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P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
13.2 (Spring 2013)
The Great Gun Debate: More Grandstanding, Heel-Dragging, and Outright Stupidity
The comments I posted in this space after the Sandy Hook Elementary outrage (“Save the Children: Arm the Custodian and the Math Teacher,” Praesidium 12.4) met with enough encouragement that I would like to reiterate one of the crucial points made there. We are very close to having the technology necessary to ensure that guns can only be fired by their legal owners. I am not an engineer or technician of any sort and cannot estimate when this technology may be perfected or at what cost. I do know, as an experienced voter and citizen, that seeing that project through is on no prominent representative’s or senator’s front burner. The Vice President is supposed to have declared himself very interested in owner-only operative firearms; yet this interest does not seem to have blunted his zeal to restrict gun ownership radically.
To be sure, the technology has not yet arrived at the fully functional stage—not in a sense that would satisfy most private gun owners, who are staking their and their families’ lives upon a weapon’s quick and reliable response. There can be little doubt, though, that the desired destination is less remote than, say, solar or wind power capable of giving us a return on our government’s immense investment in it. In fact, by the estimate of people who are indeed engineers and technicians, neither energy source can significantly serve our needs in the foreseeable future. As an alternative to fossil fuels, both remain a pipedream.
If saving the life of even one child, then, is of the utmost importance to our leaders, why do they not abandon their quixotic tilting at energy windmills and devote proper attention and funding to the very feasible goal of an owner-only operative weapon? A rather unevenly written article in The Blaze early this year (16 January, 2013) claimed that “millions in state and federal grants” had been channeled into the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s efforts to master owner-recognition technology. The results have apparently been called into question because the recognition is not always instantaneous—a design flaw that could cost the life of a peace officer (or a citizen under attack by home invaders). Another prototype put forth by Irishman Robert McNamara of TriggerSmart seems to hold more promise but has not turned influential heads in this country.
We already have security devices that scan eyeballs and thumbprints more or less as quickly as a credit card is scanned at the grocery store. It is completely implausible that perfecting a similar security device to work on firearms would pose insurmountable problems—of the sort, I repeat for example’s sake, that besets our “green energy” initiatives. If policemen feel handicapped by a weapon that may consume valuable seconds reading their palm-print, then why not have the gun’s functionality activated periodically while the cop is on duty? At the top of every hour, for instance (or whenever he hears a little warning beep from his holster), the officer could renew the gun’s readiness at a touch. The setting could be adjusted much as sensitive computer files are programmed to “time out” after a certain number of minutes.
As for the homeowner who hears a window come crashing down in the dead of night, he already sacrifices precious seconds to digging his handgun out of a drawer or from under the bed. He is forced to squirrel it away in some such place because he doesn’t want children or hit-and-run cat-burglars to chance upon it; but if the weapon has owner-recognition technology, then neither a child’s fingers nor a burglar’s will be unable to turn it deadly. In that case, he might as well keep his piece sitting between his bedside reading and his table lamp. Even if activation takes five seconds, the net result will probably still be a considerable increase in his cleared-for-action speed.
Or scale things back still farther: create a gun that will only work when the owner inserts a key (whether a conventional key or an electronic chip). At the very least, this weapon would also be secure from use by children or malefactors as long as the owner was responsible enough not to leave the gun unlocked when he wasn’t nearby and to keep the key on his person at all times. He could wear it as a ring, or attached to his wristwatch.
All of this assumes that the current technology cannot be upgraded—which is of course preposterous. The “millions” cited in The Blaze article (and one must wonder if this source might be categorically opposed “in principle” to any upgrade over the Colt .45) seem to me well spent. They are vastly more so, at any rate, than the funds for such oft-repeated and ineffectual initiatives as big-city “guns for cash” round-ups or the current rash of universal registration-and-micro-monitoring proposals. While actual mass-production of a newfangled weapon would also be expensive at first, furthermore, the fiscal ripples would soon subside. The one-time cost of embedding a scanner and a chip is bound to be a mere fraction of the outlay required for an army of life-long bureaucrats.
The greater expense would obviously come in retro-fitting old guns with the technology—and there would be social costs, too, involved in exacting this tribute. (How would one handle a single elderly person living in a dangerous neighborhood? Would his old-model Remington be confiscated after a grace period? Would the government pay for the refurbishing? Which level of government?) One imagines that a substantial number of middle-income gun-owners would foot the refitting expense themselves just to know that their weapon would never be stolen and used to rob, rape, and kill: either that, or they would willingly trade in the old models for newer ones. As a gun-owner myself, I can say that this is the foremost worry I have about concealing a gun in the house: the worry, that is, that a burglar may find it while the house is empty and use it in a violent crime. (If Mrs. Lanza had had screening devices on her weapons, by the way, Sandy Hook would never have happened. We cannot make the same claim if we hypothesize the extending of gun-free zones or the requiring of more complicated licensure. Adam Lanza was a sociopathic shell of a being who essentially stole his guns after killing their owner, his mother.)
At a time when our economy is in dire need of a growth industry, why are we not pushing the advance of a technology that would sell like the proverbial hotcake as well as render our streets and schools incalculably safer? When death-trap hybrid tin cans are ostentatiously purchased by the “yuppie” crowd for a king’s ransom (after an immense public investment in their production), why would we assume that infinitely more functional and beneficial products like owner-only operative firearms—produced with a tiny fraction of the tax support—would fail to find a market?
Given the utter lack of such a push except for a quote-op vice-presidential equivocation, is it any wonder that so many of us have utterly lost confidence in our government? For the only credible motive (outside of advertising one’s sheer stupidity) conceivable behind the official indifference to this option is to negate the Second Amendment. Our rulers do not desire us to have safer guns: they desire us to have no guns at all. They do not desire responsible citizens to be able to protect themselves from criminal aggressors: they desire all citizens to be essentially defenseless without a government-bankrolled presence.
How many more children have to die before these people truly begin to care about our children? ~ Pancratistes