Thursday in Washington, D.C., a group of gun control activists – some of them from law enforcement – is holding an event to propagate the myth of smart gun technology. They argue, if your fingerprint can now unlock your phone – why can’t it lock and unlock your firearm, as well?
The event’s organizer, Washington CeaseFire, says that it is the nation’s strongest proponent of child-proof smart guns. Given that tagline, it’s probably little surprise that on the group’s homepage, they have pictures of children reaching for guns that were left out on the kitchen table. If only these guns were locked with smart gun technology . . . you get the idea.
But the problem with smart gun technology is that it doesn’t work (more on that in a minute). The real issue with the Washington CeaseFire event is that it’s targeting law enforcement with the smart gun myth: “Technology can help save police lives.” The group states, “Such is the case with smart guns which can only be fired by the authorized user (and his partner).”
That is the promise of smart guns – that they will reliably fire when in the hands of the good guys, while rendering anyone else who gets them useless.
Now, the facts. Smart guns can be hacked. In fact, just last week, a hacker rendered the technology in a leading German-manufactured smart gun completely useless. He could extend the firing range beyond the allowed distance, jam the gun from firing in the hands of its user or even disable the “smart” mechanism completely to fire it himself. According to Wired:
The IP1 purports to limit who can fire it by requiring that the shooter wear a special Armatix watch. If the gun and the watch can’t connect via a short-range radio signal that extends just a few inches, the gun won’t fire. That’s the idea, anyway. But Plore showed that he can extend the range of the watch’s radio signal, allowing anyone to fire the gun when it’s more than ten feet away. He can jam the gun’s radio signals to prevent its owner from firing it—even when the watch is inches away and connected. And most disturbingly, he can mechanically disable the gun’s locking mechanism by placing some cheap magnets alongside its barrel, firing the gun at will even when the watch is completely absent.
All three of these instances would be deadly in the field. For the IP1, the smart gun offers its owner nothing more than the appearance of security. Yet, the German manufacturer’s marketing claimed that the gun would “usher in a new era of gun safety.”
If there’s one thing that law enforcement needs in the field, it’s reliability. Unfortunately, smart gun technology doesn’t offer that. Until it does, we cannot even consider it, regardless of the stats or stunts that activists push.