.”
Roger and I felt it important to establish the parameters for my interview with the BBC, concerned the BBC, during the editing process, might unfairly manipulate the data we present to them, as the BBC would then present to the public, recalling the infamous Katie Couric “Under the Gun“ pseudo-Documentary. The Virginia Citizen’s Defense League (“VCDL”), brought a defamation suit against Couric in the case, Va. Citizens Def. League vs. Couric, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83308) (E.D.V.A. 2017). The case was decided against Plaintiff VCDL on May 31, 2017. The VCDL is appealing the adverse decision.
We agreed to take part in the Documentary but with the stipulation that we would receive questions that would be asked beforehand and, because we were under publication deadlines, we would need time to prepare a detailed, formal response. It was also our understanding that the BBC would not stray from the questions provided to us.
These are the questions the BBC Producer emailed us, on June 2, 2017. They are predicated, in part, in substantial part, on Roger’s correspondence with the BBC.
“Do you have a gun in your home? What is it, where do you keep it? Do you think smart guns are a good idea? Why not? Tell us about the legal reasons Tell us about the technical reasons Tell us about the economic reasons What are the different groups involved in this debate in the US? Where do you reside? What do you think would be a good way to reduce gun violence (accidental deaths etc)?”
With these questions provided us, Roger and I prepared a comprehensive written response.
The interview took place on June 6, 2017, as planned.
The BBC interviewed John Deloca, owner of the Seneca Sporting Range, first. My interview immediately followed. I was prepared to answer the questions based upon our research. The BBC deviated from the questions provided, expecting spontaneous informal responses.
At that point I was prepared to call off the interview. But I agreed to go forward with the interview when the interviewer gave me the latitude to deal with what underlies the entire debate about “smart guns”: the issue concerning gun possession in America.
As I proceeded, I talked about gun ownership and gun possession in America and in the context of UK attitudes toward gun ownership and gun possession, as the BBC Documentary was really targeting the UK audience.
As the British Government does not recognize the right of their citizens—really subjects—to own and possess guns, and as the average British subject has no conception of a right to keep and bear arms, a British subject would not understand Americans antipathy toward “smart guns” as an alternative to those firearms presently on the market.
I explained that, in this Country, neither manufacturers of firearms nor consumers of firearms have expressed any interest in “smart guns.” I pointed out that “Smart guns” are being pushed on the American public by antigun politicians, antigun groups, and by the mainstream media. Smart guns are not needed, and they are not wanted. Smart guns are nothing more than an expensive, foolhardy solution in search of a problem.
I also pointed to Great Britain’s own antipathy toward firearms, explaining that, at one time, the average British subject could own firearms, back in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries but that, through time, British subjects had lost their right to own and possess firearms. I explained that the British Government did not confiscate guns immediately. Gun prohibition was done slowly but inexorably. The British Government made incremental changes to gun laws until the right was completely lost.
More insidiously, British subjects lost all knowledge that, at one time, it was commonplace for those subjects to own and possess firearms. The BBC interviewer was unaware of that fact. Today, the average British police officer (colloquially, even affectionately, referred to as the “Bobby”) is unarmed. But, in light of devastating attacks recently against British subjects and against the British police, by radical Islamic terrorists, the Government in Britain is reappraising now whether the “Bobby” should be armed. But, it is clear that the British Government is not entertaining any notion of arming the average British subject.
British politicians claim that the British subjects may be unnerved and alarmed to see heavily armed military police patrolling after the fact. Yet, if the Metropolitan Police force (the “Bobbies”) were armed before the fact, coupled with armed British subjects, it is clear that the number of lives lost because of the despicable actions of radical Islamic terrorists could have been reduced. The entire United Kingdom is a soft target.
Concern over offending Muslims prevents the British Government from enacting the stringent laws necessary to combat terrorism. The Islamic terrorists have taken advantage of an unarmed citizenry and even an unarmed police force.
The interview didn’t go as we had expected and had hoped for, but the BBC interviewer seemed amenable to the points we made. Toward the end of the interview, the BBC interviewer expressed a desire to learn more generally about the gun debate and about self-defense with firearms; and I was pleased to expound upon these matters at some length. How much of my exposition will appear in the Documentary remains to be seen. That there be no doubt as to our position on “Smart Guns,” we provide, below, our complete response to the BBC Interviewer’s questions.
