Re: smart guns from Australia (for Damien and Mike)

From: Michael S. Lorrey (
Date: Sat Apr 15 2000 - 14:26:50 MDT wrote:
> [Apologies for the late, out-of-phase participation, but I've been snowed
> under at work lately.]
> In a message dated 4/7/00 4:18:58 PM Central Daylight Time,
> writes:
> [regarding "smart gun" technology:]
> > I don't discount the possibility, and if such is possible (it likely is) I
> > will
> > adamantly say that it should not be mandated until the technology can be
> > integrated into any gun of any price teir.
> There are two different questions here. The first is the general question of
> whether an extropian should support pursuit of "smart gun" technology and the
> other is whether it should be mandated by law at some stage of the
> technology's development. Regarding your point on the first question, Mike,
> I think there would be good reasons to implement the technology, once it is
> sufficiently robust and flexible, in new weapons, even if it can't be
> practically retrofitted into older guns.

And I agree. I don't however, think that people should be banned from
owning or using older guns, or being forced to retrofit existing guns,
nor should the cost of this technology be mandated on all new products
until it is a sufficiently small fraction of the unit cost as to be
affordable to the average person. Adding $500-1000 to the cost of a
$200-500 product is prohibitive and is only intended to make the product
unaffordable to those who need it most.

> This is no different that seeking a
> new car with airbags and seatbelts, even though it is impractical or even
> undesirable to install those devices in older cars. I dream of one day
> having a "full set" of Corvettes - at least one from each of the five major
> generations (to date). It would be blasphemy to retrofit a well-preserved
> 1957 Corvette with seatblets, airbags and active handling control. But that
> doesn't stop me from expecting to find such devices in a 2000 model year C-5.
> Likewise, it's hard to imagine that I would ever want to retrofit my
> mint-condition 1953 SKS with a "smart-gun" module. (But I can see putting
> one on my later-model Chinese SK that's already been pretty well bastardized
> into a utilitarian saddle-pack brush gun.)

However, would you object to laws being passed that made it illegal for
you to drive your vintage corvettes on the roads? I didn't think so.

> The other question - mandating "smart gun" tech by law - isn't NECESSARILY a
> simple binary one of intrusive state power versus the liberty of gun owners.
> The common law of negligence can act as an evolutionary motor for "mandating"
> incremental employment of improved safety devices through changing
> perceptions of "state of the art" and the gradual imposition of civil
> liability on those who do not keep up and thereby cause harm to others. In
> this regard I point you to my discussion of the use of this principle by the
> distinguished Judge Learned Hand (yes, there was such a man) in the
> celebrated case of The T.J. Hooper. You can find a discussion of this
> process and the T.J. Hooper case in a paper I delivered at the 1998 Foresight
> Senior Associates Gathering:
> Thus I can envision a time when it would be negligent to not make a weapon
> that was "loyal" to its owner. It might well not be considered negligent to
> "upgrade" legitimate antique weapons, but the standards for their use would
> then be much higher.

Since older weapons would not be considered useful for self defense
purposes, and alteration would significantly impact upon their value, I
can imagine that it might be possible to make ammunition which is smart
for use in these guns, that the ammo would have to be electronically
'primed' prior to use, and that the 'priming' effect would only last a
certain time period, at which time the ammo would have to be rebooted or
reprimed. Making this a process that you have to do round by round and
reducing the priming effect to an hour or two would detract from their
use as a self defence weapon (much as muzzle loading is now to
timeconsuming to be useful), so people would be encouraged to utilize
the newer smart technologies.

> > The fact is that the 'smart'
> > technologies that are out right now are highly restrictive, highly prone to
> > failure, and add a minimum of $1000.00 on the price of any given gun. When
> > your average pistol costs $350.00-450.00, putting what amounts to a 200% tax > > on the gun only does one thing: it makes it impossible for poor people, who
> > are most likely to live in high crime areas and are most freqently victims of > > crime and are most likely of a minority group), to defend themselves against > > crime. This is an elitist and racist policy to propose until it can be
> > afforded by all. The dirty little secret of the Democratic Party is that most
> > gun control laws passed
> > prior to 1950 were part of Jim Crow legislation. What cop is gonna let a
> > black man carry a gun?
> All these points fit neatly into the kind of analysis one finds in the T.J.
> Hooper: You make a good case that the technology has not yet evolved to the
> point where we can fairly consider it to be the state of the art. On the
> other hand, such arguments shouldn't be taken to be conclusive against the
> impetus to continue developing that art - which I don't think you do.

I don't. However, the argument that most litigants are making these days
is if the technology is merely possible that it should be mandatory, no
matter what the cost. This I find wholly unreasonable and intolerable.

The latest law in Taxachusetts mandates that all handguns be sold with
many features which are not even currently in existence. The inventory
of every gun dealer in the state is now unsalable. Many are moving out
of state. You must keep trigger locks on even the most ancient and
unusable firearms, revolutionary war muskets, etc. Massachusetts has
evolved from a Commonwealth to a People's Republic.

> > Back to the cost: Those that claim the logic can be designed into a single
> > chip and made for a few cents are thinking in the wrong scale. Chip
> efficiencies of
> > scale of this magnitude occur when you reach hundreds of thousands, if not
> > millions of units each year. While a couple million guns are sold each
> year in
> > the US at most, they are made by several dozen gun manufacturers. Each one
> > of these manufacturers will have to come up with its own chip design (if not
> > multiple chip designs), since sharing designs like this is collusion and an
> > anti-trust actionable offense. Each manufacturer will never make more than a
> > hundred thousand or so chips a year. For those of you in chip design, who
> > mightwant to advance gun technology so that it is affordable, I suggest you
> make a chip design, and make it free and open source like linux is, start
> > manufacturing
> > up, and get the prices down. And design it so that the government can't
> useit as a means of gun control/registration/permitting.
> I think you're right about all this, but that an advanced MEMS robotics
> technology could make a "smart trigger guard" practicable at a reasonable
> cost. Sketching designs for such devices in my mind has become a drive-time
> pastime for me lately. A key to this would be the development of a
> general-purpose "recognizer" chip, that would have uses in many applications
> beyond "smart gun" tech, and therefore could become inexpensive with
> economies of scale from general demand from those other uses. This would be
> coupled with a "trigger-inhibitor" arm that would consist of an array of MEMS
> lever arms. This latter device would also be able to use many components
> that would be useful in broader applications. The only unique characteristic
> would be the general arrangement of these components. Newly manufactured
> weapons could incorporate these components seamlessly into the general body
> of the firearm, while retrofit kits might be somewhat more clunky. In any
> case, I don't see why a smart gun couldn't become an acceptable definition of
> the state of the art in time.

Neither do I, however they need to be a lot smarter than what current
legislation and litigation seems to think is acceptable, and more
affordable as well. The current hysteria is merely due to media hype,
the liberals thinking that they've now got the 2nd amendment on its last
legs. They know they've got trouble coming down the pike in US v.
Emerson, which could put a lot of their gun laws out the window, so they
are trying to raise the mass hysteria level high enough so they can pass
an amendement overriding the 2nd.

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