Smart Cops Saying 'No' (to 'smart guns')
Cops Saying 'No'
The police will not put up with a gun that is 99% reliable.
Mr. Kopel is research director of the independence Institute.
The gun company
formerly known as Smith & Wesson (now called "Clinton & Wesson"
by Second Amendment advocates) has agreed that in a few years, it will produce
only guns which have an internal computer chip, to prevent anyone except the
owner from using the gun. Such "smart" guns might be fine for target
shooting, but few people who want a gun for protection would want to risk their
lives on a bet that the computer chip will always work perfectly in an emergency.
best proof of the dangers of computer guns, in an emergency situation, is that
police refuse to buy them. Notably, the agreement between Smith & Wesson
and the Clinton administration gives S&W an exemption for sales to police
and the military. Likewise, mandatory computer gun proposals which were defeated
in 1999 in New Jersey and this March in Maryland, also contained police exemptions.
That is because the bills’ sponsors recognized that if the bills forced the
police to buy computer guns, the state capitols would be deluged with police
officers testifying against the mandate.
computer guns actually reliable, no group could benefit more than police officers;
one-seventh of all police shooting deaths are perpetrated with a gun that was
snatched from a police officer. And police guns are uniquely vulnerable to being
taken away, since they are normally worn on an exposed belt holster. (As opposed
to defensive handguns carried by ordinary citizens, which by law are usually
required to be carried concealed.)
when Sandia Labs in New Mexico evaluated every known form of personalized gun
technology for possible police adoption, no technology was graded better than
a “B” — because of reliability problems.
put, the police will not put up with a gun that is 99% reliable. And since civilians,
like law enforcement officers, have the legal right to use deadly force to protect
themselves or others from serious violent felonies, when no lesser force will
suffice, civilians are just as entitled to be able to purchase 100% reliable
between police and ordinary citizens, it is the citizens who most need an exemption
from the mandate. The firearms needs of an ordinary citizen who is being attacked
by three gangsters are just about identical to the needs of a police officer
who is being attacked by three gangsters. An ordinary citizen, though, may be
more stressed during a confrontation, and thus more likely to have sweaty hands,
or to shake while holding the guns, and thereby prevent a palm-print reader
(one form of personalization technology) from working. A citizen away from home
is much less likely to be carrying a second, back-up gun than is a police officer
(police commonly carry back-up guns in ankle holsters), and thus the civilian
is less likely to have an alternative if the first gun’s technology fails to
operate. While police officers handle their guns every day, most domestic users
who keep a gun for home protection do not; thus, the police officer will be
alerted when a battery has gone dead, and needs to be replaced. The home-owner
may not find out about the dead battery until he picks up the gun during an
emergency; the home-owner’s widow may then discover a dead husband along with
the dead battery.
computer handguns really are reliable, then politicians who want to mandate
them should add something to the mandate law — a provision waiving sovereign
immunity, and providing full compensation for gun-owners (or their estates)
who are injured or killed because a mandatory computer gun failed to function.
If computer guns are reliable, then there should be no objection to assuaging
the fears of skeptics; and this reassurance will not cost the government a penny.
On the other hand, if computer guns are not reliable enough to put the government
treasury at risk, neither should the safety of crime victims be put at risk.
Dave Kopel writes a column twice a month for
the Colorado Springs Gazette. In
addition, Kopel writes frequently for the following magazines: Reason, National
Review, Chronicles, The American Guardian, and The American
For more of Dave Kopel's writings go to The