ARBALEST QUARREL’S DETAILED RESEARCH MATERIAL PREPARED IN RESPONSE TO THE BBC’S QUESTIONS
QUESTION #1: DO YOU HAVE A GUN IN YOUR HOME?
- As a veteran police officer with the New York City Police Department, I carried and possessed firearms on a daily basis. As an NRA Certified Instructor in pistol, rifle, and shotgun, a Training Counselor, and an active member in the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (“IALEFI”), I handled firearms regularly. As an Associate Professor/Lecturer of Police Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY), I taught about the proper and safe use of firearms. So, I am comfortable and experienced with firearms.
- The purpose of a gun is deterrence and one should be discrete about it. It would not be prudent for me or for anyone who is similarly situated to advertise that they have a gun on them or in their possession.
- There are millions of honest, law-abiding citizens who own and possess handguns and who carry handguns on their person or keep them in their home and place of business. Although Americans possess firearms for sporting, recreational, and competitive purposes, most do so for self-defense and protection. These are all lawful purposes for possessing firearms in the U.S. The U.S. Supreme Court held, in the 2008 Heller decision, that the Second Amendment protects the right of American citizens, as individuals, who are not under a disability, to possess firearms for lawful purposes.
- Now, I understand your inquisitiveness, coming from the United Kingdom where it is illegal for the average person to possess firearms, where even the police are unarmed, and where your Government does not recognize an individual’s right of self-defense with firearms. But, in our Country, the right of the people to keep and bear arms is a natural right, codified in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
QUESTION #2. WHAT KIND OF FIREARMS DO YOU HAVE
- The type of firearms a person chooses to own and possess is a personal matter, based on one’s needs. There are three categories of firearms available to the American public: rifle, shotgun and handgun. Handguns can be revolvers that generally hold 5 or 6 rounds of ammunition or semi-automatics with magazines where the number of rounds carried, varies. Each type of handgun has its own advantages and disadvantages and applications.
QUESTION #3. WHERE DO YOU KEEP YOUR FIREARMS?
- Persons who choose to exercise their right to possess firearms bear the responsibility to properly handle them when in use and to safeguard them when not in use.
- A firearm should not be left unattended where an unauthorized person or child could get his/her hands on it.
QUESTION #4. DO YOU THINK “SMART GUNS” ARE A GOOD IDEA?
- No. But, to understand why I don’t think they are a good idea, it is necessary to define the term. So, we must ask first:
WHAT IS A “SMART GUN?”
- Basically a ‘smart gun,’ as the expression is generally understood, means a firearm that can only be operated by the authorized user of it. My close friend, David Kopel, an academician, a licensed attorney, and constitutional law expert defines the expression in this way: “‘Smart Guns’ is a slang term for a hypothetical firearm that incorporates computer technology so that the gun can only be fired by the authorized user.’”
- As an aside, the expression, ‘smart gun,’ was registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office on October 9, 2007: Registration No. 3307653, for “firearms having automatic locking mechanisms.” The registration is still active.
- The owner, Kenneth Pugh, held, as well, the first patent for such technology. Patents, though, expire; trademarks never do, so long as the mark, in connection with the goods, is continuously used in interstate commerce and if an affidavit of continuous use in interstate commerce is filed every six years with the USPTO.
- If federal or State law requires use of such technology in firearms, and firearms are mass-produced by companies using “smart” technology, those companies will not be able to use the expression, “smart gun” on their firearms unless they successfully bring an action to challenge the registration arguing that the expression, “smart gun,” as applied to firearms having automatic locking mechanisms is generic of the goods. The expression, ‘smart gun,’ may also be available if the owner of the registration has cancelled it or the registration, or the registration is abandoned.
- Through time, companies have attempted to market firearms using such technology. The most commonly drawn example is the iP1 semiautomatic pistol manufactured by the German manufacturer, Armatix GMBH. The firearm, as advertised, uses RFID technology. Retail gun dealers in the U.S. are, to our knowledge, not interested in it. The manufacturer does offer the handgun on its website. The price, though, is not listed. An interested party must contact the manufacturer directly to obtain pricing. The pistol is surely expensive and beyond the budget of most consumers.
