Firearm Tech – Are Smart Guns Even Realistic?

At frustratingly regular intervals, the debate around gun control crops up, and every time there is a discussion about smart guns. The general idea is to have a gun that will not fire unless authenticated and authorized. There’s usually a story about a young person who invents a smart controller and another company that is struggling because they just can’t get “Big Guns” to buy into the idea. We aren’t going to focus on the politics; we’re going to look at whether the technology is realistic, and why a lot of the news stories about new tech never pan out.

Let’s start with an example of modern technology creeping into established machines: the car. These are giant hunks of metal with nearly constant explosions, controlled by sophisticated electronics that are getting smarter and more connected every day. Industry is adopting it with alacrity, and the vehicles are getting more efficient and powerful because of it. So why can’t firearms?

There are some giant differences between a car and a gun. First, failure is just not an option with guns. They are expected to function flawlessly and are judged on their ability to do so. It’s a stretch to say the same thing about vehicles. If a car won’t start it’s a disappointment. But cars are judged on their reliability, not on their ability to operate flawlessly.

Second, cars are big and have lots of room for electronics, and ample power to keep them running. With a smart gun every millimeter matters, and you can’t press pause on life because your gun battery is dead.

Finally, despite the constant explosions and motion, vehicle electronics aren’t subject to as many stresses as a firearm may be.

Reliability

The biggest concern from people is that at the critical moment, a firearm cannot fail. With that in mind, designing a piece of technology gets more difficult by an order of magnitude. Wireless becomes tricky because of the possibility of jamming, biometrics becomes tricky because of gloves, dirt, sweat, and all kinds of things that usually prevent biometrics from working, and timing becomes tricky because it has to work just as quickly as taking the safety off. Guns already fail for lots of mechanical reasons, but adding in electronics and electromechanical components adds dozens more points of failure.

Room

Firearms are designed to be ergonomic,space efficient, and light. There are extremely small and carefully machined components between the trigger and the firing pin. Introducing a circuit board with components as well as a mechanical component that prevents or enables the trigger to fire the weapon will take up space.

Additionally, a battery may be necessary, and that takes up space as well. On a handgun the grip has a magazine inside it, so there’s not much room there, and keep in mind that any design will only work for a single gun; getting it to fit into other brands or types will be a significant redesign.

Take a look at the Colt 1911 cutaway as it fires and try to figure out where you would put electronics, batteries, and actuators without interfering with the operation of the weapon or adding significant bulk.

Stress

Firing a weapon is rough. Peak acceleration can exceed 500G; enough to rip components off of circuit boards. In addition, the gunpowder and smoke from the explosion permeate the weapon, getting into every possible opening, and requiring regular cleaning for proper operation. After firing, some parts can get extremely hot. It’s a tough place to put electronics, and limits where in the weapon the parts could go.

Removable Locks

By Kencf0618 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10541692
By Kencf0618 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Just like a bike lock, there is the idea of a lock that attaches to the gun and prevents it from being used but can quickly and easily be removed. These make sense for weapons that spend most of the time tucked safely away. The lock is a bit bulky and fits over either the trigger or inside the chamber. It can be unlocked in a variety of ways and removed. This way the stress and reliability and room issues are mostly circumvented.

But these have been around for decades and are a cheap and easy solution. They may be getting fancier with Bluetooth and biometrics, but in an important moment, something you know (a password or combination) is often faster and more reliable than something you have (a phone, key, or ring) or something you are (biometrics). Considering the trifecta of security (something you know, something you have, something you are), the combination lock is still going to win. Besides, these solutions are currently $15 or less; why would someone be motivated to spend more than that on something “smarter” but possibly less reliable?

Gun Safes

Solving the room, reliability, and stress problems entirely are gun safes. Large amounts of power can be provided to run electronics which deliver ample security. Some even offer cameras that automatically upload images, or shake/open detection to alert the owner. And all of this security could be used in a single installation to protect many guns at once. It seems if there is a technological solution to be had, it should be most adopted in gun safes first.

Conclusions

Because of these challenges, I think it’s unlikely that a weapon with embedded electronics and electromechanical safeties will succeed. It’s just too easy to defeat, too easy to break, and adds too much complexity to a very efficient machine.

Setting aside politics, there are lots of technological problems with smart weapons that will prevent them from being accepted. Even if they did have widespread adoption, though, there will still be risk from non-smart guns; the cat is out of the bag on guns. Putting more parts on them will just weigh the cat down, not put it back in the bag.

Gun locks and gun safes are a much more practical solution for protecting a weapon, but have limited use. They won’t keep someone from having their own gun used against them, and they have no application for people who carry a weapon around with them, but they will go a long way towards protecting people from the lion’s share of accidental deaths and to make it more difficult to steal and use weapons without permission from the owner.

Of course, all this is based on the fact that guns fire bullets. If we get to a point where we have energy weapons or hand held rail guns, where electronics are necessary and recoil and gunpowder and room are no longer as big a concern, then we’ll see a shift.

300 thoughts on “Firearm Tech – Are Smart Guns Even Realistic?

  1. All in all, not a bad article. Thanks for staying away from politics with it.

    The unfortunate thing is that cogent and reasonable thinking usually goes out the window when it comes to firearms and we end up in a situation where facts don’t matter, only emotions. Actually that seems to happen with a lot of things around here…

  2. my idea of gun control is abolishing all guns including hunting.

    what’s that i hear “then how are we going to get our dear meat” the answer is in addition to beef deer will be in the super market.

    what’s that i hear “hunting day is a chance to get out of school” answer tack what used to be hunting day on as an extension of the thanksgiving holiday so thursday through monday a 5 day holiday.

    if all guns are abolished then it will be a lot easier to control the problem because then law enforcement does not have to pick up the gun and go “hmmmmm is this an illegal gun” they know that all guns are illegal.

    while a all total ban on all guns probably wont work then make trap laws and privacy compromising laws.

    require unannounced inspections where the police can come into the house and look for guns and take inventory of what you have thereby threatening privacy. (so no more secret stashes even going to the extent of using ground penetrating radar to look for bunkers underground)

    1. Do you live in a communist country? Cause everything you just posted goes against the Constitution of the United States. Removing guns from a society may reduce gun violence but other crime goes up. Logic and facts back this up. If you are thinking of robbing/assaulting someone and know they are not armed you are going to be more willing to risk it than if they might have a gun. Just look at Australia after 1996 Robbery and sexual assault skyrocketed from previous years. Don’t believe me? http://www.aic.gov.au/dataTools/facts/vicViolentCol.html

      1. There was never a right to carry a gun in Australia, so this has no bearing on sexual assault or rape incidences. Secondly there does seem to be a misconception (in the USA) that ALL guns are banned in Australia, this is simply not true. Interestingly looking at the statistics Armed and unarmed robbery have fallen, sexual assault have increased, but this is not changed by our gun laws (no assailant would assume a woman to be armed either pre-1996 or post. Even murder has gone down.

        1. Secondly there does seem to be a misconception (in the USA) that ALL guns are banned in Australia, this is simply not true.

          Indeed. The number of guns owned by Australians is now back up to the pre-1997 rate.

          1. Gun ownership is indeed growing … but it is rather different game-ball in Australia …

            You CANNOT use a firearm to defend yourself or your family, under any circumstances.
            A legally owned firearm CANNOT be loaded unless it is in an approved shooting range.
            A legally owned firearm MUST be kept in a safe and unloaded at all times unless taken (unloaded, of course) to a shooting range.
            When taken your firearms to an approved shooting range (or to a gunsmith) they must be hidden from view.

            And the list goes forever. Australians might be buying firearms but certainly they cannot use them to protect themselves.

            One more: to own a handgun you have to be an active member of an approved club (i.e.: $$) and hold a license (i.e.: more $$) … and participate (i.e.: even more $$) in a shooting competition at least 12 times a year (for a handgun).

            And yes, a BB gun or air gun is considered a FIREARM in Australia.
            Same with plastic, toy like, replicas.

            Please don’t associate even remotely gun ownership in the USA with guns in Australia, there is nothing in common.

      2. The funny thing is, the trends you are talking about, start before gun reform.

        If you look at the data, the increase in robbery is a trend that starts before the introduction of the 1996 gun laws.
        The changes in rates of sexual assault are flat, but increase later, in line with efforts in Australia to improve the police response, and reporting rate of such crimes.

        In any event, gun control laws are a longer term play. They dramatically increase the cost, and reduce the availability to criminals, over the longer term.

        If you look at these statistics (http://www.aic.gov.au/dataTools/facts/vicViolentRate.html), which are per 100,000 (anyone showing you flat crime rates, in a growing population, is usually trying to scare you), shows the longer term trends are good. From 2002 onwards, we saw a decrease in both murder and overall homicides, (from around 2 per 100,000 to 1.2 per 100,000) and from 2004 we saw a continual drop in robbery from (80.6 to 51.47 per 100,000). Of course, robbery correlates more strongly with economic conditions, and drug use. From a low in 1990, the 90s had high unemployment in Australia, which over a number of years impacts on the crime rate.

        If you are expecting changes to gun control to have an immediate impact, forget it. It’s a change you make for the long term. And bear in mind, most people don’t actually think you should go “cold turkey”. However, the fact that it’s contentious to require everyone buying a gun to have a background check, to prevent people on the terrorist watch lists from buying guns, or to enforce uniform laws on storage, seems bizzare to me.

          1. Rates being down needs the baseline to provide context; gun murders down down x% from 100 per 1000,000 would be a whole lot different from down x% from 2 per 100,000.

          2. It’s useful to understand that the 1997 restriction on semi-auto and some other firearms was in response to growing mass shootings, not armed robbery or other firearms related crimes. We have not had a single mass shooting since then. Of course there is no way to prove the laws were the cause either way, but making it harder to own the sort of firearm that can fire many rounds quickly, would appear to have had an effect. I am an armourer providing firearms for film and TV, I work with them every day and have a prohibited weapons authority allowing me to own and use pretty much anything. It’s said that people who want a gun will get one illegally. If you are a nut that decided to go on a rampage one day, I don’t know of a definite way you could acquire an semi or full auto rifle at a moments notice. Having them out of the hands of the general public seems to have helped. As to criminals keeping illegal firearms, this is a separate issue as few mass killings are perpetrated by career criminals. It would also be useful to further analyse the “armed robbery” figures as “armed” means any wepaon, that includes knives, baseball bats, lengths of wood etc.

      3. The funny thing is, the trends you are talking about, start before gun reform.

        If you look at the data, the increase in robbery is a trend that starts before the introduction of the 1996 gun laws.
        The changes in rates of sexual assault are flat, but increase later, in line with efforts in Australia to improve the police response, and reporting rate of such crimes.

        In any event, gun control laws are a longer term play. They dramatically increase the cost, and reduce the availability to criminals, over the longer term.

        If you look at these statistics (http://www.aic.gov.au/dataTools/facts/vicViolentRate.html), which are per 100,000 (anyone showing you flat crime rates, in a growing population, is usually trying to scare you), shows the longer term trends are good. From 2002 onwards, we saw a decrease in both murder and overall homicides, (from around 2 per 100,000 to 1.2 per 100,000) and from 2004 we saw a continual drop in robbery from (80.6 to 51.47 per 100,000). Of course, robbery correlates more strongly with economic conditions, and drug use. From a low in 1990, the 90s had high unemployment in Australia, which over a number of years impacts on the crime rate.

        If you are expecting changes to gun control to have an immediate impact, forget it. It’s a change you make for the long term. And bear in mind, most people don’t actually think you should go “cold turkey”. However, the fact that it’s contentious to require everyone buying a gun to have a background check, to prevent people on the terrorist watch lists from buying guns, or to enforce uniform laws on storage, seems bizzare to me.

        1. While I don’t personally agree with you (guns aren’t just used for killing, they’re fun to shoot at the range!), I do think most reasonable pro-gun people agree that mandatory background checks and screenings should be in place. In fact, in Tennessee where I live, I’ve had background checks done on all 3 of my gun purchases, and had one when I went for my Carry Permit registration. And I’ve heard stories of many gun shops turning down purchases simply because the buyer seemed dangerous or unstable.

          However, there still remains the issue of handling the people who end up on a terrorist watch list, who have no intention of hurting people or acting as a terrorist. If the government was very careful about who was put on these lists, and took steps to ensure that those on a list can get off with proper testing, education, etc., then I would say to go for it. But we both know that the US government does not do that, and will happily write a name down on the list just because the person looked at them the wrong way.

          Also, maybe we need to stop approaching people as terrorist vs. non-terrorist, and instead realize that shooting one dead today won’t stop another from being indoctrinated tomorrow? Maybe, just maybe, the world as a whole needs to take a look at its education and judicial systems. Failing to educate children about how to behave properly, and then throwing them in jail when they do something bad, obviously will not “fix” them. It’ll just make them thirsty for the blood of their captors.

