In their latest attempt to control law-abiding gun owners, the Obama Administration via Attorney General Eric Holder in congressional testimony announced that it wants to try to make gun owners embed devices in their guns that ensure that only the gun’s owner can fire the weapon.
While this might seem like a great idea on the surface, lets dig a little deeper and see what it really looks like.
For many, this kind of technology is pure science fiction. Many of us have seen the most recent James Bond film Skyfall. In one scene, 007’s gun is turned against him. Since his gun had a biometric scanner, it couldn’t be fired by anyone but himself, which results in a bad guy to get eaten by a Komodo Dragon and Bond escaping from harm. This is also technology deployed in Tom Clancy’s Net Force book series: federal agents had either a ring or a watch that limited who could discharge a properly equipped firearm. This idea is great for government officials who are spending our tax dollars on technology to keep themselves safe. However, let’s call this spade what it actually is: thinly veiled gun control.
To be fair, I do understand the theory behind this: the left wants to protect families from having children accidentally discharge firearms and injure or kill someone, and they want to protect families by modifying the guns themselves so that they cannot be turned on their owners. The solution in this case is Skyfall-style biometric technology, and in theory this could have some benefits. However, the problems with this outweigh the potential benefits, and making such technology mandatory would be just another heavy-handed government intervention where it’s not needed.
Imagine the costs of fitting each individual gun with this technology, and then the added burden of having to wear a bracelet, watch, or ring that gives off the correct electronic signature. That burden alone would make people less willing to purchase a new weapon or retrofit their current weapons; this would function as a de facto form of gun control. This requirement would also put a huge burden on gun manufacturers, causing them to have to completely rethink and revise gun designs and technologies. This could potentially limit guns on the market, disrupting the normal supply and demand of the gun market and likely driving up the cost significantly. Again, this is more de facto gun control.
There are also a lot of unanswered questions with this technology. From Sen. Cornyn’s questions about Presidential authority to mandate this kind of technology, the possibility of private individuals being tracked or monitored through the technology, the issue of whether or not current guns would need to be retrofitted (and how much that would cost), it is clear that there aren’t nearly enough details figured out. Would this technology allow for others to use my gun, say, if I were to go hunting and lend a friend my rifle? What happens when the batteries die or the device malfunctions? Would ALL weapons–including antique or collector weapons–be required to be retrofitted? Would there be a loophole?
Many gun owners who either have concealed carry permits or want immediate access to their weapons would have to wear the signaling item all the time. Would police be able to track or scan your bracelet, ring, or watch to get information? Could they jam the signal in an emergency? Or, worse yet, would criminals be able to create some way to jam the signal when you needed your weapon the most?
There are a ton of unanswered questions regarding this technology, but there is one very good answer: keep out of my gun safe! If Eric Holder really wants to do this and mandate the technology for private citizens, it’s only fair that the government applies this same requirement to all weapons throughout the government: the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and other agencies. Let’s see how it works for them. Then, if the free market decides that this is something consumers want for safety, we as individuals can buy it ourselves. So many different technologies, including now-common devices like the GPS and so many others, have come to succeed in the market in this exact way.
Currently, the only thing that’s similar to this available to the public is The Gun Box, which is a safe that uses this type of technology for quick, secure access to a conventional weapon. This is a great alternative option to Eric Holder’s current idea, which is still almost entirely relegated to the field of spy stories and science fiction.
On the surface, these proposed regulations seem like a good path toward enhancing personal safety and protecting families. But like an onion, the more layers one starts to peel back, the more it stinks. Mandating this type of biometric gun technology would be an intrusion on privacy and a limitation on personal liberty that would subvert our Second Amendment right to bear arms. It’s another excuse for the government to spend hundreds of millions of our taxpayer dollars on a program that goes against our rights. If this technology is so great, then the market will demand it. If not, then the government needs to keep their prying little nose out.
Every day we get a little closer to 1984, and it’s time to stand and fight.
Edward Peichel | St. John’s University | @EdwardPeichel