Could "Smart Guns" Protect Kids?Rebekah Kuschmider
It seems like every day I see another horrific story about kids hurt or killed by accidental shootings. If you look at Joe Nocera’s chilling round up of gun deaths on “The Gun Report” ot the New York Times website, you don’t need to look very long to see stories like this one:
Saturday May 11: A 5-year-old boy is in critical condition after his 8-year-old friend accidentally shot him in the head in Denton, Tex., Saturday morning.
This terrifies me. That there are children who can gain access to unsecured weapons and kill or injure themselves or other children is unacceptable. Not only should adults know better than to leave guns loaded and accessible to kids, you would think that in an era where your phone can activate your home security system while you’re 30,000 above the planet on a plane, we should have guns that don’t accidentally fire.
As it turns out, that technology is emerging. According to the Huffington Post:
The new Yardarm Technologies LLC system would trigger an alarm on an owner’s cellphone if a gun is moved, and the owner could then hit a button to activate the safety and disable the weapon. New guns would come with a microchip on the body and antennas winding around the grip. It would add about $50 to the cost of a gun, and about $12 a year for the service.
I don’t know a lot about guns but it seems to me that the additional cost for that is worth it if it means that the owner can lock down a gun with a swipe of a touch screen. If a kid were to show a friend a gun, a parent could know and prevent tragedy no matter where they were. It also lets a gun owner shut down a stolen weapon so that it can’t be used in a crime.
Other “smart gun” technologies are in the works too. From the Huffington Post again:
The Yardarm system is one of several recently introduced high-tech offerings: the iGun only fires if it recognizes a ring on a finger, the Intelligun uses a fingerprint locking system and TriggerSmart uses radio frequency identification.
I love all of these ideas. While I would never own a gun and I find them terrifying, I understand that the Second Amendment isn’t going anywhere. I think the future of guns should include high-tech safety mechanisms that prevent unauthorized use. A gun keyed to the fingerprint of the owner is a gun that can’t be used by the owner’s son to commit suicide, for example. It can’t be used in a school shooting. A 5 year old won’t accidentally shoot his sister with it.
Not unexpectedly, there is push back among gun rights advocates on this technology:
National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said his organization is concerned about added costs and the reliability of smart guns in general.
“We believe that the technology does not exist today where a so-called smart gun can operate with 100 percent or close to it reliability,” he said, “and a firearm that does not function when it is required to is not a smart gun.”
He also suggested that the cost premium on the additional technologies is a “luxury tax on self-defense”. Regardless, some states are starting to move forward with proposals to require gunmakers to add smart gun technologies to their products. Proposals are pending in California and Massachusetts and New Jersey has adopted such a law.
As a safety conscious parent, I think these measures, along with measures to retrofit existing guns with smart gun technologies, are brilliant. Accidental shootings are far too common and I, for one, would be delighted to see technology in place that could reduce them!