          1. Thanks for your reply, Julian.
            I actually think you may be reading things into what I’ve written, based on assumptions on my stance, that aren’t there. I’m proudly Australian, but also have numerous relatives with firearms. My family has farms, guns are important tools! Part of the problem (I think), is that ‘people’ (on both sides) are trying to make it a binary argument, against or for ownership of guns.

            Too many people support responsible ownership of guns, and yet there are organisations such as the NRA that are (in their name) shutting down just about any responsible amendments to to gun control laws.

          2. While I don’t personally agree with you (guns aren’t just used for killing, they’re fun to shoot at the range!), I do think most reasonable pro-gun people agree that mandatory background checks and screenings should be in place.

            I would agree with that, but I also advocate one more change that many gun owners may not be in favour of: lead ammunition should be banned. Now that it has been eliminated from fuel, ammunition is one of the largest sources of lead contamination in the US.

          3. Julian says: “most reasonable pro-gun people agree that mandatory background checks and screenings should be in place.”

            So, if you have your brother visit from out of town and want to borrow a rifle to go hunting, you need a bacgkround check just in case your brother did a dime in federal prison without you knowing?

            Or, suppose that there is a forest fire (yes, this REALLY happened where I live). You have to evacuate your house, and you have a few guns. Your choices:

            1) leave the guns to burn up in your house (this fire took out nearly 200 houses).

            2) Take the guns with you, and your kids, to the hotel, where you have kids in close proximity with firearms, and your safe is too big to take with you.

            3) Leave the guns with a trusted friend who already owns guns. Whoops, you are a criminal!

            Which option do you choose?

            Or how about this. You are a soldier living with your fiance. You get deployed. If you leave your guns at home, you are now a criminal. Yes, this is also a REAL occurrence.

            The problem is that background check laws have NO exceptions for close friends or family members. I understand needing a check when selling to a stranger, but somebody that I have known for over 10 years and who already owns guns? What purpose does that serve?

    2. ‘then law enforcement does not have to pick up the gun and go “hmmmmm is this an illegal gun” they know that all guns are illegal.’

      This might be the best argument for gun control I’ve heard so far. Police efficiency is paramount to a free and prosperous society, that is so obvious that this is not really a political question but rather a fact. The same reasoning applies to property (“hmmmmm is this stolen property”), hate speech, and immigrants.

      1. The problem is that weapons will still exist. The gun is an equalizer that levels the playing field for an 80 yr old woman and a 17yr old robber. If you go to the UK, you’d get robbed with a knife and there’s practically nothing that an 80 yr old woman can do.

        For the record, I don’t like the idea of the average person owning a gun, anymore than I do that they are able to operate a vehicle, a 2-ton death machine, but it’s a necessary thing to exist in society unless all weapons can be banned. But that’s just unrealistic. I cannot wait for self driving cars to exist so at least one death device can be crossed off the list.

        1. The great equalizer is a phone.

          one quick 911 call and you can have teams of highly trained professionals (which you cannot go to jail for, unlike using a firearm) de-escalate the situation and keep you safe.

          The main problem with having a firearm, is if you have one, you are likely to use it in a state of panic, with devestating, life destroying consequences.
          either you kill/seriously injure someone, and go to jail/ have to deal with murder
          Or, equally likely, someone else (a criminal, a cop, a random gun toating passer by) may see you with a gun and kill you as you are a threat. – note the depressingly large number of killings by the US police for even just mistaken guns.

          (for those religiously inclined, under the judeo-christian & muslim teachings the only unredeamable sin is killing another human, i.e. you go to hell and have no chance for redemption)

          1. “The great equalizer is a phone.

            one quick 911 call and you can have teams of highly trained professionals (which you cannot go to jail for, unlike using a firearm) de-escalate the situation and keep you safe.”

            False. The police will show at least 10 minutes later. Their training will allow them to estimate the size of the knife wounds in your corpse. At best, they will be able to take your statement of the description of your attacker.

            “The main problem with having a firearm, is if you have one, you are likely to use it in a state of panic, with devestating, life destroying consequences.
            either you kill/seriously injure someone, and go to jail/ have to deal with murder
            Or, equally likely, someone else (a criminal, a cop, a random gun toating passer by) may see you with a gun and kill you as you are a threat. – note the depressingly large number of killings by the US police for even just mistaken guns.”

            Somewhat true. You are statistically more likely to shoot yourself. However the stats on that include suicide.

            “(for those religiously inclined, under the judeo-christian & muslim teachings the only unredeamable sin is killing another human, i.e. you go to hell and have no chance for redemption)”

            False. At least by 1/3. I can’t speak for Jews or Muslims, but Christians understand that murder is a forgivable offense. The only unforgivable offense is “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit”, which is commonly understood to be the belief that there is no unforgivable offense.

            I’ll go back into my little pedantic hole now…

          2. Don’t try to tell me about my religion. 1) Forgiveness is absolute. There are no unforgivable sins. 2) Murder and killing are easily distinguishable in Christianity. Luke 22 made it clear that swords and clubs were justified against robbers, and the entire Old Testament is essentially one war after another. The difference there between murder and war was mainly whether or not God wanted the person killed. Jael hammered a frigging TENT STAKE into the temple of Sisera while he was dead asleep, and hammered his head to the ground like a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and God was cool with that, because it was His will.

            You know nothing of my religion. Stop lying to me.

          3. Really… you think that a police officer is going to arrive on the scene and “handle” the threat before that “threat” can shoot and kill you in the blink of an eye!? Is that why everyone of these mass shootings [at “gun-free” zones I might add] had casualties? Why didn’t the police prevent those lives from being taken with that one simple call? Why? Because a cop is only there AFTER the fit has hit the shan. Unless you live next door to a police station, YOU, and YOU ALONE are responsible for the your safety and the safety of your family. Believe it. Don’t believe it. Agree or don’t… I don’t care. THAT is the simple fact.
            —————————-

            “First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out.
            Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out.
            Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.
            And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

        2. Yes, knife crime is an issue in the UK, but he attitude to it is generally different – people diligently hand over their stuff, and survive, instead of fighting. Which is crap, but we do survive.
          Then you report it to the police, who often regognise the repeat offender, and our wonderful legal system gives them a caution or something.
          But hey, we survive, and the police don’t shoot people when they stop cars.

          1. Did you just insult America?! Break out the racial slurs, it’s time to derail this once productive and calm tempered conversation straight to oblivion.

    3. So violate both the 2nd and the 4th amendment? No thanks. Regardless of their stand on the second, you aren’t going to find much support on this website for violations of the 4th.

    4. We could save countless lives by outlawing cocaine, heroin, meth and other dangerous substances.
      I’m sure no one could figure out how to make a “gun lab” and make guns or ammo for people who want them.

      1. The best thing is when people say ‘ban guns’ in a community such as this. The majority of us realize that, political reasons aside, its infeasible. We realize that these are machines, and like any machines, they can be built with surprisingly minimal tooling and materials, with varying degrees of effectiveness.
        This is what we do. We build CNC machines, 3d printers, electric vehicles and so on with sub-par tools and materials. If someone feels they ‘need’ something, they will get it, hell or high water.
        The other thing I like about this community, is that the majority of us abide by the tried and true Amateur Radio policy of ‘dont talk about sex, religion, and politics’ and it usually stays pretty tame =P

      2. Generally, people don’t want them. In the UK very few criminals carry guns. So the police don’t need to either. Our police have special armed units, with guns locked away in a safe in special cars, requiring authorisation to open.

        Muggers don’t have guns, drug dealers don’t. Nobody does, except a few bank robbers, often with fake ones, or sawn-off shotguns. The result is Brits hardly ever get shot. When they do, it makes the newspapers.

        Drugs are different, in that they provide enjoyment. The only use of handguns is to kill people, or if you want to be pedantic, threatening to kill people. Hunting is a separate issue, and handguns usually aren’t used for that. Really though, I think giving up hunting would be a fair price to pay for all the human lives saved.

        Sure you’ve got the Second Amendment, keep that nosy King of England in his place. You’ve also got rampant gun crime, and accidents.

        I’d rather live somewhere with almost no guns. So almost nobody gets shot. That’s unarguably the case. All these criminal guns that are supposed to be made, generally don’t exist. Police don’t have guns, citizens don’t have guns, so criminals don’t need guns.

        1. You still fail to see the problem. Murder/rape/violence on others is illegal. That does in no way seem to slow the scum down. You keep using Britain as an example – what exactly happened to Jo Cox? If I remember correctly, she was shot with a illegal DIY…something (I hesitate to call it a handgun)… and stabbed for good measure. She died. Your awesome unarmed police officers did not help her, nor did the unarmed bystanders…
          I also remember a soldier having his head cut off in broad daylight on the street not that long ago and the murderer just waiting there for the police to arrive. What convinced him to not cut up any of the unarmed police officers with the meat cleaver? That’s right – guns, being wielded by good guys…
          All this in a country where you will be harassed by the police for openly carrying a screwdriver without obvious intent of use for it’s intended purpose.
          It wasn’t unarmed police officers that stopped the murderer in Nice, it was again guns. Not much of a surprise, as there aren’t many effective ways of stopping a 20t truck with something you can carry.

          Frankly, unarmed police officers are a joke, they are absolutely useless in situations of mortal danger. I do not want to end up in a situation where the police just stand and watch as people are being murdered, just because the worst they can do to the attacker is shout curse words at him.
          Guns help equalize force in the same manner the nuclear arsenal kept the Cold War cold. Attack results in fatal injury to the attacker, so most don’t attack.
          A 100 pound woman has no way in hell of defending herself against a 200 pound rapist with her bare hands. A mere 2 pounds of carefully crafted metal and plastic is enough to drop the 200 pound piece of shit dead if he decides to not play by the rules. Most hard core criminals don’t respond to kind words, only to force.
          That’s the whole reason firearms exist, most people don’t favor hand-to-hand combat, as it results in considerable risk for the defender.

          Not an american btw. Czech Republic, ~10.5 million inhabitants, 100 000+ registered firearms (only god knows how many still illegally unregistered), yet very few gun related deaths, even less from the legal ones. Law abiding citizen have to be given (shall issue) a permit if they ask for it and fulfill all the legal requirements. They can even be given (can issue, but not shall issue) permission to own things that are officially banned by the law, such as full-auto weapons or armor-piercing ammo, but the police gives these permits only to people like serious gun collectors.
          Worst murder in this country in past 40 years was committed by, you guessed it – a truck driven by a mentally deranged woman. She did consider using a gun, but feared she could be quickly killed by someone else with a gun. Go figure.
          /rant mode off/

          1. I do not want to imagine unarmed policeman (although I know about GB), as I believe in something like a “monopoly of violence” of the state and I think it a good thing that you need a special permit (and therefore good reason like being specially endangered somehow) to carry the gun. Like it is here in Austria. And I could not think a total ban would be any good.

        2. Not only drugs can provide enjoyment. Going at a shooting range and do some pistol or clay pigeon shooting can also provide enjoyment. Of course I do not need a (open or concealed) carry permit for this, I just need to transport the gun to the range and back.

      3. LOL… basic firearms were created in the 1400-1500’s, the gun as we knew it in the mid-1800’s. A Harbor Freight lathe is a far cry better than any machine tool available in the 19th century.

        If you truly want to lower crime, eliminate the war on drugs. Some 90% of our crime rate is in one way or another related to drug trafficking.

        1. Yup and the USA’s insatiable desire to get high has also devastated the lives of millions of people in central and southern America, so it isn’t just the young black males killing each other off on the streets of L.A. that matter.

          1. Only because the legality creates a market that supports a certain level of profitability. Same thing as alcohol prohibition… alcohol was made illegal, The Mob saw an opportunity for profit and used force and dead bodies to protect that profit. Alcohol was relegalized and The Mob never saw those glory days again.

          2. The abuse of addictive stimulants results in higher levels of psychotic behaviour and violence. Look at what it did to the Germans around the middle of last century.

            http://www.dw.com/en/a-fresh-light-on-the-nazis-wartime-drug-addiction/a-18703678

            If you create a huge market for such substances there will be problems all along the “pipeline” that are medical and not a question of law. Make a young man fee like an immortal robot and he will behave like one.

            http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/490681/Islamic-State-ISIS-Daesh-Drugs-Pills-Syria-Captagon-UN-United-Nations-Trafficking-War

          3. As for alcohol, the death toll is no lower when you make it legal, just the type of death changes, in fact I’d argue that there is more death now. Not that I support a complete ban on a universal metabolite, that was never going to work when it is ubiquitous in nature, it is just that your actual arguments are fallacies.

          4. Either way your opinion is irrelevant “Bob”, regardless of how desperately you try to foist in on others, the legislation is unambiguous and the links people have provided were relevant and useful, not to mention the ultimate authority on the matter.

            The truth is that, technically, in Australia if you can fart loud enough to hurt a person’s ears your ass can be classified as a weapon. Read the PDF if you don’t believe it.

      4. It’s not hard if you own a machine shop or are into machining as a hobby.

        Heck you can make a gun just with steel stock and a file if you have the talent.

        As for ammo.