- Several technologies have been employed in research and development of firearms using such “smart” technology. The most common technology employs what I talked about above, “Radio Frequency Technology” (“RFID”). Firearms that incorporate this technology require the user to wear a ring, bracelet, or watch that transmits radio waves to the receiver that then allows the gun to be fired. Other technology would employ some form of biometric control, such as voice or touch recognition. Still a third type of “smart” technology would utilize some form of remote control feature.
- Smart gun technology first arrived in the latter quarter of the Twentieth Century, and, so, is relatively new. It is the application of computer technology to firearms.
- Today’s mechanical guns, though, are not new. They are the state of the art in product development, design, materials, and testing, going back to the Nineteenth Century. They operate reliably in every conceivable extreme condition: heat, cold, sand, mud, or submerged in water. They can be abused in many ways: dropped, thrown, and stepped on. They can be operated with hands covered in dirt, grime, or blood, or when wearing gloves. They can be inoperable for years and can still operate perfectly when required for use.
QUESTION #5. WHAT ARE THE TECHNICAL, ECONOMIC, AND PRAGMATIC REASONS AGAINST “SMART GUNS?”
- To begin, there are always costs, some of them unintended, even with the supposed benefits of adopting a new technology. That is certainly true in the case of mandating a major change to handgun production.
- If safety is the object, to prevent unauthorized use, then it is relevant to consider that this issue cuts two ways. Handguns, as used by civilians in the U.S., are essentially defensive weapons. It is as critical that the weapon operate for the authorized user of it when the authorized user has need of it—for self-defense—no less than it is to prevent an unauthorized user from gaining access to it. Yet, the default, fallback, state of “smart guns,”—if the “smart technology” detects a technical problem with the mechanism—is for the weapon to shut-down, which means that it will not operate. However, in a self-defense situation, that can mean the difference between life and death for the “authorized” user who depends on the weapon for self-defense.
- The technology is not proved reliable. Firearms have come a long way. Smart technology, as applied, to handguns, as of this date, has not. The major manufacturers of handguns, including, among others, Glock, Ruger, Colt, Beretta, Heckler Koch, Sig Sauer, and Smith and Wesson, produce quality products. That’s why military and police forces around the world, as well as law-abiding American citizens, have come to depend on these weapons for self-defense. Through decades, and in some instances for over a century that these gun manufacturers have been in business, they have honed their skills and have, as a result, created quality weapons that are known for their durability and dependability.
- Smart gun technology has not been demonstrated to be reliable. To date police departments in the U.S. have not adopted smart gun technology for this very reason. If law enforcement and the military cannot be expected to rely on “smart guns” in life and death situations because of the anticipated unreliability of weapons incorporating this technology, why should the government force this technology on the public. The answer is simple. Look to those politicians and groups who are promoting its use. It is not coming from firearms manufacturers or from the firearms consumer, or from the police or the military. It is coming from politicians and organizations that are viscerally opposed to civilian ownership and possession of firearms. These politicians and groups know virtually nothing about firearms, nor do they care to learn the mechanics of their operation. They promote these firearms from a purported “safety” aspect only. But “safe” for whom, against whom? These politicians and groups would be perfectly content that “smart guns” don’t work; that, they cannot be relied upon as a self-defense implements.
- Considering that one impetus for “smart guns” started with the idea of providing a way to protect police from incidents where, in a confrontation with an individual, the officer’s weapon is taken away from him and then used against him, proposed legislation specifically exempts the police from the mandate that they use the technology when or if available.
- If smart guns do become feasible from a technology and production standpoint and if the problem of reliability—marrying a mechanical tool with computer technology—there is still a hurdle; and that hurdle is one of cost. Academicians posit the cost of a smart gun to range from a few hundred dollars to double the cost of a gun that is presently manufactured. Quality guns already cost the consumer several hundred dollars. Add in the cost of manufacturing guns with “smart” technology, to produce a quality, dependable, durable handgun for the average consumer, the price of the average handgun may well exceed one thousand dollars, perhaps, two or even three thousand dollars. Only the “well-heeled” among law-abiding citizens will be able to afford handguns. That means most law-abiding citizen consumers who seek to purchase a handgun for self-defense will be priced out of the market.
