Are Smart Guns the Answer to America's Gun Problem?


Well, well this business of “Smart Guns” is back again. For those who are not familiar with this subject I have a memory jogger for you. This first came up 14 or 15 years ago as an idea to prevent an LEO from being shot with his own firearm. Then and now the idea is a good one but the technology is not yet available. So the concept was pushed with the LEO being exempt from mandatory use of the concept. That has gone over like a lead balloon. If it is not good enough for LEOs it is not good enough for me.
Are Smart Guns the Answer to America’s Gun Problem?
By Mike Brunker & Kristin Donnelly
April 29, 2016
NBC News

A few teasers from the linked article with my comments.

If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint," Obama said in January as he unveiled executive actions on gun control, "why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?
Reliability and speed of operation come to mind very quickly. Just a minute Mr. Badguy while I take my gloves off so my sidearm will recognize me. To me this is not a good situation for an LEO or me or you to be in. Reliability so far fails miserably - This article mentions the Armatix contraption that attempts were made to market a couple of years ago. How nice that the article fails to mention that published data then showed something on the order of failing to fire about 10% of the time. Do not know if that has been corrected or not.

Gun safety advocates say the technology is promising, but needs more research to ensure it actually works. However, federal agencies stepping up and committing to research and to test-driving the technology to make sure it works is a big step forward, gun control advocates say.
Looks to me that people are confusing the safety of a firearm with the misuse of a firearm.

Advocates point to a string of horrific accidental shootings involving children, something they say smart gun technology could address.
Mark Barden, founder of Sandy Hook Promise, lost his son Daniel in the Newtown shooting.
<<snip Mark Barden, founder of Sandy Hook Promise, lost his son Daniel in the Newtown shooting. Mark Barden, founder of Sandy Hook Promise, lost his son Daniel in the Newtown shooting.
Barden says the technology is already out there. It’s crucial to get the technology tested on a firearm, he said. He hopes through testing, people will develop a comfort level with the new technology.

“We have the opportunity to save lives,” Barden said.
Rest assured that I have sympathy for Mr. Barden for his lose but Sandy Hook did not involve firearm safety and “smart gun” technology would not have changed anything there.

As some of you may remember I have previously posted a list of what I consider the minimum specifications for the technology to comply with a requirement that the electronic controls built into the firearm meet the reliability performance that the firearm itself meets. Here they are again for the newcomer and drive-by readers.

Must be usable in either hand.
Must not be affected by calluses, abrasions, lacerations, or other tissue damage or variations.
Must not be affected by authorized user wearing gloves.
Must not significantly increase bulk or weight of firearm.
Must be easy to add and delete authorized users.
Must be serviceable by local store/gunsmith rather than returned to factory when malfunctioning.
Must be capable of correct functioning in temperature range of –50F to +150F.
Must not be disabled by immersion in water.
Must be immune to intense magnetic fields found in some industrial situations.
Must be immune to the effects of magnetic fields under electrical transmission lines.
Must be immune to the effects of authorized user standing adjacent to transmitting radio antenna.
Must be immune to the effects of authorized user being near microwave transmissions.
Must be immune to the effects of NMP and EMP.
Must not be affected by dirt, precipitation, oils, solvents, or perspiration
Must be immune to a 1 meter drop onto cement floor.
Must be immune to the effects of firing recoil for a minimum of 25,000 shots.
Must be designed to use commonly available batteries.
Must not deplete battery life in less than 12 hours of continuous use.
Must not be easily bypassed.
Must have extremely low rates of false negatives and false positives.
Must cycle on in less than 0.075 seconds. (Be useable on demand of authorized user.)
Must cycle off in less than 0.5 seconds. (Be unusable quickly when the authorized user is not holding.)
Must not emit remotely visible or audible indication of functional status.

To date I have seen nothing that indicates the designers are trying to meet any performance requirements that approximate real field conditions.


I think we could easily develop systems that meet nearly all of your requirements. With the probable exception of the full water immersion, or “strong” magnetic fields and EMP shielding.

The other features would be doable, but I don’t think there’s enough demand to justify the cost in R&D and market testing.

I don’t have kids, but if I did, they wouldn’t be dumb enough to shoot themselves in the face. I guess if you have stupid kids, you might consider it. I just think this is one of those ideas that is mostly supported by people who don’t actually use the product. I wouldn’t especially mind if my gun had some of these features(if they didn’t reduce usefulness), but I have literally no desire for them either. And I image they’d demand a considerable premium. So I’d never even consider “smart” guns.

The one thing I REALLY do NOT want to see is what I expect will come to market in the next two decades or so, and that’s a remote controlled rifle with the ability to see deer(and other game). When it spots the game, it pops up a screen on your phone and lets you aim/fire the weapon remotely. It will ruin hunting if this happens, and I fully expect it to.