        Consider how easy it is to get pot, heroin or meth in any city. The same channels that import drugs can just as easily import ammunition.

          1. That graph shows that it went back down again. And why would you imagine a causal link between the one thing and the other? You’ve got proof for that?

        1. ‘Worked pretty well in Australia’ is one of the biggest lies ever sold to an entire countries populace, a politically convenient lie perpetrated by the political class and a sycophantic, uncritical media.

          It didn’t work pretty well in Australia. The change in the homicide rate in Australia over the last 20 years, post the gun reforms, was no different to the change in the homicide rate in the U.S. over the same time period. In both countries, the homicide rate halved over the period, yet in one, there was little effective change in gun control.

          The only change was in the breakdown of modality in homicide – more people stabbed, beaten, strangled, less people shot. You’ll have to argue that a person stabbed to death is ‘less dead’ than someone shot, if you want to argue that’s a better outcome.

          1. Depends on your definition, doesn’t it? Accounting for the population difference, AND the firearm ownership difference, Australia has a much lower rate of police shootings, and shootings of civilians by police. As for the whole “only the honest people give up their guns”, we actually have a fairly good idea of what’s in circulation in Australia. There’s around 250,000 “grey” weapons. The cost of a semi-automatic pistol on the black market, recently exceeded $15,000.

          2. What do police shootings have to do with it? Don’t want to get shot by police? Don’t be a drug dealer, don’t carry a firearm illegally, don’t do meth, and don’t shoot at police – that’ll reduce your chance of being shot by about 95%.

            It makes no difference whether population difference or the ownership rate difference, facts are facts, we’ve done no better than the U.S. in reducing firearm homicide, and the stats prove it. We’ve spent over a billion dollars over the last 20 years on gun control in Australia, and we have nothing to show for it that Canada, New Zealand, or basically any other developed nation doesn’t also.

            Same number of guns as before, same number of gun owners as before, same reduction in homicide rate as every other Western nation, but a whole heap of wasted police resources, administrative burdens for gun owners, and money that could have otherwise been spent proactively.

    5. No 2nd amendment and no probable cause for searches? Any other amendments that you think don’t matter? The doesn’t even touch the trillion dollar industry of competitive shooting events.

    6. Ok… I shoot a 60lb recurve bow. Or are you proposing banning fancy sticks with strings pulled on them? Maybe just the dangerous looking ones like the carbon compounds and the crossbows, and we’ll be ok as long as we shoot english longbow still or the like.
      How about slingshots? or stones about the right size to throw? Kitchen knives can be pretty dangerous too. And window glass, it can be smashed to form a weapon.
      So when youve finally moved into your rubber wall papered safety room, perhaps we can have this talk without it falling into nonsense.

      1. stop giving ideas. :P eventually we’ll see “assault bows” banned and limits on quiver capacity. “no one needs a black bow with pulleys and sights unless they’re killers!” and we’ll register our recurves. My takedown will require a special permit to own and then 2 years later that permit will be the proof needed for confiscation when some tool commits murder with a takedown recurve.

        1. In parts of Australia you can’t even carry a sling shot if you are not drug and alcohol free,

          Queensland Weapons Act 1990: “…Must not possess or use a weapon if under the influence of alcohol or drugs….”

          http://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/LEGISLTN/CURRENT/W/WeaponsA90.pdf

          However you are not prevented from carrying and throwing cans of beer, so long as they are not open, except in certain “indigenous” areas for reasons that are best described as “patronising”.

    7. Lets take Brazil for instance where I’ve personally lived for several years… which has exactly the laws you propose. The only reason their jails don’t have more people in them that ours is that they can’t afford it. Murder someone? As long as it wasn’t a rich person you’ll be back on the street in months. And yes guns are for all intents and purposes illegal there. Hunting… also illegal. And guess who has guns… every criminal.

      One of my best friend’s dad was murdered by his wife’s lover…. with a knife. In cold blood on the street… and everyone saw. He was back on the street in months.

      When there is a hostage situation, policy is to negotiate for 1 hour then shoot everyone and move on to the next case.

      Most officers in Brazil are good guys with families, the older ones probably have PTSD from some of the things they’ve seen and had to deal with. That said I’ve watched officers I’ve known there become cold and callous in just a few years… before they’d smile and laugh.

      Someone I know was frisked by the Police in Brazil for sitting in their car having a conversation. (They thought they were drug dealers because they were wearing slacks and ties)… all the while the young green police officers held a .45 in one of their backs.

      Now I also have to say that the Brazilians are pretty awesome, I miss the food as well.

    8. “my idea of gun control is abolishing all guns including hunting.”
      Had to be one in this crowd, at least.

      Look, let’s focus on the TECHNOLOGY of firearms here, and not your own hoplophobia?

      Also, let’s stick to PRACTICAL considerations, not fantasy, as MILLIONS of us aren’t giving up our birthright because some politicians decided guns were icky and they wanted to ban them.

      1. It’s not a “phobia” to be scared of something that’s actually dangerous. And it’s not even a fear, it’s a rational point of view. Sad that it only took this long for the conversation to plummet right into clumsy rhetoric. Not surprising, but sad.

          1. Actually that is exactly what is being planned, you will no longer be able to drive your own car if some people get their way, in order to facilitate autonomous road vehicles. The argument seems to be that ARVs can operate faster and closer together so as to improve the efficiency of the road system, but this would require the exclusion of human drivers who could no cope in such traffic conditions. All the ARVs will be tracked in real time too, to facilitate the proper functioning of the system, therefore you will also be tracked when you use them to travel. In China and the USA they are already talking about most people not even owning the ARV they use, but that they just get into the nearest available one and pay a fee to use it for that trip, this transaction would make tracking people even easier.

        1. Life must be a series of terrors for one such as you who desires Nerf World.

          Cars, smoking and junk food(diabetes inducer) kill far more people every year. Np one Yet no one cares.

        2. PEOPLE are dangerous. any group you care to rhetorically define, has deadly elements in it. We can just as accurately ban police officers, gay men, fans of Monty Python, hackers, gym rats, punk rockers, Kenny G fans, vapers, skateboarders, bus riders, Hackaday commentors… anyone who does data analysis knows a lot of “truth” comes from asking the “correct” question, or to paraphrase Samuel Clemens: “lies, damn lies and queries”.

    9. require unannounced inspections where the police can come into the house and look for guns and take inventory of what you have thereby threatening privacy. (so no more secret stashes even going to the extent of using ground penetrating radar to look for bunkers underground)

      How do you get around the fact that 90% of the “unannounced inspections” will happen in black houses?

    10. Firearms are not about hunting. Firearms in the home as protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, is about ensuring that the Government will always be accountable to the people. The second reason is bad people will always have access to guns for bad reasons. Criminals by definition have no intention of obeying the law.
      You may not like firearms, and I respect your opinion, That said I have been trained since a child in the safe and proper use of firearms and statically there is no segment of the population more law abiding than legal gun owners. This nation has plenty of gun laws that cover just about every situation. If the government started enforcing these laws and stopped allowing offenders to plea out, gun crime rates will drop. More gun laws will only affect LAW ABIDING gun owners.

      Remember a people should NEVER be in fear of their government. The government should fear its people.

    11. What we sure need is more oppression from fake tolerants like you. Extremist ideas are always good, aren’t they? “Ban all the stuff that i don’t care for! They should like what i like!”

    12. The police should be limited to the same firearms that the public is allowed to own. After all, once guns are banned then on one would have one. No innocent criminals shot by police (no innocent people for that matter, as there have been a few).

      And I’m also certain you would agree that our cities should be completely combed for firearms first, as if you eliminate them from the calculation, you get EU levels of gun related deaths.

      Maybe we should first eliminate arms guards for the POTUS and other high ranking govt leaders.And also celebrities. Their lives are worth no more than ours. Maybe less, if you consider the havoc and misery they historically cause.

      1. The POTUS’s life might not be worth more, but he/she a) attracts a lot of idiots, and if a normal person for some reason is at extremely elevated risk he’s also entitled to more protection. And b) he/she was picked by millions to represent them.
        Plus he’s (or she’s) the chief of the army and that means tactically he/she becomes a chess piece to protect for that reason, it takes a lot of briefing and involves planning to get to a point, and having the POTUS removed means you need to start again with all that work.

      2. Fortunately there is no such ban on guns in the EU. At least here in Austria you are allowed to buy rifles and allowed to buy pistols but need a permit which will be issued if there is no reason against it. You need a special permit (which is difficult to get) if you want to carry it.

        1. Sadly not every where in the EU, in Britain the 1997 amendment to the firearms act banned legally held pistols and the 1988 amendment to the same act banned center fire semi-autos. Getting an FAC (Firearms Certificate) is a protracted and drawn out process here, you have to belong to a club for at least 6 months, attend a minimum number of meetings, pass background checks, provide references, demonstrate taht you can safely store a firearm, etc.

          You have to demonstrate a specific need (such as target shooting, pest control etc) and that you have land over which you can shoot (and have permission to shoot on) that is suitable for the caliber you are shooting.

          You also have to be approved for each calibre and or rifle you wish to own, you cant get an FAC and then just buy what you want, you are licensed for 1x .22 semi-auto, 1x .223 bolt-action, etc

          It’s certainly not a quick process and at the moment it seems to take at least a year between joining a club and being issued a cert.

          It works and there is generally very little firearms crime in the UK (and those figures include crimes that involved replica guns, airguns, airsoft etc). Given how the protracted licensing process in this country it is odd that such firearms are prohibited, if the person has proved themselves safe enough to own and operate firearms, then prohibitions on certain types or actions seem oddly arbitrary; it would make more sense to license the shooter outright rather than each individual arm – one could still make it a licensing requirement that each shooters arms were registered though.

          There is a special provision for handguns in the UK licensing under section 7 of the Firearms Act that allows certain pistols to be kept at designated heritage sites (such as the Bisley range) if they are of special, technical, historical or aesthetic importance but this is to allow for their preservation and study and not as way to actually shoot them and circumvent the ban.

    13. *sigh*

      While I applaud your bravery and honesty in your stance to repeal the 2nd amendment, I feel you are mistaken as to some of the main reasons why the 2nd exists in the first place. The 2nd is not simply there to allow subsistence hunting, it primarily is to ensure the citizens of the country are armed. An armed citizenry is strongly resistant to all sorts of abuses of our inalienable human rights. Put simply, the 2nd protects the 1st and the ordering of the amendments was not by mistake.

      Your solutions to what you see as a problem trample on many of our fundamental rights and sound like a further expansion of the police state. After a second read, i’m beginning to suspect you are simply a troll or proposing solutions as Swift would.

        1. interestingly you say that on the day before the anniversary of the Battle of Athens. The truth is, people could lift a lot of fingers but the Media will ignore most of them, and make the rest into “racist redneck child molesters” and the rest wouldn’t question the narrative.

    14. Read your last paragraph, and ponder how most dystopian novels have things like that as their centerpiece. What you’re asking for is the Fourth Reich. While I too (somewhat) wish guns weren’t around in the first place (and I own 3 and carry 1 with me everywhere), your solution is not the answer. Education and training are at the very least much better, and can even cause a decrease in other violent crimes as well.

    15. If we make all guns illegal…..
      The law-abiding people will hand in their guns, but the non-law abiding people will not. This results in a very undesirable situation.
      Do you suggest that security and police have their guns removed too… and the military? Both would be sources of guns if guns were illegal.

    16. By banning guns, you still haven’t dealt with the problem. The problem isn’t “gun violence” it is the propensity for violence in the first place. We’ve seen recently that axes, knives, large trucks, whatever the person can get ahold of, are still used for killing. I know the response will be, “but fewer people die”. Great! Are you saying that it’s okay if people are murdered, as long as the number stays below X? Weak argument. We need to teach people the value of human life, period. We celebrate the killing of unborn people every day. What a sad statement of our society. No wonder there are so many murders involving those who are living outside the womb as well. We don’t value people at any stage of life, oh yes, I almost forgot, but guns…

      1. No, we don’t celebrate abortion in any way. It is just that the life and wish of a born human counts more than the potential life of a fetus/embryo which can become a human.

    17. Hmmm. Somebody against all hunting. Wow, how could you POSSIBLY be to cruel and want animals to die horrible deaths?

      In the US, most of the apex predators are gone. No wolves any more to speak of. All land has something called “carrying capacity.” That means “how many animals can live on this much land.” Herbivores tend to breed OVER the carrying capacity and need culling to keep the numbers down. Otherwise, they over-graze and destroy the environment, which then causes them to die by starvation (or disease brought on by weakened immune system from starvation). That is a BAD way to go, and even the ones who live are still almost starving to death.

      Rocky Mountain National Park has had to cull the elk population due to over-grazing and habitat destruction. If you banned all guns, how do you propose to cull elk? Run after them with a knife? Run them over with cars? Poison them?

      You, sir, are heartless to be so cruel to animals. Well, maybe you are well-intentioned, but woefully ignorant. Either way, sucks to be you.