- Even if major reliability issues of smart technology are overcome some residual inherent flaws remain, specific to each “smart” technology. Those handguns utilizing RFID technology rely on some power source and any power source, such as batteries, are prone to failure over time. Those handguns that utilize a remote-control transmitter require proximity to the person and all such transmitters would be prone to excitation through radio waves from some other external source thereby causing a malfunction in the handgun due to interference. The transmitter itself may be lost or held by a third person, causing another avenue for malfunction. Biometric technologies such as voice or fingerprint command are prone to their own set of flaws: change in voice tone or modulation, or contaminants on the hand or on the weapon causing malfunction.
- There is a practical issue that must be considered and it relates to problems inherent in the context of authorized user and to the notion of personalization intrinsic to smart guns. Suppose a household has a smart gun, using, for example, RFID technology. RFID technology requires the authorized user of the weapon to wear a ring or bracelet or watch. “What happens if a spouse, who does not wear the ring or bracelet, has to use the weapon to defend the gun owner who is already incapacitated by the perpetrator?” This should not be construed as an implausible situation that would not arise in a real-life situation. It is all too possible. We have a situation here where one spouse might have to come to the aid of the other, but now have both spouses at the mercy of the house invader. The smart gun, designed to reduce risk of unintentional injury, has now become a useless object—useless for self-defense. This problematic fact of smart guns was brought to my attention by another close friend and my former partner in the NYPD, Andrew Cilenti. Andy is a retired Police Lieutenant, a New York State Licensed Private Investigator, and an active member of several national law enforcement organizations.
- There exists an inherent flaw in smart gun technology that likely will never be overcome, regardless of the type of “smart” technology employed, making adoption of smart guns by both police and law-abiding citizens problematic. This involves “delay time.” Smart gun technology—whatever its nature—must incorporate sensors of some sort—to ascertain whether the user is, in fact, authorized to use the weapon. Academic studies point out that the delay time can be as much as a few seconds—much too long in a life and death situation to be practical.
- Since “smart guns” contain computer technology, it is well within the realm of possibility that they can be “hacked into,” thereby permitting an unauthorized user to gain use to the weapon. Moreover, if smart guns can be hacked remotely, it is possible that the guns may fire unexpectedly, thus defeating the de facto state of non-operation. Hence, smart guns may not offer the paramount “safety” that the proponents of them assume, erroneously, that they have.
- While smart gun technology may prevent operation of a stolen gun by a criminal who might otherwise use that stolen gun in a homicide, smart gun technology will do nothing to prevent an authorized user of his or her smart gun from using it to commit suicide, which is the single source of major deaths attributed to firearms next to homicide. Criminal traffickers of stolen “smart guns” will always find a way to override the “smart gun” features. This is no different than hackers of computers always finding ways to overcome even the best computer defenses, leading to a constant arms race between those who wish to protect computers from being broken into and those committed to breaking into those computers.
- There are about 250 million firearms presently in civilian hands in the United States. Laws requiring that all new civilian handgun purchases incorporate smart gun technology is unlikely to have substantial statistical impact on gun deaths resulting from accident or intentional, unlawful killing. Moreover, accidental deaths might increase as gun safety becomes laxer as individuals come to rely on purported safety benefits accruing from handguns that utilize “smart” technology.
- Advocates of this technology proclaim that surveys demonstrate public support for “childproofing” guns and for “personalization,” but the legislation being proposed does not necessarily address those issues. Yet, assuming for argument that they do, the mandate of built-in safety features can very well make it difficult for the authorized user to be able to access the weapon in an emergency self-defense situation. Likely, many gun owners will find a way to defeat the features that create the problems of accessibility to a firearm when needed in an emergency. Hacking tools available on the internet applied to phones and other devices will almost certainly be made available to others, including criminal organizations that steal “smart guns,” override the safety features, and then sell the guns on the black market.
- Would smart gun technology prevent accidents? The issue here is generally directed to accidental deaths caused by children gaining access to a handgun that has not been properly secured in the household and where the child has not been properly trained to avoid contact with firearms the child might happen upon.