I suggest that a fingerprint system would troublesome when the weather or other conditions would cause the firearm owner to wear gloves.

> And I image they’d demand a considerable premium. So I’d never even consider “smart” guns.
You are correct - According to this article from a couple of years ago the all up cost of a .22RF semi-auto pistol would be $1798.
** First ‘smart’ pistol hits shelves in California**.
And that is for something that I would consider a Saturday night special sidearm at best.


America doesn’t have a gun problem; it has a sin problem (which the left doesn’t want to talk about).


I would also assume you could adjust settings and disable things. So you could have your fingerprint required gun, that doesn’t require a fingerprint when you turn it off. So if you’re going out in snow, you disable it before you leave. Then when you come home and put it up, you set it back on.

Or possibly have something like a deactivation period. Like, when your fingerprint hasn’t enabled it in the last 8 hours, the gun locks up and turns off.

I’d also think the fingerprint would only be required once(to enable firing). It sounds like the thing you were talking about tried to scan prints for every round fired. And that’s just bad design.

If any of these things couldn’t be disabled, the guns wouldn’t sell well. Customers would just buy their competitor’s products that do allow you to disable/adjust things.

That’s vastly more than I expected. I was thinking it would tack on a couple hundred. At $1,500, I don’t just think the market is small… I think it’s nearly nonexistent.


Smart guns are just another liberal pie-in-the-sky idea. Once against their ignorance is showing. Next they will demand that the military have smart guns that can only shot if some hack in Washington says its alright.


A little more information about the subject of “smart guns” is available in the article linked below. Please note that the opposition to the use of these dreams is not just the shooting community. However you also have an internal difference of opinion with LEOs. The politically appointed administrations want to jump on the band wagon while the street cop is much, much more cautious about the implementation of the concept.

> A source familiar with the plans said that type of mandate isn’t on tap right now, but critics are still worried the administration is laying the groundwork for such a move. Among the biggest skeptics are cops worried about testing an unproven technology on the streets.
> <<snip>>
> The concept of smart guns is hardly new: researchers have been trying to develop electronic systems to make a gun fire only by an authorized user for almost three decades, with on-again, off-again help from the federal government.
> It wouldn’t prevent most mass shootings, gun crimes or suicides — currently the biggest driver of gun deaths. However, they could cut down on the roughly 500 deaths each year from accidental shootings, especially by kids. Advocates also point to findings that most youth suicides are committed with a parents’ weapon, and instances where officers’ own guns are stolen in a scuffle and used to shoot them cause about 1 in 10 police deaths.

Please don’t try and claim that legislation will not be passed making the installation of the electronics in sidearms, at least, mandatory. The State of New Jersey has already done so and several other states have legislation prepared and just waiting for the electronic junk to come on market.
> In 2002, a New Jersey law required that all gun shops sell only personalized guns within three years of a proven product hitting the market.

The whole concept is in reality a case of diminishing returns.
> However, they could cut down on the roughly 500 deaths each year from accidental shootings, especially by kids.
The number of accidental deaths involving a firearm have been declining for years in spite of the continuing increase in the number of firearms in civilian possession. There is no doubt in my mind that the death of a child or anyone due to an accident is a tragedy. Education is the best solution.

There is also concern about firearms being disabled remotely when electronic controls are installed in the firearm. This is another concept that sounds good on the surface but has too many potentials for misuse and should be dropped as impractical. Why oh why do we keep getting suggestions from people who seem to have little or no experience with shooting and firearms in general?

Obama to make ‘smart guns’ push
By Sarah Wheaton
April 28, 2016


Seems to me as I read the post quoted above that you are overlooking the major reason this “personalized firearm” was conceived. The idea was and is that in the event a criminal gains possession of an LEO’s firearm he cannot shoot the LEO with that firearm. To have the fingerprint ID system disabled in any way by the owner, the LEO, defeats the purpose of the system entirely. Why double or triple the price of the firearm only to add an easily bypassed control and worse yet diminish the reliability of the firearm overall?


We’re talking about the implications it would have on firearms for civilians. So I don’t see any reason to have a feature added to keep him from being shot with his own gun. I also don’t think that occurs often enough to even add it to police firearms.

Apparently about five officers per year are killed with their own weapons.


I view this differently. We are discussing the addition of an electronic device to firearms. This concept was originally proposed as something to prevent an LEO from being shot with his/her own firearm in the event he/she lost custody of the firearm. When efforts to develop such an electronic device indicated that using the technology available at the time demonstrated that even the simplest device was not achievable the argument was put forth that it would be for the safety of the public and LEOs would be exempt from the requirement to have these electronic contraptions in their firearms.

Understanding the history of the concept is one major reason that the civilian and LEO communities are adamant that this concept not be implemented until it can be shown to work reliably in field conditions. The requirement that this device meet the same level of reliability that the firearm meets is not unreasonable.