      1. By the way… hunters do a lot MORE for the environment than tree-huggers have. Hunters know that without a healthy habitat, there will be nothing to hunt, and hunters spend a pretty good amount of money on conservation. Hunting licenses go towards game management, and that management includes studying the animal population and determining how many animals can live in an area, and selling hunting licenses to get rid of the excess.

        Groups like Ducks Unlimited have been a major force in conservation for most of a century.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ducks_Unlimited#Conservation

  3. There are a limited number of guns that I will carry on my person for my own self-defense. I only carry the guns that I feel are completely reliable. A malfunction could cost me my life.

    Simple fail-to-feed or fail-to-extract can happen with any gun. Manufacturers work hard to make their simple mechanical-only guns reliable, but still can’t make them absolutely reliable. Introducing any electronics/biometrics to a gun will make the gun unreliable by a significant factor.

    1. A gun is an inanimate object that can be used by you, or used against you.

      If a biometric sensor could almost instantaneously verify you are a registered owner of that firearm, then you would not be the victim of your own weapon. That seems to be a rather large gain in terms of personal protection firearms, where close-combat quarters has shown that an adversary within 20 feet has an equal advantage.

      1. An ability to stab you before you can shoot them yes. That has been borne out in studies and is the main reason why US police are so trigger happy when someone is within 20 feet of them.
        Not the same as an equal advantage to shoot you with your own gun. You appear to be conflating this.

        The only realistic gain is where you do not have quick access and your assailant finds your firearm before you do. In this area the gun safe options are as identified in the article more reasonable. However most gun “safes” aren’t actually safes. Just boxes with a lock.

        1. Surely if someone is close enough to stab you they can also punch you or grab you and take your gun.
          Go check youtube for footage of armed robberies of convenience stores, you see plenty of cases where the unarmed clerk grabs the arm of the gun holder or hits him with an object at hand to make him drop the gun.

          1. This demonstrates how the contest becomes more about physical ability when in close quarters. It’s more informative regarding the importance of the OODA loop and initiative in a fight. It shows how some people become complacent and don’t expect resistance once a gun is drawn. I trust you aren’t suggesting biometrics to prevent the convenience clerk turning the gun on their attacker in those instances?

          2. Once he has his gun he’s not that dangerous, regardless if the gun works. And you can even slap him with the gun
            Plus I doubt people who need to rob convenience stores have the funds to have a state-of-the-art gun and it’s probably better to not try to fire it since it might explode in your hand.

    2. While firearms can be used as a weapon, most people are concerned about the action’s reliability under stress.

      Pop culture popularizes the notion violence can solve ones problems, and usually pick firearms that will excite people’s imaginations. However, most people chiming in on the issues seem to have both ignored the fact they are talking in terms of irrational fantasy.

      I own a P226 with after-market magazines that meets our local by-laws, this style of pistol doesn’t come with a safety, and is still popular with law enforcement/service-men. One has to take several safety courses to receive a licence in my area, and be a member of a range club that has its own safety courses. The constant stream of paperwork is annoying, but I enjoy the sport as a hobby. We use a safe and combo-key-locks to exceed most requirements by law, and help prevent some neighbourhood kid from injuring themselves or someone else.

      1.) Most firearm accidents in history violated at least one of the basic safety rules that will get you ejected from a range if you can’t remember them. For example, never assume a safety mechanism will function correctly: historically the AK47 are known to have given out their own Darwin Awards to careless users unaware of their quirks or cancer causing surplus corrosive cartridges from Russia. Adding some contraption to the device is similar to adding adhesive tape to your brakes in a car, and will only make ignorant people feel better about being ignorant.

      2.) The most vulnerable members of society to firearms related deaths are the owners. In our country, over 74% of firearms deaths are suicide.

      3.) The majority of people wounded by a pistol will survive in North America due to rapid treatment availability. If you have used a pistol, than you’ll know it takes quite a bit of practice to become remotely proficient at being accurate.

      4.) I have a hunting number, carry bear pepper spray, and don’t take game. We’ve never had a problem with the wildlife around here as we understand their behaviour, and actually enjoy seeing the bears fish the same streams. We take wildlife management in rural areas very seriously, and understand wild animals are not pets. Our club runs the local fish and bird conservation areas. Note that suburbs are getting closer, and ironically we may lose the club due to noise complaints by new property owners stripping off parts of the park reserve lands.

      5.) The media prefers to choose the dumbest looking characters of any group to try to undermine their perspective, as it is entertaining to watch a village idiot. It really doesn’t matter if its firearms, the environment, or economic policy…
      The expectation of safety is not a technical problem, but a political one…

      6.) No matter what home defence fantasies you have, in most cases people will never respond fast enough to make a difference.

      Most owners are safety conscious, and try to educate the public so they can make their own informed rational decisions on what we should do as a community. In my opinion the course programs are effective at reducing problematic users early in the process.

      These guys discuss the odd history of firearms, and the countless other design ideas people had.

      1. The P226 doesn’t have a manual safety (in most variants, there is a single action only version that does) but if cocked, depressing the decocking lever not only decocks the hammer but also blocks the firing pin making it much safer – dropping the pistol can’t cause the firing pin to float forward and strike the primer of a chambered round.

        The heavier (circa 9lbs) double-action pull from decocked also helps to guard against negligent discharges – this is why so many forces, military and law enforcement, select it as a service pistol.

      2. Nice concern trolling, one the better ones.

        In terms of home defense it’s better to be armed and know how to use the gun than waiting 10 minutes for the police to arrive to hand out a rape kit or body bag.

        Oh in some rural areas the wait is up to a hour.

        1. I have been in some of the poorest parts of the world, and know most people are actually trying their best just to survive. Your improbable rhetoric attempting to justify taking away somebody’s family member in case of a possible future crime seems irrationally evil, and unpatriotic. If a firearm makes you feel safer, than I’ll concede that it’s cheaper than therapy.
          Murders rarely involve an axe wielding stranger, aggressive cow, or artificial breast implants (all real cases by the way). Rape is unfortunately more common in some areas, but is almost always likely to involve someone the victim already knows.

          Some seem to live in a terribly stressful version of our world fictionalized by CNN/FOX since the 1990’s.
          In our community, most neighbours watch over each other in case they need help.

          1. I live in an American community where home invasions by strangers are a fact. Several of these have been repelled by the use of private firearms. This is also a fact. None of the home invasions have ever been interrupted by the police. This is a fact.

            I’ll keep my guns.

    3. You just assume that. I don’t see why you can’t make a simple blocking pin electronically controlled that would not impair the gun, but as the article says it would require reliable working technology. But in fact we every day rely on technology with our lives. A car a train a plane an elevator, the water from your tap, the power distribution system, the lightning protection, your smoke alarm, they all need the right technology to work and they all play a role in your safety.

      So the only issue is to have a reliable ‘all-weather’ system to identify the user. And more significantly perhaps, a way to reliably and constantly power it.

      1. “A car a train a plane an elevator, the water from your tap, the power distribution system, the lightning protection, your smoke alarm,”

        I have seen many times, either in person or on TV, where each of these has failed. And failed MANY times. My car has failed 3 times. I’ve been on approx. 2 trains with breakdowns. Thankfully no planes. Been stuck on an elevator. Water from the tap has run dry due to blockages. Power goes out in my apartment at least twice a week. Lightening protection…I don’t even know. Smoke alarm….college taught me a lot about those things, yeah.

        So no, electronics are not perfect, and they are sometimes even fail-happy. Especially in this day and age where planned obsolescence is considered a legal business tactic…

    4. Then a smart-gun isn’t for you. But there are many people who use guns for hunting and sport, and would gladly trade a small amount of reliability for a great deal of assurance that it won’t be used against them or their family members.

      Unfortunately, the gun lobby has fought very strongly against all forms of smart gun technology, which cripples the development of said technology and deprives gun buyers of choices.

  4. Should this actually come into reality HAD will be writing an article on the security risk of an electronically actuated trigger disconnect being converted to function as full auto. Cant say that the thought hasn’t crossed my mind to be honest. The fire control group wouldn’t even need to be full auto, if the hammer is released by solenoid a simple delay loop would be all that’s needed to convert single shot to FA or burst.

    1. You bring up a good point. Most people don’t realize how difficult it actually is to “convert” a mechanical gun to “full auto” reliably. Most people just don’t have the skills required. An electronic hammer with software makes it almost trivial.

        1. I’m fairly sure that newer cars are illegal to drive here now, due to convoluted wording in the hand held device containing electronics law, meaning you can’t touch the steering wheel while driving.

          1. A steering wheel is not really a “hand-held device” just because you hold your hands ON it. But the point is, laws can be changed with advance of technology and the auto-piloted cars are an example that this is just happening. Although there are also problems, think of the accident of this Tesla car in “auto pilot” mode.

      1. I owned a semi-auto 22LR before the buyback (in Oz). Armi-Jager, looked a lot like an AR-15 – even had an artificially large magazine that the 22 magazine slid into. Anyway, being the curious type, I stripped it completely one day, and played around with the mechanism. The hammer was ‘P’ shaped, and my jaw dropped when I figured it out. All I had to do was file off a few mm of metal from the lobe to turn it full auto. The hammer would fly back under recoil to trip a lockout on the reload. Filing those few mm off the lobe would have caused the lockout to never happen. I was tempted, but I never did it.

        1. That would have almost certainly not worked. Almost all hammer-fired mechanisms won’t fire if you simply remove the disconnector function of the trigger mechanism, as the hammer simply follows the bolt home on chambering and doesn’t transfer any impulse to the firing pin. Typically it requires a separate trip-sear triggered by the bolt closing to release the hammer, to prevent this. It’s much harder to convert a firearm that requires you to add parts, than it does to take parts away.

          1. Ive seen a few 22s with failing disconnectors intermittently fire “auto” so maybe there’s something inherent in the rimfire design that allows this to sometimes work. The Ruger 10/22 has a lot of modifications internally to avoid this, even making sure the bolt will “rattle” and jam up rather than feed back fast enough to slam-fire the next round. bad triggers in an AR series, or a poorly tuned reset, will as you say not fire automatic as I suspect there’s some magic in the buffer return or the floating firing pin to prevent slamfire on the second round.

    2. The design would need to have a traditional mechanical fire control group, with conventional hammer actuation, but the solenoid disconnects the trigger from the fire control group, rather than the solenoid actuating the hammer directly.

      1. But If the electronic actuation portion isn’t in between the trigger and the firing pin (fly… trigger-by-wire) then it would be trivial to disable by simply pinning the solenoid in the “ready to fire” position, negating any benefit when a perp has more than 90 seconds with the gun before committing a crime.

        1. Paintball guns are a good example, too, because as soon as you incorporate electronics in, the cheating in paintball becomes virtually undetectable. You can put in a cheater board, and turn a semi-auto gun into full auto by a secret button combo, and then turn it back even more quickly. Apply this to firearms, and it is virtually impossible to police cheater full auto guns.

          1. “Criminals don’t obey any laws, so all laws are pointless”? That’s what you’re saying? Yet gun crime in, say, Britain, is very low. In the USA it’s high. So looks like that law mostly works, even if it’s not infallible.

          2. No I mean there’s no point defining little crimes to modify the behaviour of people who already have or plan to commit bigger crimes. Like making it illegal to buy gun oil to lubricate a gun planned to be used in a murder, or charging an extra $50 fine for illegally parked stolen cars.

          1. I think they’re trying to compare the solenoid hammering the pneumatic valve to hitting a firing pin. Conceptually there’s some similarities. What you don’t have is ejection of spent casings and stuff. Does anyone even make a closed bolt paintball gun? Open bolt anything in firearms is a Federal no-no and has been since the 80’s.

    3. The Italian Pardini company used to make an electronic trigger system for their rimfire target pistols, my understanding is that it could be tuned very precisely for break, lock-time, reset, pressure, etc (obviously mechanical fire control groups can be tuned to extent also), so there is already precedent for the tech in some ways. My understanding is that this system has now been discontinued.

      There is nothing that expressly prohibits using an electronic release as firing mechanism so long as a single depression of a trigger or activation of a firing mechanism doesn’t cause more than a single round to be discharged at a time.

      Also of note, Remington produced center fire ammunition (Etronx) and a special 700 series that had an electronic trigger but was too costly as system (primers were too expensive) and it was discontinued. http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gear/reviews/a211/1277311/

      Using a solenoid, one would have to make sure that it activated fast enough for a decent lock-time and with enough force that light strikes on the primer are avoided, a center-fire cartridge would require more force than a rimfire cartridge.

      If one eliminated the conventional primer and went with piezo-electric ignition the issues of light strikes and slow lock-time could perhaps be mitigated, maybe couple this with case-less ammunition like the Heckler & Koch G11 prototypes from a couple of years. I think that there would be a lot of resistance to any of these though, shooters can be an odd bunch when it comes to adopting new tech – If the good prophet John Moses Browning didn’t use it then it’s not worth their time ;)

      1. This is another area where our half-wit legislators are stifling innovation AND safety by writing laws on things they don’t understand. Yes, electronically trigger systems can be illegal, but they can also be illegal through “constructive possession.” Essentially, if there is any way you could combine the things that you have to create a device where more than one bullet exits from a single trigger pull, you are in constructive possession of a machine gun — even if you have never actually assembled things that way.