- Smart gun technology, employed in handguns, if it ever becomes reliable—and that is a big IF—would likely prevent a child from harming himself or others if that child did gain hold of the weapon, but we should consider that accidental gun deaths attributed to young children getting hold of guns has been declining since the 1970s and the number of such accidental deaths is, in relation to gun deaths due to homicides and suicides, is virtually non-existent. Moreover, the duty to prevent child access to firearms adheres to adults in those households with children, to make sure firearms are secured. The danger that a handgun poses to a child—if an adult does not secure the handgun and train the child—is like the danger posed by kitchen knives, by power saws, and by electrical outlets—the responsibility of which, in our society, devolves to the individual, not to government.
- While advocates of application of “smart” technology to firearms, tend universally to come from those groups that are antithetical to civilian ownership and possession of firearms, little, if anything, is said about the public’s own disposition toward “smart guns.”
- My close friend, Richard Washburn, confirms several of the points that I mentioned. He is the President of The Specialists Ltd., a licensed federal firearms dealer and gunsmith, and a recognized expert in weapons and firearms technology.
- Rick says: “‘Smart Gun’ technology has not been developed to the point where it is reliable enough for life and death situations involving handgun use. In addition, it is expensive beyond the average cost of today’s defensive handgun. The handgun buyer has many options from current firearm manufacturer’s with proven technology, while ‘smart guns’ are a developing unproven technology and would limit the market to one or two manufacturers. In light of all the above, requiring handgun owners to buy/own only ‘smart guns’ amounts to a de facto ban of handguns, which would appear to be the intent of any government sponsored legislation promoting ‘smart guns’ only.”
- To sum up, for governments to mandate that manufacturers retool machinery to incorporate “smart” technology makes no sense from a technical, economic, and even policy safety standpoint. First, the modern firearm has achieved a state of near perfection, after innovations and improvements over a period of one hundred years. Incorporating computer technology to firearms is, in a very real sense, then, creating an entirely new firearm, one that will inevitably exhibit numerous problems in real world situations. Those real-world situations will have life and death consequences, resulting, conceivably, in more innocent deaths, not fewer deaths. Second, the attendant new costs involved in retooling machinery production for the manufacturing of firearms with “smart” computer technology will inevitably be passed on to the consumer, increasing the cost of the handgun beyond the reach of what the average consumer can afford. Third, the advent of “smart guns” is driven by the media at the behest of interests that are antithetical to firearms in the hands of the American public. What drives these interests to push governments to enact legislation, mandating adoption of “smart guns,” is blind abhorrence toward firearms. These interests look only at the violence caused through misuse of firearms, rather than the innocent lives that are saved through firearms.
QUESTION #6. WHAT ARE THE LEGAL REASONS AGAINST ADOPTION OF “SMART GUNS?”
- There is a blurring of the line between politics and the law, especially involving guns rights, and it arises through a tension existing, as, on the one hand, between State Governments that, through the application of their police powers, enact laws restricting both the kinds of firearms and ammunition law-abiding individuals may lawfully own and possess and the circumstances of use of firearms by those individuals, and, on the other hand, the individuals who wish to exercise their right to keep and bear arms, as codified in the Second Amendment, sans restrictions. The clash of policy and politics of government that constrains the individual versus the rights of the individual to remain free of governmental restrictions plays out in the Courts.
- The specific legal issue is whether “smart gun” technology, as a government mandate is consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court Heller case. Apart from the holding that the right of the people to keep and bear arms is an individual right unconnected to one’s service in a militia, the Court also held that, one, the District of Columbia’s outright ban on handguns violates the Second Amendment and, two, that the District of Columbia’s requirement that such firearms that may be lawfully possessed must be rendered inoperable in a household also violates the Second Amendment. It is in respect to the second holding that a Constitutional problem involving “smart guns” arises because, whatever “smart gun” technology is employed, “smart guns” are not readily accessible for immediate use. Thus, the issue is whether incorporation of smart gun technology in firearms amounts to making the firearm inoperable. If so, then “smart guns” are not consistent with the rulings and reasoning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Heller decision. We conclude that the new technology, as applied to handguns is in fact primitive and amounts to making handguns inaccessible, inoperable and therefore not consistent with U.S. Supreme Court law.
