Zero Percent Failure is the Acceptable Rate for Self Defense

In the President’s speech of January 5th, 2016, one of the items he spoke about taking action on was using federal money to help fund the development of “smart guns” with the following words used as the underlying reasoning:

We need to develop new technologies that make guns safer. If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?

If there’s an app that can help us find a missing tablet — which happens to me often, the older I get — if we can do it for your iPad, there’s no reason we can’t do it with a stolen gun. If a child can’t open a bottle of aspirin, we should make sure they can’t pull a trigger on a gun.

In answering these (what one can only assume were supposed to be rhetorical) questions, I’d simply point the reader to this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or even this (in the interest of promoting my own writing, and to illustrate the basic reality that when one relies on a software layer to control or access a physical device that can have deadly effects if misused, one better be able to rely on that software 100% of the time, in any and all conditions).

Setting aside my libertarian notions about the lack of need for government funding to develop such technologies as “smart guns” (which would basically consist of a reminder that the market is free to develop any and all solutions they think they can sell, and they don’t need federal funding to do that), the simple reason that the free market has largely not spent much effort trying to fill this niche is because they do not feel that they will be able to move the product.

Yes, it’s more complicated than that in some instances. For example, such technologies have been built. By multiple vendors. And yet the average American citizen buying a firearm for self-defense hasn’t bought them. And every single solution offered can be defeated, circumvented, or utterly obliterated by a dedicated individual intent to do harm. If Criminal A is willing to shoot Target B, do you think he’s not willing to bust out a power drill after searching YouTube for 5 minutes to find a how-to on destroy an RFID sensor in a smart gun? Or, even more likely, won’t he just instead pick up a stolen non-“smart gun”, of which there are already roughly 310-350 MILLION in the US that are currently legally owned?

Moreover, guns, when purchased and employed for self defense, have to be expected to work 100% of the time. Any software or electronic failure could have catastrophic effects. Imagine, if you will, an intruder breaks into your home, and you don’t have a gun of any sort. Imagine your response is to dial 911 to get the cops to come, however fast they might be able to get to where you live, and now imagine your battery is dead, because you forgot to plug that phone in before you went to sleep, after spending the whole day posting cat pictures or gun control pleas to twitter or whatever website you visit most with that phone. 

Sure, you have a charging cable. Sure, it’s right next to where you put the phone on your nightstand. You plug the phone in, and find yourself surprised that it’s going to need to charge for a while before it can even boot up it’s smart phone operating system, which means it’ll be 30 minutes before you’re making that phone call to the police. Now let’s be generous and say the intruder means to do you harm, but they don’t have a gun, either. They only have a knife. How long do you suppose before you bleed out from a knife wound? Probably about 6 minutes. So you die, then your phone finishes charging, and it is entirely too late for anyone to call the police. Or you don’t die, but you’re almost dead, and your fingers are covered in your own blood, such that when you try using your fingerprint to unlock it, you can’t. You can’t slide the emergency call slider, either, for the same reasons. You relied on a complicated hardware/software solution, and something went wrong.

Is it really any surprise that those of us who have actively taken training to defend ourselves and our families with firearms don’t want to make our firearms more like our smart phones?