        How many of us don’t have things lying around our house (even a single PIC or even a 555 timer) that can be configured with some jumper wire and resistors to allow on button push on the trigger to fire multiple rounds? Zing — buy one of these guns, and now you are in constructive possession of a machine gun and a felon.

        1. Yup, and constructive possession will be whatever the ATF decides it is – legally constructive possession could be as simple someone else having access to an AOW/NFA/Class III/Destructive Device (or any firearm, technically) registered to you or it could be having a shorter but not installed barrel. One guy drilled a hole in the lower of his AR to mimic the pin location for the auto sear and pasted photos of it all over facebook, it didn’t have the auto sear installed but just drilling the whole legally made it machine gun in the eyes of the ATF.

  5. I wouldn’t say vehicles are becoming more powerful thanks to load of electronics. Our Ford would never start because bug in software depleted battery overnight. Took a while before they gave us new firmware.

    1. That doesn’t mean the car is less powerful during operation. Engines are more efficient now due to precise timings done by software as well as software controlled CV transmissions. Don’t forget the ability to shut down cylinders when decelerating and shutting off the engine while stopped and using the KERS to charge a battery during that declaration process and using an electrical motor that was just charged to start the car moving again. All in less space than the old big block v8’s used to take.

          1. Just no!
            A big inefficient 60’s V8 block has loads of power (like 300HP), much more than a modern “downsized” small 4 cylinder engine with 150HP. It is only inefficient because it burns 4 times the gas for two times the power.

    2. Compare even the cheapest modern common rail turbo diesel and some mechanically injected one from the 70s. For the same weight, the difference in power and efficiency is enormous.

  6. Lets try in the comments to keep the “staying out of politics” theme going here… one of the main points this article is focused on is preventing unauthorized people from accessing a gun.

    As an avid target shooting sportsman, my gun must fire every time I pull the trigger. A gun is a great example of a system in which the most efficient, effective, and reliable hardware is mechanical only.

    Like many dangerous things, I think the best prevention is education. The most common causes for accidental gun discharges are ignorance and carelessness. Promoting proper education and respect for guns is the best way to prevent accidents from happening. Even if you don’t like guns, do yourself a favor and take a gun safety course from a proper educator (for those in the US and other countries where you can own guns).

    Guns are steeped in politics, but if you ignore the politics, they are beautiful examples of finely crafted machines (at least most of them!).

        1. I would like it, if spelling and grammar correcting postings have special tag and there would be an “ignore” setting for this. I understood the posting, the spelling enthusiasts just waste my time.

    1. I find it difficult to discuss this topic without bringing politics into it to some extent. After all, the whole reason that the idea of smart guns is being discussed in the first place is because other means of dealing with the situation are too hot (politically) to deal with.

      Maybe I’m not looking at it right. The issue may be more appropriately described as social rather than political.

      You cannot address the issue as a purely technical problem until you’ve accepted the idea that it’s a problem in need of a technical solution.

      We as a society have started to reach to technology as a catch-all fix to every problem. “Just add bluetooth” seems to be an approach that fixes any problem, anywhere.

      I agree with the article that the unique requirements of lawful use of firearms (whatever the laws happen to be in a given place and time) in many ways runs contrary to the realities of electronic access control. Maybe the question should be whether technology is a solution here, or just a proposal to shift attention away from or create a quick fix to avoid dealing with the real issues here… thus coming back around full circle to… politics.

      Not saying I want to have a political discussion here… I’m just not sure that it’s possible to separate the two, because politics is the very reason the whole idea is being discussed in the first place.

      1. I don’t care about why you need a smart firearm. I care about how you’d make a smart firearm. There is no reason to make it political.

        “I would take the firing pin, drill a hole through it, have an actuated pin perpendicular to the firing pin that when the correct RFID signal is received from a maximum of 1 foot, the pin is retracted, making the firearm capable of shooting.” Nowhere in there is anything about your reasons for having one. Just a (probably bad) description of how someone might activate/prevent activation of a firearm.

        There is nothing easier to separate politics from the technical. Just don’t bring up the politics, why you need the firearm, the reasons that the firearm needs the function, or any of that. Take it from the point of view of the firearm itself – ‘What do you want me to do?’ I’m pretty sure that if it was smart enough to ask the question, “Why do I exist?’, we no longer would have the ‘right’ to tell the gun what to do, as it is self-aware.

    2. the biggest problem with more safety devices, taking the “cars” example, is more and more reliance on those safety features-poor decisions or actions that with safety features are survivable or avoid the accident altogether, but when those devices fail, lead to bigger issues.

      People with airbags in their cars thinking they don’t need seat belts. People with “autodrive” in their cars too clueless to realize it is NOT an autopilot. ABS meaning people tailgate. Traction control allowing people to drive way to fast for conditions until they exceed the abilities of the computers and devices to control the vehicle. Hell, cars with things that turn off your headlights for you, so people get used to leaving them on and get into trouble when driving something that doesn’t do this service for them.

      Thing about guns is they’re dangerous. the perception NEEDS to remain that they are dangerous if misused and there is NO device that will protect you from stupidity or carelessness. An owner must take PERSONAL responsibility and not be reliant on laws, regulations, or special devices. No court in the land is gonna save you if you get careless and the new “smart gun” safety fails while kids are playing with an accessable firearm.

      I as a law abiding adult of good standing and clean legal record have chosen to own firearms and take the responsibility of their use. I do not want or need a “nanny” device. I have padlocks with good steel cables and I keep all my gun keys on my keychain that I take with me every day. When I travel for any length of time, everything goes in a locked case and is stored in my buddy’s giant gun safe under additional lock and key.

      Next to the first aid kit that has everything including a snakebite kit and near the fire extinguisher which I hope to never use, is a drawer with a revolver. If I need to use it, I need to use it. Same for the first aid and fire extinguisher.

    1. Or a small mechanical key of some kind that has to be inserted before the safety can release, you would take it out when not using the gun. I don’t know much about guns but would actually be surprised if this didn’t already exist.

      1. A key is something that could get lost or fumbled during a panic situation when fine motor skills are reduced or non-existant. The other problem with a physical key is that a child could still put the two together and fire the weapon.

        I recall a revolver from years ago that had a magnetic safety in the grip. The owner would wear a ring with a neodymium magnet that would disengage the mechanical safety but only when the gun was held properly with the magent against the grip. The intention was to keep the gun accessible but safe in a house where children might get their hands on the gun.

        Reliability in technology is many times measured by availability. The legendary (and fleeting) five nines (99.999%.) I recall a presentation by Scott McNealy (founder and former CEO of Sun Microsystems) wherein he was meeting with a 911 call center director. He was humbled when the director pointed out that five nines in a year is still 5 minutes of down time. Wouldn’t it be terrible if it was your family that needed emergency services during that 5 minutes and couldn’t call 911?

        1. 5 minutes at once, you notice, if it was 5 minutes of single seconds scattered throughout the year, then it might go unnoticed.

          Severity of consequences plays a lot into it too, I’d rather have a 99% reliable car ignition, that one time in a hundred took several more engine revolutions, or two attempts to start.. rather than a 99.999 reliable car ignition that started fine apart from the one time in 10,000 that it exploded and took out a city block.

      2. My Taurus PT709 Slim has a ‘key’ to lock the firing pin. It works quite well, but is very impractical and as such is never used. The key is also small, easy to lose (as already pointed out), and from it’s appearance, would be easy to break if you were panicked and fumbling around. The gun also has a trigger safety and a standard safety, so the firing pin lock was somewhat pointless, I think it was added as a gimmick to sell a ‘conceal carry’ weapon. I did not buy it for this purpose, nor do I feel the need to get a concealed carry permit.

    1. If you’re talking direct neural interface, like an implanted star wars force trainer, so the gun can only be fired when YOU have the intention to fire it. Then that might actually have some legs.

      It would have to use insanely cryptographically secure communications and key checking however, and use spread spectrum to be interference resistant. It would also be have to be guaranteed to become non functional if removal was attempted, while being robust in place, so if someone whacked you on the forehead with a 2×4 it would still work.

      It could also have the advantage where, if the gun got kicked out of your hand and your wife picked it up, you could maintain the intention to fire, and your wife would be able to fire it.

  7. Technically speaking, on a handgun, there is a place to put some electronics. Follow me through.

    1. Reduce the size of the clip – this would provide room at the bottom for some small boardwork. Similar to what see see in things like the Apple Watch. The battery can also be down here.

    2. Notice how your hands wrap around the grip. Well, there’s no reason why we couldn’t retrofit iPhone type fingerprint scanners. Simply holding the gun correctly would allow registration and ability to fire. This will also force further work by including things like a Pulse Oximeter to verify living human, no glove, and all that.

    3. Registration could be made secure so that only registered peoples to a firearm may fire it. This point could be used as a access control by individuals or governments. Logs could show when and who fired, license could be checked before allowing another user to be registered. These systems could be so safe, in that you could keep your legally owned gun on your dresser, knowing that only you can fire it. Kids come in? The worst they’re going to do is throw it at someone.

    As for people who have issues with “electronics make things unreliable” – yes, places like Silicon Valley big or bust places have little to no QC. This secure system is a small enough codebase so that it could be proven correct. You’d still have possible electrical issues, but hardened systems like automobiles show how to reduce dust, vibration, and moisture effectively.

      1. Fingerprint scanners are fairly terrible at security.
        They require clean hands & can be fooled with a gelatin cast, high-contrast transparency, or as rich folks in Malaysia found out — amputated digits.
        What happens when the Marines do a beach landing? You think saltwater & sand will make it easier to read a fingerprint? Cops in the rain, hands covered in blood, vomit , oil.
        Fingerprint scanners are a liability in all of the scenarios where a gun is used.
        Then there’s all the ways that the sensor on the gun itself can get dirty.

        Grab the gun in a different manner than when you programmed the lock? Gun doesn’t unlock. Have to shoot with your off-hand? Gun’s locked. Have more trusted people than storage on the device? Buy another gun.

        RE: #3
        You really think that any security that people have physical access to is that good? You’re fooling yourself. Software get’s cracked in a matter of hours after release, firearms would be no different.
        As for the registration, at least for the US, good luck getting that past the NRA, GOA, & other lobbying groups who see registration as the first step to confiscation.

        1. Well Said! many do not contemplate the actual scenarios firearms are used in. I personally have had my glock and 1911 in a leg holster while wading threw swamp chest high. No electronic device on a gun can handle 3 miles of that and still function when needed the first time.

        2. +1
          I’m pleased with your excellent examples of possible failure points for fingerprint-based systems. The police and military won’t adopt these systems because of those possible scenarios.

    1. “1. Reduce the size of the clip – this would provide room at the bottom for some small boardwork. Similar to what see see in things like the Apple Watch. The battery can also be down here.”

      Unless you intend to plant all of the “smart gun” electronics and such inside the magazine, this wouldn’t work. Even a smaller magazine must eject through the bottom of the grip, which would be blocked by the circuit boards you’ve described. And even then, how would a spare magazine work?

      “2. Notice how your hands wrap around the grip. Well, there’s no reason why we couldn’t retrofit iPhone type fingerprint scanners. Simply holding the gun correctly would allow registration and ability to fire. This will also force further work by including things like a Pulse Oximeter to verify living human, no glove, and all that.”

      Lots of people who shoot wear gloves. They also have more than one hand. Do you plan to install 2 fingerprint sensors for ambidextrous operation?

      “3. Registration could be made secure so that only registered peoples to a firearm may fire it. This point could be used as a access control by individuals or governments. Logs could show when and who fired, license could be checked before allowing another user to be registered. These systems could be so safe, in that you could keep your legally owned gun on your dresser, knowing that only you can fire it. Kids come in? The worst they’re going to do is throw it at someone.”

      This would be more safely and effectively solved by a $15 cable lock. And as for allowing governments to decide who’s authorized to fire my gun? Kind of defeats the purpose…

      “As for people who have issues with “electronics make things unreliable” – yes, places like Silicon Valley big or bust places have little to no QC. This secure system is a small enough codebase so that it could be proven correct. You’d still have possible electrical issues, but hardened systems like automobiles show how to reduce dust, vibration, and moisture effectively.”

      This must explain why Silicon Valley big-or-bust places have little to no warranty repair depots, and absolutely no history of putting malware on customer computers to turn a profit. Also explains why most car dealers make their money by selling cars instead of their service department, right?

  8. So much scratching around for an automotive analogy that didn’t really gel….

    Howabout, “Like having to enter a pin code every time you need to use the brake pedal.” ?

    1. You make a good point. So, given automatic authentication (say via biometric data), how long is acceptable before causing safety issues that you highlight?