- There is, as well, an implicit equal protection argument under the Fifth Amendment and an explicit equal protection argument under the Fourteenth Amendment that is applicable here as well. The manufacturing of quality handguns is expensive. If manufacturers are compelled to incorporate “smart” technology in the production of all new handguns, a sizable portion of the adult population that is under no disability and that wishes to purchase a handgun for self-defense will be unable to do so. Such handguns will only be affordable to persons who are financially well off. A legitimate equal protection argument is likely to be made and likely to be successful.
- Since firearms are private property a question will be raised as to the right of individuals who own handguns that do not incorporate “smart gun” technology to bequeath them or sell them or trade them to others. Millions of such firearms are already on the market. They would likely be “grandfathered in” but, then, what can an individual who owns such “grandfathered” firearms do if that person wishes to sell, trade, or bequeath those firearms to another. To deny an individual the right to dispose of his property as he wishes conflicts with the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and involves an illegal taking of property under the Fifth Amendment as well.
QUESTION # 7. WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT GROUPS INVOLVED IN THE DEBATE?
The people and groups that advocate for smart guns are, not surprisingly, advocates of restrictive gun control laws–laws directed to, and that adversely affect the rights of, law-abiding honest citizens. The impetus for these laws are not, contrary to popular belief, directed to curtailing crime. Gun control advocates direct their energies to curtailing the right of the people to keep and bear arms as codified in the Second Amendment–the right to keep and bear arms of honest, law-abiding American citizens. It is the Second Amendment, itself, that gun control advocates are really targeting. Gun control advocates thrust “smart guns” on the populace as a temporary stopgap to attainment of their primary goal, a complete ban on citizen ownership and possession of firearms of any kind.
A partial list consists of participants of “The New York City Smart Gun Symposium,” subtitled, “An Action Plan for Moving Smart Gun Technology,” held on August 2, 2016, at the Brooklyn Borough Hall include the following:
- Eric L. Adams–Brooklyn Borough President co-founded “100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care;” organized support against the NYPD’s controversial “Stop and Frisk” policy; and led efforts on behalf of gun control initiatives.
- Leah Gunn Barrett–Executive Director of the antigun group, “New Yorkers Against Gun Violence” (“nyagv.org”) and “CeaseFire MD,” another antigun group that led efforts for an “assault weapons” ban
- David H. Chipman–Senior Policy Advisor for the antigun group, “Americans for Responsible Solutions,” established by Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly
- Ralph Fascitelli–30 years in Tech Marketing and 17 years in Gun Safety and Brand Marketing; became President of the antigun group: “Washington CeaseFire“Mark Glaza–Named “the face of the gun control movement” by the WSJ; is Board President of “Campaign to Unload,” which encourages divestment of institutions from gun stocks, and is also Executive Director of “Everytown for Gun Safety.”
- Dennis A. Henigan-Former VP of the “Brady Center To Prevent Gun Violence,” and author of the books: “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People” and “Other Myths about Guns and Gun Control.” Henigan is a leading advocate of gun control measures and has appeared on several news and news commentary programs, including: 60 Minutes, Frontline, Hardball, Nightline, and The Today Show.
- Stephen P. Teret, J.D., M.P.H.–Professor of Health Policy and Director of the “Johns Hopkins Center for Law and the Public’s Health,” a known gun control advocate who drafted the N.J. “Childproof Handgun Law” of 2002.
- Loretta Weinberg–New Jersey Senate Majority Leader and Co-sponsor of the N.J. “Childproof Handgun Law.”
QUESTION #8. WHERE DO STAND ON THE ISSUE?
- It should be obvious by now that I am not in favor of “smart guns.”
QUESTION #9. WHAT WOULD BE A GOOD WAY TO REDUCE “GUN VIOLENCE?”
- More law-abiding citizens who choose to carry and possess firearms and receive training in their proper and safe use will deter crime, coupled by strict enforcement of laws on-the-books and prosecution and imprisonment of criminals found guilty of violent crimes, and no plea bargaining in cases involving criminal use of a weapon.
QUESTION #10. WHAT WOULD BE A GOOD WAY TO REDUCE “ACCIDENTAL DEATHS?”
- Commonsense, training, and education in the proper and safe use and safeguarding of firearms and dangerous instruments.
Copyright © 2017 Roger J Katz (Towne Criour), Stephen L. D’Andrilli (Publius) All Rights Reserved.