If it ain’t good enough for the LEO don’t push it off onto me or you.


Yes, but the reason the finger print thing is being suggested for civilian arms is to keep stupid kids from shooting themselves in the face. Which would only require a single print and then activation. Not a per-round scan like the cop’s gun to prevent someone from grabbing it from him.


Now there is talk about putting a chip in guns so they can be tracked. Big brother at its worse. Then again they tried that with fast and furious and it did not work. The criminals took them out so all that would do is place more attacks on the privacy of honest citizens.


What gun problem? There is no gun problem. FC said it one way, I’ll say it another: We have a criminal problem. We have a culture problem. Any of these three ways of perception are correct.

In rare instances, you have a stupidity problem. Stupid people leaving loaded weapons where little kids can get to them. That’s something education should be able to correct.

You have shooting accidents, or negligent discharges. Once again, education.

No law will curb criminal intent or behavior.


In my experiences discussing the concept of firearm controls you, CWolf, are the only person I have come across that advocates “a once energized control system it is on until turned off.” To me such a concept completely negates the reason for wanting a computer controlled go-nogo system. Whether it is for civilian use, LEO use, or military use does not matter. The computer should give a go-nogo signal before the firing pin (striker) is allowed to impact the cartridge primer or your “safety system” is a waste of resources. Better education is the answer, not some lame-brain pie in the sky do-gooder want that inherently cannot meet or exceed the reliability of the firearm itself.

Also please remember that under no circumstances should the computer controlled system be disabled by some remote control device even if that device is on site.

Just a side note. I have experienced competition shooting while standing in snow with the ambient temp below freezing. It is tough on the finger tips of the hand even when using gloves that keep the rest of the hand warm. I have total sympathy for an LEO or soldier who is involved in a firefight in such conditions. At least where I have shot in such conditions I had the chance to visit the burn barrel and warm up my hands between my visits to the firing line. And my daughter has made custom configuration mittens for me that are a big help when my trigger finger is at work or I am using my thumb and trigger finger to handle cartridges and reload. Please take that fingerprint control idea and toss it into the not a good idea file.


I don’t actually advocate it, but if we’re going to have one, that’s how it should function.

Way more dumb kids shoot themselves and siblings every year than cops or anyone else being disarmed and shot with their own gun. The initial proposal was significantly less intelligent. And the people calling for smart guns, are calling them primarily to prevent accidental shootings in the home(which outstrip deliberate shootings by more than 10 to 1).

Never said it was. I pretty much only hunt when it’s below freezing, so I’m perfectly aware.

It’s kind of funny that you think we disagree on whether or not to implement mandatory smart guns when I’ve said in almost every post that it’s not practical. I simply said it’s technically feasible, and then pointed out some bone headed design flaws that could be improved.

It’s like if I point that a Datsun has an inadequate exhaust system, and suggest a way to fix it, and you then reply, “CWolf, I think it would be a mistake to replace the entire American fleet of cars with Datsun’s! They haven’t even made them in decades”. Indeed, YJ, indeed.


I LIVE and BREATH the RKBA (2nd Amend) this was instilled in me by my father.

I would LOVE to have a weapon that I could grab and it would only fire for ME and I doubt there is anyone that would not like this.

That said anyone here a an iPhone 5 or later with fingerprint ID, how about anyone every work in an enviroment were it took a fingerpint ID to enter a room?

I have to both of the above questions.

How many think it works spot on 99% of the time, how about even 95% of the time? If you do then you don’t own the iPhone and you have never worked in a secure facility.

We kept a rag on a hook next to the fingerprint reader to wipe the glass clean.

Got dirty hands and I mean only daily use iPhone does not see it sometimes.

In the rain, any water on the iPhone or your finger and it won’t see it.

Does it work most of the time, sure.

So is MOST of the TIME good enough to keep you and your family safe.

When seconds count, Cops and hand cleaner is only minutes away.


Then why not stay with the trigger lock and or cable lock that was being pushed as a means of preventing accidental firings a few years ago? Be a heck of a lot lower in initial cost to the firearm owner and not waste resources. In either the electronic control or mechanical lock education and safe handling are still the key to being successful.

It is rather difficult to pin down information to confirm or refute your comment and especially that 10 to 1 figure. The annual CDC data used to break down accidental firearm related deaths a bit better than they seem to do now. From the most recent published figures the number of fatal accidents involving a firearm is 505/year for all age groups regardless of the activity. Again we are back to the solution to the problem is education and training not some fancy electronic contraption.

Refer to the part of Table 10 shown on page 41
National Vital Statistics Reports
Volume 64, Number 2
Deaths: Final Data for 2013
Published by CDC in February 2016


I don’t want to do that either. I don’t even like the existing safeties. Though I agree that if we want to step things up, those make more sense than smart guns. I would still say there are ways to improve smart guns.