      Would a 10ms, from sensor to computer be fast enough to allow arming of the gun? If not, how much faster would you say?

    2. I disagree about the scratching around you mentioned. Internal combustion was largely seen as a solved problem of a highly engineered mechanical device that worked reliably. Then came advances like fuel injection to replace the carburetor and now we see vehicles with much of the engine control handled by an ECU. I think it’s easy to agree that this is an improvement — at least from an efficiency standpoint.

      In a similar way, firearms are a highly engineered mechanical device. Bob has done a great job of outlining several reasons of why they haven’t followed a similar path of adopting advances in electronic technology.

        1. “Yah we could improve efficiency of propellant usage by sensing trigger pressure to discern whether you want to shoot something a lot or just a little bit.”

          Apparently, you know very little about firearms. I have reloaded thousands of cartridges, and am a competitive pistol shooter, so here we go: The propellant charge weight is a highly engineered quantity. Too much, and you blow up the firearm from overpressure. Too little, and you blow up the firearm from overpressure. Yes, too LITTLE– the burn rate of the powder is controlled partly by its distribution in the cartridge case, and too little powder can accelerate the burn rate, causing a catastrophic pressure spike.

          Within those narrow bounds between “too little” and “too much”, there is not much velocity variation, at least in pistol calibers. I know this because I have chronographed bullet velocities from cartridges loaded with different powder weights, trying to find the minimum powder charge that will make “power factor”, which is the minimum bullet momentum allowed in a particular pistol competition (in that case, IDPA).

          But here’s the real limitation: in some pistols, just a few tenths of a grain (1/7000th pound) of powder will affect accuracy.

          So, no, you really can’t “shoot something a lot or just a little bit.” Handguns fire bullets of a particular velocity that stays in a fairly narrow band in that particular caliber and cartridge type.

          1. Apparently you know very little about jokes. :-)

            Although I did not know, that too little powder is dangerous – but I have not yet loaded a single cartridge myself.

  9. So, let’s me sum up. We have to “smarten” everything around us because we’re not smart enough. Think about it, now people will want their guns to be smarter than them because they are too stupid to moderate themselves.

    Educate the people !

  10. So just for clarification electronics on a gun won’t work because:
    We’d need to redesign them (like we do any how all the time)
    We don’t want to charge a battery (but we are ok cleaning them after every use already).
    There is no space for the battery, because the clip goes in the handle (clip seems like a great place for a battery, easily replaceable and needs to be “recharged” (with bullets) already, small battery capable of running for 10 shots should be enough)
    It will increase failure points! (because guns that were known for jamming were never used, though my uncle who served in vietnam disagrees, not saying a gun jamming is a good thing (nor would my uncle), but clearly 100% functional 100% of the time isn’t a design philosophy that current guns have, so making it a requirement for smart guns seems like a stretch.)

    The truth is that electronics on guns has already happened, laser sights, mounts for Go pro’s cameras triggered to take a shot right before and after the hammer falls… these things exist. Clearly electronics on guns is not an impossibility.

    What you need is a market, and economies of scale to make it happen… since the civilian gun purchasing market doesn’t want smart guns we won’t have smart guns.
    HOWEVER, police forces who are tired of dealing with the fall out of shooting some one who either had their hands up or was reaching for the officer’s gun, depending on who’s story you listen too, might be interested in something like this.
    If that is the case the gun doesn’t need to be unhackable, it just needs to be unusable by those who are not authorized, should you take an officer’s gun they will probably be engaging you before you have time to disassemble the gun and flash a new firmware to it.

    We need a market (only starting to exist) and we need the technology (still a work in progress) and then we need the market to be big enough to justify a production run, which means the technology needs to be reliable enough to satisfy the market into actually buying them. We may be crossing the threshold of market demand and technological capability soon, or we might never cross it… I don’t know.

    In the meantime, actual guns locks exist, they are cheap, and while they might not be impenetrable they do make stealing a gun more difficult.
    Secure your weapons when not in use.

    1. Re: reliability

      The military may be supplied by the lowest bidder, but Police & private citizens generally have freedom in choosing their firearm. Unreliable firearms don’t sell very well, or get carried.

      Electronics
      If a holographic sight, laser or GoPro fails to function, chances are no one will die (which may or may not be a problem). These are non-critical systems. The gun will still fire if the laser does not function. If it comes to the point where someone is pulling the trigger, chances are whether it goes off or not, someone is going to die.
      Until electronic safeties match the reliability of mechanical safeties, no one, will be interested in them.

  11. OK, here’s an idea, a recessed front grip safety activated by a ring with a stud on the base, grip the gun the stud goes into the recess, deactivates the grip safety and the gun can be fired, someone takes the gun, no ring, the safety remains engaged and no bang bang. It’s something already on guns (grip safety) so it should work just fine, and although it’s far from foolproof it seems an easy idea to implement and it needs no battery because it’s purely mechanical.

    1. It might be workable, but there are limits to its effectiveness. Sure, your gun won’t go off if someone takes it in a fight (assuming they don’t have a matching ring), but that’s only a small part of what these biometric systems would be trying to solve.

      Some kind of locking holster might be a better way to handle biometric authentication. It’s easier to manage the electronics that way, and the user can unlock it ahead of time in high-risk situations (i.e. law enforcement operations). To increase reliability, the holster could be coded to a specific grip position and/or a coded sequence of taps instead of using finicky biometric sensors. Still far from a perfect solution, though.

        1. It depends heavily on the technology and the circumstances. If the holster doesn’t interfere with draw speed significantly, there’s not much point in unlocking it beforehand. If it could delay the draw enough to get you killed, though, I’d imagine that it would be wise to unlock it when you would normally be primed to draw, especially if you’re keeping your hand on the weapon. There’s still the chance of it getting yanked away, but that’s not really the problem the holster would be designed to prevent; the ring idea could help to solve that issue.

          I was thinking the holster would also make a useful storage lock (like the ones mentioned in the article), but then again, you really should be storing firearms in a proper safe, so that reduces that advantage. If there’s a scenario where you really can’t keep a safe on hand, though (such as a hiking trip), there might still be a use for it.

  12. Long time ago, maybe in 2000 I watched episode of “Beyond 2000” on Discovery Channel about smart guns. The idea shown was a NFC ring on the finger that communicated with the electronics in the handgun to unlock it. The idea was to make it impossible to loose the gun in struggle and be shot by it. They never got beyond prototype, which, IIRC, was a revolver…

  13. Author has never heard of miniaturization of electronics or potting material. Yet writes for hack-a-day. Not surprised.

    I think the “key” to a “smart” gone is “less = more” or “KISS”- You wouldn’t want Linux running on your hand gun, but if an FPGA or a even a PIC or AVR isn’t fast enough, than human hands are not fast enough. And I’ve never met a handgun that is 100% reliable. Still too many variables to call them that. You cannot control every aspect of the ammunition for one…

    It’s the key to gun interface that would be the biggest thing, either a ring or an implant would have to be the thing, no other tech would work as reliably.

    So an FPGA running a super fast decryption algorithm on a key implanted in the meat of your hand. I think if you’re going to be given a weapon that can take a life, a little chip in your hand is not a huge barrier.

    And think about LEOs for a moment, they typically hip carry, and even still if they have to quick draw they are doing so from a holster that is designed to make it difficult to remove the pistol from any angle, there is actually a technique to it that has to be learned as part of muscle memory. There is plenty of time and then some to actuate a safety release via electromechanical means.

    The problem comes in when you are talking about .380s and .22s and other small frame guns, but those should be banned anyway really, no good use but for getting the owner killed.

    1. “The problem comes in when you are talking about .380s and .22s and other small frame guns, but those should be banned anyway really, no good use but for getting the owner killed.”

      Well, as someone who carries a .380ACP handgun every day as a backup, and who has seen gelatin tests of the self-defense ammo I carry in it, I disagree. .380ACP is known in Germany as 9mm Kurtz, the latter word meaning “short”. .380ACP has exactly the same diameter case mouth as 9mm. I have practical experience that this is true, because when I reload 9mm brass, I sometimes accidentally resize .380ACP brass that is picked up on the range and mixed in with the 9mm Parabellum brass.

      The powder capacity is less in the .380ACP case than in the 9mm Parabellum, but with the right bullet weight and type, and judicious choice of shot placement, .380ACP can be deadly. And if it’s all you’ve got, it’s better than no gun when evil comes calling.

      And regardless of whether they are “banned” or not, millions of us will not give them up, so let’s dispense with the “ban them” comments.

    2. I’ve fired hundreds of rounds from my .22lr caliber revolver, and nobody has been shot by it yet.

      Why should it be banned???

      Also, any gun whose safety is activated by NFC/RFID is a gun that could likely be disabled easily.
      Crooks with radio jammers. :(

  14. A standardized locking mechanism would be a good idea.

    If guns had a standard fitting, much like you have a kingston security connector on laptops and other equipment. Obviously not that particular fitment but something similar that would allow a lock to be connected to the gun that could be used to both disable firing and secure it.

    Then any number of manufacturers could provide locks that range anything from a regular key lock through to a high tech biometric device. The lock could be a small dongle attached to the gun that simply disables firing or attached to chain/cable to stop the gun being removed for example in the trunk of a car. Or the best yet is set in a dock/gun safe where the gun can only be released from the dock if the key, biometrics or whatever are used to access the gun.

    The point being that the user gets to choose how they would like to secure their weapon. A mother scared that her children may get hold of the gun may choose to invest in a biometric safe, where as a redneck might be happy with $5 combination lock dongle that would be enough to satisfy the authorities.

  15. Thinking about “shot with own weapon” scenarios… I will just totally spitball here because not able to find reliable data, but I’d imagine some largish chunk happen while victim/owner, still has some bodily contact with weapon, then the next largish chunk happen within 6 feet, close proximity, then a small sliver from much further away. To put numbers on that say 60:30:10

    Okay, so consider biometric, for reliability this should not disengage while owner maintains some contact with weapon, or arm/disarm from grip shifting, tightening and loosening grip would be far too annoying to deal with… however, there is strong possibility that mechanisms to allow it to remain in the least bit dependable for the owner, will mean owner can be shot with it during physical struggle while contact is maintained in struggle for the gun. So useful 40% of time.

    Then near field to be any kind of reliable has to have fairly strong detection, and glitch rejection to overcome RFI , so again gun has high likelihood of operating within close proximity to owner, so only protects from remaining 10% of incidents.

    The precise figures don’t even matter, it’s just illustrating that for the specific use case, “not getting shot with own gun” it’s probably going to boil down to how much unreliability you’re willing to accept in exchange for increasing certainty that nobody else can fire it.

    Oh you say, but I can absolutely train myself to keep my perfectly clean undamaged thumb on top of the absolutely clean unscratched finger print sensor, so that I can maintain the option to shoot in a struggle, but yet not get shot… yeah right, it’s gonna be way easier for an assailant to force your thumb off a print reader than uncurl your finger from the trigger, if he doesn’t want to get shot….. and if the assailant is just way stronger than you, tough luck, his hand is clamped over yours, the muzzle is swinging round, you cannot move your thumb off that sensor…..

  16. I don’t think electronics are really unreliable. And I think the actual electronics could be embedded in the bullets. That would also make the bullets much safer to handle. Accidentially dropping a bullet on the ground for example and a small stone hits the primer, and the bullet happens to point in the wrong direction – good bye.

    So a great thing was, what I saw proposed in a science magazine – a RFID coil is embedded in the bullet – of course some parts of the bullets needs to be made of polymer to allow for the radio waves to enter. The RFID chip in the bullet would require a specific encryption code. If that encryption code is correct, the chip would activate a fusible link with a highly flammable material inside, causing the chip “go off”. Thus it would be impossible to “set off” the bullet with any other means than high heat or transmitting the correct encryption code. Dropping it would not be enough.

    And if that is implemented, it would be the bullet that does the actual authentication, and thus some of the mechanics in the weapon (hammer, firing group etc) could be replaced with a battery and a chip that just hashes the fingerprint or password/PIN and forwards it to the bullet. This would also allow for different models of weapon like Fingerprint, PIN, electronic key, radio transmitter, bluetooth etc.that uses the same type of encrypted bullet.
    Since the electronics in the weapon does not do any authentication or decisive action, it would become very reliable. The only thing it does is to transmit a encryption code everytime you push the trigger. The unreliable part would be the bullet, but that electronics is single use and if one bullet fails because of shoddy electronics, you just cycle the slider for a fresh functioning bullet.
    Like if you would encounter a bullet with a bad primer in a self-defense situation.

    1. Heck, even the energy could be harvested by a small coil when you rack the slider and/or press the trigger. The trigger could be connected to a small generator via some gears so small but powerful motion gets converted to large but un-powerful motion that is enough long to drive the generator to generate enough electricity to forward the encryption code to the bullet.

      Think those LED lamps with a “trigger” that charges it with a dynamo. And those dynamos are pretty cheap and shoddy, still they are able to power the LEDs for several seconds even with one press of the trigger. So I think even the “dead battery” problem of smart guns in self-defense situations could be solved.

