More than 58 people were killed and 500-plus hospitalized last night in a mass shooting in Las Vegas.
This tragedy has already sparked the usual partisan responses from lawmakers, the media, and those on social media. We're angry and we've taken sides, but I'm asking you as a father of a 2.5-year-old to set that aside for the next 1,000 words and agree on one basic point: None of us want innocent people harmed.
If you do, stop reading this article. But if you're among the 99.999 percent of our amazing country who doesn't want innocent people killed—by accident or intentionally—by firearms, let's re-open the debate on "smart guns."
For those of you who don't know me, I'm a bleeding heart liberal who also happens to love sport fishing, football, and, every once in a while, boxing and mixed martial arts. I understand there's a large contingency of Americans who love to hunt, collect guns, and go to their local firing range. I don't necessarily get it, but my wife doesn't understand why I love reeling in large striped bass, and she still loves me.
This is our country in a microcosm: We are diverse, complex, stubborn, and traditional, but we're also breathtakingly innovative. I'm not a gun or political science expert. I write about technology software. But after this morning, I can't be silent.
Smart gun technology, as it exists, probably wouldn't have prevented what happened in Las Vegas, but firearm technology could prevent or flat-out stop similar attacks in the future.
What if there was a way for you to own guns, go hunting, and to feel safe against intruders while minimizing the risk of poor firearm handling? Imagine if you were to combine the technology available on your current iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone with the most high-powered assault rifle in the world. Lock your gun so that only you, or the people you trust, could unlock it to begin shooting. Locate the gun in the event it was lost or stolen or remotely lock it.
Think of all of the accidental deaths, especially those involving children, and all of the illegal firearm sales we could wipe out simply by combining these basic mobile device features with firearms.
Now, let's think of a few more advanced possibilities: For prolonged attacks similar to what we witnessed in Las Vegas, police would be able to remote lock a weapon (or the weapons in a wide region) registered with local law enforcement (similar to the way police use LoJack to lock down and recover stolen vehicles). Intelligent fingerprinting could determine if a user was intoxicated and lock the device before a tragedy occurs. Criminals who use legally purchased weapons to commit criminal or violent acts would be held accountable thanks to location and initiation data logged via software. Think all of the mass killings and domestic violence incidents that could be avoided.
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The National Rifle Association (NRA) claims to not oppose the development of smart guns (although its history suggests otherwise) as long as "smart guns" aren't the only option for gun buyers. I think it's time for us all (the NRA especially) to rethink that stance. After all, this isn't a new issue: Smith & Wesson experimented with "child proof" revolvers back in the 1880s.
Image Via: (Christophe Haubursin, MNS)
Opponents of smart gun technology will say government overreach will prohibit gun owners from achieving what the Second Amendment intends: For the people to bear arms for their own security, even if that means security against the government itself. To this, I have no argument. It's true. If the government wants to lock a registered smart weapon against one of its own citizens, future technology will likely make this possible. However, just as we concede location-based privacy to businesses, mobile carriers, and the government in order to make calls, to receive coupons, and to play Pokemon Go, we'll have to concede the ability to fire weapons in the unlikely event the government decides to remotely lock a gun.
Other smart gun opponents will argue that technological glitches and obstacles will make smart guns difficult or, at times, impossible to operate. But technology requires trial and error, and trial and error breeds frustration (I still haven't been able to download iOS 11). But we've improved TVs from black-and-white, staticky, blurry images to 4K live video shot from a cell phone and beamed to a 70-inch, wall-mounted device. Eventually we'll move to a place where smart guns are more fun, fluid, and safer to use than analog weapons, but we have to start somewhere.
- President Obama Orders Feds to Research Smart Guns President Obama Orders Feds to Research Smart Guns
A third group of opponents will argue that smart guns will be too expensive. They're right. At first, smart guns will be more expensive than current bottom-shelf weapons. But, like any technology, as more competitors enter the arena, as manufacturing becomes easier, and as parts become cheaper, the price of smart guns will drop. The first laptop, the Osborne 1, debuted in 1981 at $1,795. Today, you can buy an incredible and inexpensive laptop for as little as $269.
Finally, and perhaps most frustratingly, gun owners will argue that it isn't fair to take away guns that don't possess smart technology. Why? When seatbelt laws went into effect in 1968, it was forbidden for manufacturers to produce cars without seat belt technology. This was probably annoying for people who were used to hopping in a car and driving away untethered, but think about how many lives were saved. People didn't abandon driving. In fact, I'd venture to say that more people drive today, to more places, at greater speeds, thanks to the invention and enforcement of the seatbelt. And no, while it's not illegal to drive a pre-seatbelt classic car, I'd bet that most people who could install a seatbelt in their classic car without sacrificing the integrity of the vehicle's aesthetics (or excessive cost) would do so.
But here's the problem: We're not talking about these issues. We need less partisan bickering and more facts; stop fighting on cable news or Twitter and honestly study the issue—at nonprofits, think tanks, the CDC, and on Capitol Hill. Whatever the experts conclude, I'm willing to bet that most Americans—liberal and conservative, pro- or anti-gun—would be optimistic about a future with fewer gun deaths.
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