    2. Cartridges (bullets are the thing that comes out of the barrel) do NOT go off when dropped on the ground under ANY circumstances. The notion they could is a fantasy because they are specifically designed not to go off if dropped. In addition setting off a cartridge outside of a firearm is pretty harmless. Hatcher tested a wide range of cartridges and showed that a pasteboard box was sufficient to contain the fragments.

      ANY reduction in reliability would guarantee that a new gun was unsuccessful. Unreliable guns are collector’s items only. Something to play with at the range. Many thousands of gun designs have failed because of reliability issues. Same thing for unreliable ammunition. If you actually need a gun, you probably won’t get the chance to cycle the slide if you have a misfire.

      BTW The article is a good summary of the issues. The technical comments tend to be very silly. The rest are merely ignorant.

    3. LOL…. This. Never. Happens. Additionally bullets are balanced ballistic objects. Introducing unbalanced components will negatively effect accuracy. And good luck with all of this in an area less than 1/2 a cubic centimeter.

    4. “I don’t think electronics are really unreliable. And I think the actual electronics could be embedded in the bullets. That would also make the bullets much safer to handle. Accidentially [sic] dropping a bullet on the ground for example and a small stone hits the primer, and the bullet happens to point in the wrong direction – good bye.”

      Vast ignorance of both firearms and electronics on display in these comments. As a 30-year veteran electronics engineer, and a shooting enthusiast for longer than that, I think I can speak to this.

      First, a cartridge case that is ignited outside of a firearm chamber does not launch the projectile as when fired through a rifled barrel. If your experience with firearms is limited to watching the title sequence of the TV show “Chuck” or the “frying pan” scene in the movie “Red”, you might think that. But no, a cartridge ignited outside the chamber is similar to a firecracker exploding; the pieces separate, and there is a “bang”.

      “Embedded in bullets?” Show me electronics that can stand acceleration of a bullet! In 9mm Parabellum in a Beretta 92 pistol, it is 1.44 MILLION feet per second squared – 44.8 thousand G!

      But you probably don’t really mean that; you are using “bullet” to mean “cartridge”. It’s worse if we put the electronics inside the cartridge case. Show me electronics that can handle a pressure pulse of 241 MPa (35,000 psi), as in the SAAMI spec for a 9mm Parabellum cartridge!

      Why, oh, why would you put electronics in the one place in the gun where the most pressure occurs?

      1. Various Naval & Artillery Corps. solved ruggedizing electronics to deal with set-back decades ago. Granted it’s easier to cram circuit boards into a 155mm shell than a 5.5mm bullet.

      2. Of course, I meant cartridge.

        Don’t matter. Because when that cartridge/bullet is fired, the electronics in that cartridge is spent anyways.
        So the electronics does not need to be designed to handle pulses of 241 MPa, when the electronics inside the cartridge/bullet have authorized the firing of said cartridge/bullet, the electronics effectively suicides, both because of the fusible link, but also because of the enviromental conditions.

        Thus the circuit inside the cartridge (which can be made very small – just look at those implantable RFID chips for animals) does not need to survive the ignition of the cartridge, when, and if, the cartridge is allowed to fire, the electronics are done with its job.

        And “enrolling” cartridges can be done at the shop when purchasing cartridges. You are asked for which auth system you have on your weapon (fingerprint, bluetooth, key, PIN, radio transmitter etc).
        Enrolling the cartridges for fingerprint is simple as putting your finger on a plate in the ammunition shop, bluetooth is as simple as connecting to their “access point” with said bluetooth device. Key same here, you present your key for their RFID scanner. PIN = you enter your pin on a keypad. Radio transmitter, then it would be like PIN but you enter the transmitter code on their keypad instead.

        Thus only you could fire your cartridges, but it won’t matter which weapon its fired from.

        Then all this information could be “enrolled” in the cartridges by a large RFID plate that the whole cartridges box is placed on. The frame that holds the individual cartridges could have small contacts that contact the coil directly, and then a large coil inside the bottom of the cartridge box.

    5. The cost of ammunition is a concern today, imagine the cost with all of this miniature electronics you’re suggesting. It would be cost prohibitive to even practice.

      Another point, a round not in a barrel does nothing more than explode like a firecracker. It isn’t particularly dangerous. Also, the force that it takes to set a primer off, isn’t likely to happen by dropping a round onto gravel. I have never heard of or seen a round going off by being dropped.

  17. I don’t actually see how any scheme could do more than temporarily deny use of weapon to thief anyway. It’s all gonna depend on some actuator that you can probably drill into to expose contacts and defeat with a hotwire.

    1. I see the good guy pinned to floor and the bad guy pulling over a drill press and chucking up a tungsten carbide bit and locking the gun in a drilling vise and going at it.

    2. I just came back to see how the comments were fleshing out when this same thought occurred to me.

      What problem exactly are we trying to address with the idea of “smart guns?”

      Ostensibly attention is being directed at the issues because of mass shootings. How frequent are mass shootings where someone grabs a gun from someone else that legally has it and goes off on an immediate rampage?

      No, the acquisition of a weapon for use in a mass shooting occurs in two ways. A) The individual is in what was – up to that point, legal – possession of the weapon. Obviously they’d be an “authorized user” of the weapon so no help there. Or, B) They gank the weapon illegally ahead of time. Now I don’t even need to explain to THIS crowd that anything that can be made can be unmade… or… any security mechanism can be defeated. So wouldn’t someone even moderately determined simply defeat it in advance? How can you make something that is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and completely standalone in function so secure as to make lives dependent on it? Methinks that is one of the primary problems here.

      So what else are we trying to address? Someone grabbing your gun in a fight and using it against you? Yes, it does happen, but I think we can all agree here that in that scenario, the individual harmed is typically the one that brought the gun to the fight in the first place. That’s a responsibility you take when you carry a weapon, and I would wager that most folks can accept that principle, most of all the individuals doing the carrying. The irony here is that in this situation, “smart guns” might actually encourage the idea of carrying with impunity, thus causing more carrying. Does the concern of more people carrying guns get allayed if those weapons are “smart?”

      So where does that leave us? Is the idea of “smart guns” just a solution looking for a problem? Or maybe just the warm security blanket that comes from feeling like we have done “something” about a problem?

      I’m not trying to take a political stance. I know that I have probably revealed some opinion here, but my basic point is this… if we only look at how to make the weapon FIRE reliably, that’s only looking at half the problem. We need the technology to basically impossible to defeat, thus making it NOT FIRE reliably, and that’s the really hard part. Without that part, there would be no need for this conversation.

      1. Well, there’s at least one documented mass shooting where a ‘smart’ gun (giving every benefit that the tech works as imagined) would have stopped or delayed it.
        Sandy Hook.
        The shooter was prevented from purchasing guns via the instant background check system all FFLs are required to use, and resorted to murdering his mother to acquire her firearms.
        In the eyes of some (The Brady Campaign) stopping one firearm homicide is worth any price
        There were also ~50 officers killed by their own weapons from 94-03, at least one was a ‘mass shooting’ when the suspect shot up the court room killing 4.

        If the tech is fool proof in practice then, why not use it. But as you said it won’t stop the <4% of mass shooting deaths by previously law abiding citizens or 20k annual suicides in the US

        1. However, Sandy Hook he had had her permission to use them at a range in the past. So odds are, smart weapon would not have defeated him. Plus if willing to murder to get weapon, then “thou shalt not tamper with Federally mandated electronic gizmo” wasn’t going to be stopping him, or the fact that he needed his dead mothers fingerprints, retina, NFC chip out of her palm or whatever.

        2. Well, there’s at least one documented mass shooting where a ‘smart’ gun (giving every benefit that the tech works as imagined) would have stopped or delayed it.
          Sandy Hook.
          The shooter was prevented from purchasing guns via the instant background check system all FFLs are required to use, and resorted to murdering his mother to acquire her firearms.

          Unlikely. All of the currently feasible methods would have also failed. If it was a system with an authorizing device, he would have stolen the device as well. If it required a passcode, he would either have figured out the password or just tortured it out of her. If it required a biometric authentication, he could have authenticated with her corpse and then reprogrammed it to recognize him once it was unlocked.

          Let’s face it — once he was willing to murder her, he had access to any potential hacking element he would need.

          1. People have mentioned a pulse oximeter to prevent dead fingers being used. Doesn’t stop the massive false-negative rate you get with fingerprint scanners though, which would really make them unsuitable. False-positives are only a problem if people have your existing fingerprint and want to dick about with gelatine etc.

  18. Great article, but I wish actual objectives of “smart guns” was actually discussed. From the article it sounds like a smart gun is simply a gun that requires authorization before it can be fired. Fair enough, but I think this creative community could come up with additional “smarts” that could theoretically be implemented. Example: For military applications- a directional receiver that could prevent firing when aimed at a transmitter on a fellow soldier, thus eliminating friendly fire.

    A more feasible option that I feel should have been listed is a smart holster – kinda like wearable gun safe. This would overcome the difficulties of trying to cram electromechanical components and batteries in/on a handgun, but still achieve the goal of being able to use the gun on a moments notice. A smart holster would also work with tons of gun models (with no need to wait for gun companies to incorporate smarts into their guns).

    I believe some police departments actually have something like this as available. The officer has to perform some obscure quick procedure, and then the holster unlocks the gun. This prevents a crazy from being able to grab the officers firearm out of the holster.

    1. What happens when the enemy figures out what those transmissions are and their own troops start emitting them.

      Or.. they just build a guided weapon that homes in on those same signals.

      1. You can make a transmitter impossible to copy. You know smart cards and HSMs? They are impossible to copy. If a tamper resistant feature is added so there is, lets say a EKG sensor on a friendly soldier, and if the EKG is out of spec (eg, not normal human heart beats), the chip permanently disables itself.

        And the signal itself cannot be copied as its then have a rolling time code which is embedded in the encryption key.

        Another thing is that the enemy soldiers cannot take a weapon from “your soliders”, because that weapon couldn’t fire at THEIR enemies (= your soliders) anyway. But you can take a weapon from your friend if your weapon becomes inoperable.

        1. The military has no interest in smart guns. The whole point of the military is that infantrymen are fungible, and you can hand a rifle to anyone (or grab a rifle from anyone).

          The military doesn’t even have ignition locks on the trucks and hummers.

          This will never have a military application.

          Dunning-Kruger.

  19. All this talk of “ban them” and/or “smarten them” is silly talk, when we can literally walk into a hardware store and for less than a 100 bucks walk out with the parts needed to make atleast a single shot shotgun. If we want a better sociaty we need to make a better sociaty, people commit crimes not because they love crime, well some jokers out there might. Crimes are commited out of the percieved pay off. If the needs of people who commit them were not so great, would those same people commit those crimes again?

    1. Heh, $100? Only if you want a nice piece of walnut and some tung oil to polish it with, and a few other non-essentials. I just rode to the corner store and saw 80% of what you need sitting on the curb or in dumpsters. The rest is not so hard to scavenge either.

    2. in cities and counties where a family can and does have all their needs, caloric, residential and entertainment met by government programs, why are there still crimes? violence over addictions, territory, ego, mates…all these go down with clients of social services who have their entire hierarchy of needs met. But that’s not enough for a lot of people. Once you set a “new zero” with everything needed taken care of, people at that zero want more. some work for it. others cause harm for it. Been that way as far as anthropologists can verify.

  20. Generally, I think this article is taking the wrong tact with the problem. I’m not interested when people look for problems and claim they are insurmountable. I want to see articles that look for solutions with promise, then work to improve them. I’m going to repeat this several times, but If you can’t imagine solutions, don’t try to persuade others not to do so.

    I also think that some of the assumptions made in the article are, hmm, unwarranted.

    I’ve got plenty of other things to say, so here’s the one you get free: The only guns discussed are handguns. Are these the only guns that we should be working to make safer? Are they the only guns involved in accidental deaths, that we’d like to prevent? Let’s keep an open mind here, and not forget that “guns” is an incredibly diverse collection of machinery.

    Here are some examples of statements that I specifically take issue with:

    “We aren’t going to focus on the politics; we’re going to look at whether the technology is realistic, and why a lot of the news stories about new tech never pan out.”
    It is impossible to separate the politics from this issue, and I would argue that the politics is a far more difficult solution than the technology. Even imagining that you had a PERFECT “smart gun” technology, you would be resisted tooth and nail by:
    * Crazy Gun people (and the politicians who cater to them. These are the people who have been saying the president is coming to take your guns like a mantra for the last 8 years.)
    * The NRA (and the politicians they hold sway over)
    * Every major gun manufacturer (and the politicians they graciously ply with campaign contributions.
    * Crazy or “owned” politicians (I think I covered this already…)
    So, saying “let’s ignore the politics” is about as realistic as saying “let’s ignore the 1st law of thermodynamics”. I think it would be reasonable to discuss denial mechanisms and say something like “wireless authentication for smart guns is concerning because a dedicated attacker could jam the authenticating signal.” That’s a reasonable concern, and a potential reason to us a different authentication mechanism. Let’s see that level of discussion, not more of this “nothing can be done” hand-wavy trash. I hear plenty of that on the news after any mass shooting.

    Another: “There are some giant differences between a car and a gun. First, failure is just not an option with guns.”
    Bravo for the car analogy, however the implication of this statement is that failure is an option with cars. If your car’s steering, brakes, throttle, or tires fail in heavy interstate traffic, is that an acceptable failure? Could the potential for your death or maiming (and possibly your family’s, and as well as others’ nearby) by massive blunt trauma be more acceptable than if your gun didn’t fire a round? Well, “it depends” right? What do you do more often, fight off armed robbers in the middle of the night, or drive with your family on the highway? Failure is an option, and it think it’s reasonable to look at the data about gun use to determine what sorts of failure we are willing to tolerate. Your rifle asks you to re-authenticate while deer hunting? Not really a problem. Your handgun asks for the 46 character, randomly generated alphanumeric password provided by the gun manufacturer? Problem. Let’s address each with the appropriate level of response. (Question for the author: do you work for a car company?

    One thing that was totally ignored by this article is that there are several vastly different justifications for using guns, and that they might be amenable to different solutions.

    The first is hunting and sport.
    I lump these together in that there is zero reason that a human should be shot during the correct practice of theses activities. A weapon whose sole purpose is hunting or sport would ideally always be inoperable when not being actively used by the owner or their designee, for hunting and sport. (If I may state my personal stance: Anyone who doesn’t store such weapons unloaded and locked, separately from ammo is an idiot.) These weapons are a prime candidate for integrated electro-mechnical safety mechanisms. In fact, they’d be easy, according to the author of the article, because they tend to be larger, so finding space for mechanisms is easier (rifle stock, anyone?), and they tend to be more massive which decreases recoil forces. Let’s think about how we could integrate a system into a rifle – wait – I’ve got four ideas already, two with systems to actively reduce the recoil forces on the electronics, and all of which can be built at home by a hobby machinist who can cobble together some electronics. If you can’t imagine solutions, don’t try to persuade others not to do so.

    The other use case for guns is self defense.
    We’re all results oriented people here, so let’s skip the political talking points, and talk data: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/9715182/. You may present your published, peer-reviewed research now. (As always, anecdotes will be valued according to sample size and accompanying documentation.)

    Anyhow, the author has made the assertion that electronics simply won’t fit in handgun and that electronics can’t possibly survive use, both assertions which I think any reasonable electronic technician can address. In addition, the author has suggested that they can’t be reliable enough, which in the interest of trying to improve the situation, I refuse, as should any rational person should, to accept this assertion until I’ve actually seen people put some effort into building and debugging systems. After all, cars and planes are pretty safe now, I bet we can improve guns too. Interestingly, the author completely neglected to consider that the “smart” aspect of the gun could be a removable part. If you are the only person who can get your holster to release your gun, then we’re in a better situation, right? If you can’t imagine solutions, don’t try to persuade others not to do so.

    Now, some guns can have a mixed use case, and that certainly presents a more complicated problem, but let’s actually try to improve the situation before we throw the towel in. If you can’t imagine solutions, don’t try to persuade others not to do so.

    So let’s see, I’ve covered using guns to kill people, guns to kill animals, and guns to shoot at things that might never have been alive – have I missed any major use cases? Please, let me know.

    So, while I haven’t the slightest problem with people owning guns, this article reads like something out of some fanatic gun magazine: “Here’s 5 simple reasons why guns can’t possibly be made safer that will blow your mind”, and is about as rigorous in dealing with the subject as I would expect from some click-bait news site (Huffington Post, I’m looking at you). I also think that articles of this sort (“A solution is impractical and should not even be pursued”) are amazingly short-sighted, and do not belong on Hackaday, which is really dedicated to the idea that we can do just about anything we put our minds to.

    One last time: If you can’t imagine solutions, don’t try to persuade others not to do so.

    1. I’ve got plenty of other things to say, so here’s the one you get free: The only guns discussed are handguns. Are these the only guns that we should be working to make safer?

      This assumes that the smartgun push is a safety push, which it is not. It’s been too politicized. Because one side has attempted in various jurisdictions to use as an attempt at a back door ban, the well has been poisoned with too many actual gun users for there to be any demand for it. Therefore, the only market is a legislatively mandated one.

      So, the only case-use in play is “prevent criminals from using the gun.” SInce criminals only use handguns for street crime (the number of violent crimes committed with rifles is vanishingly small in the US) then the only use being explored is handguns.

      1. As a responsible adult, I would definitely prefer that guns kept in my house (which has children in it) require authentication to fire. Note that a gun in the house is far more likely to be used in a suicide attempt than to repel an intruder.

        There. No politics, no bull-crap. No body is legislating my stance. I care about my kids, and until I decide otherwise, they should never be able to fire my guns without my permission.

        Ben

        1. Gun ownership has zero correlation to the suicide rate. When gun ownership goes down, suicide rates simply go up for other methods.

          People who aren’t actually trying to kill themselves (the ones who actually want help) don’t use guns, and the ones that use guns find some other foolproof way to end themselves (like jumping off of a building or hanging.)

          Kids shouldn’t be able to fire your guns without your permission. They also shouldn’t be able to drive your car. There’s a real simple method that keeps them away from both. I don’t see people putting fingerprint scanners on their cars.

          1. This is a common talking point that I frequently hear asserted as true, but I’m not confident that is the case. Please post studies.

            For example – Here’s one that counters your assertion: Miller M, Hemenway, D. The relationship between firearms and suicide: a review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior: A Review Journal 1999; 4:59-75.
            (Here’s another by the same author for which the full text is available: http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~epihc/currentissue/Fall2001/miller.htm Page 2 specifically discusses your comment.)

            It’s weird – I’m not seeing most people put keys on their guns either. (I have relatives by marriage that keep loaded handguns in their car – “’cause it keeps them safe”) I can’t tell you how many locked gun cabinets I’ve seen with glass doors – which I think secures your gun roughly as well as leaving your nice car in the garage with the keys in the ignition. From your argument, it seems like that since cars are safer than guns (by person-hour handling or riding in the device), and we don’t bother keying guns, so we shouldn’t bother to key cars… Makes perfect sense, right?

            But your comment doesn’t address my main point: I, personally, want to see smart(er) guns developed. My owning a “smart” gun doesn’t affect your ability to carry a “dumb” gun in the least. So, what’s your beef with developing a technology to make guns safer? As I’ve heard said here several times, and personally demonstrated to my own satisfaction, any local yokel can put together a firearm with some basic tools that is neither registered, nor smart. I don’t care if you have a gun, but I do care if you try to stop me from owning one with the safety features I deem appropriate. I’ve heard the whole “guns make us safer” opinions that do not provide good supporting data over and over again – you repeating it doesn’t actually affect the truth (or otherwise) of the statement.

            Safer guns are safer guns, and trying to convince people that it’s impossible to make safer guns is disingenuous at best, and actively contributing to the problem at worst.

          2. My owning a “smart” gun doesn’t affect your ability to carry a “dumb” gun in the least.

            That’s the problem. It does. New Jersey in particular has a law sitting on the books that says that as soon as smartguns are available, it is illegal to own a non-smart gun.

            That’s the problem.

            Overlegislation by luddite gun grabbers is using smart guns as a backdoor to banning all guns. We can’t have any innovation on it because of government meddling. Anyone who starts working on it has to be shunned by the entire industry, because even worse than success in innovation would be partial success — where the gun “exists” but isn’t feasible from a safety perspective (in that it fails to safe and makes the gun inoperable in the unlikely even that you DO need it.)

    2. “You may present your published, peer-reviewed research now.”

      Right here: http://crimeresearch.org/2016/07/new-book-war-guns/

      But, all that is completely irrelevant because a) this article is supposed to be a discussion of the technology, not the politics, b) if research is presented that shows “more guns, less crime” the hoplophobes find a way to discredit it, even if they have to lie and c) you can ban EVERY GUN, and MILLIONS of us will not comply, and you will have a civil war, to boot. Millions of deaths seems a foolish way to reduce “gun violence”.

      1. Note: I haven’t read this particular book, and based on the website wrapped around it, I probably won’t as it seems to pander to people who have constructed a fantasy of defending themselves with their guns that I do not partake in. The (non-peer-reviewed) website also doesn’t say a word about suicide, or the odds of dying in an interaction with an assailant (even when you have a gun) which is interesting. Perhaps you can point me to specific conclusions that he makes and the data he uses to make them.

        But! Irrelevant or not, let me address your other points.

        A) I cover this specifically. There was no useful discussion of the technology in this article, only an underwhelming argument that this wasn’t worth pursuing. As for ignoring the politics, I quote from my original comment:

        “It is impossible to separate the politics from this issue, and I would argue that the politics is a far more difficult solution than the technology. Even imagining that you had a PERFECT “smart gun” technology, you would be resisted tooth and nail by:
        * Crazy Gun people (and the politicians who cater to them. These are the people who have been saying the president is coming to take your guns like a mantra for the last 8 years.)
        * The NRA (and the politicians they hold sway over)
        * Every major gun manufacturer (and the politicians they graciously ply with campaign contributions.)
        * Crazy or “owned” politicians (I think I covered this already…)
        So, saying “let’s ignore the politics” is about as realistic as saying “let’s ignore the 1st law of thermodynamics”. I think it would be reasonable to discuss denial mechanisms and say something like “wireless authentication for smart guns is concerning because a dedicated attacker could jam the authenticating signal.” That’s a reasonable concern, and a potential reason to us a different authentication mechanism. Let’s see that level of discussion, not more of this “nothing can be done” hand-wavy trash. I hear plenty of that on the news after any mass shooting. [@Backwoods Engineer – you got this, right? In that one sentence, I provided a more relevant technical analysis than the article did.]

        B) Luxembourg, Japan, Iceland, Slovenia, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Italy, Korea, Sweden, Norway, Czech Republic, UK, New Zealand, Australia . . . the list goes on. All “civilized” (and developed) countries with lower firearms ownership and lower homicide rates. (As a matter of fact, the US homicide rate is more than three times higher than that of ANY country I’ve listed here. The gun ownership rate is nearly twice as high as ANY of them.) The only OECD countries with higher homicide rates are Estonia, Turkey, and Mexico (and possibly Chile and Russia, depending on the year and your data source). If you are okay being ranked with those three (or five) countries, then I guess our discussion is done.

        C) I’m utterly uninterested in banning firearms. I grew up around them, I am comfortable owning & using them, and I’m educated enough to know their valid uses. But my family was exceedingly careful with them, even by local standards. I also know (or as the case may be, knew) many people who have had life-altering accidents (or are dead – this is more common, sadly) due to misuse of firearms – even in a rural hunting community where everyone should know better. Through much of my life, we’ve had more guns than people in my house. I know several people whose judicious use of firearms have preserved their own lives (though oddly none of the cases involved a human assailant). Even based on these incidents, I see no particular reason that the existence of “smart guns” would threaten any but the most pathological paranoid gun nut. (Speaking of which, I’m oddly fascinated that you think that any attempt to enforce responsible gun ownership would result in civil war – tell me more.) What I am saying is that safer guns, like safer cars, are something that I (a self-styled responsible adult) am interested in, and would pay for.

        One more thing: Which would you rather have used without your permission (possibly against you), your gun, or the data in your smartphone? Which of those items has built-in security systems?

        Weird . . .

        1. B) Luxembourg, Japan, Iceland, Slovenia, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Italy, Korea, Sweden, Norway, Czech Republic, UK, New Zealand, Australia . . . the list goes on. All “civilized” (and developed) countries with lower firearms ownership and lower homicide rates. (As a matter of fact, the US homicide rate is more than three times higher than that of ANY country I’ve listed here. The gun ownership rate is nearly twice as high as ANY of them.) The only OECD countries with higher homicide rates are Estonia, Turkey, and Mexico (and possibly Chile and Russia, depending on the year and your data source). If you are okay being ranked with those three (or five) countries, then I guess our discussion is done.

          Here’s the problem. None of the gun ownership rates in those countries correlate with the crime rates. What does correlate with crime is the percentage of their countries that is non-white. In fact, in the EU countries that are experiencing mass migration, crime rates are correlating extremely closely with the changing demographics. THAT is the elephant in the room in criminology.

          So, while there is no science to support the idea that prohibiting guns would lower crime in America, there is ample science suggesting that shipping out all the black and hispanic people in America would make it the safest country in the world.

          Are you really pro-science, or do you think that sometimes morality trumps the scientifically expedient solution? (Hint: I’m siding with morals.)

          1. Oh, I’m definitely pro-science – please provide your science.

            Also – there’s a significant difference between “Crime” and “Gun deaths.” Me trespassing on your lawn is a crime, but I think any rational person would agree that that is both qualitatively and quantitatively different than me shooting someone.

            But your comment doesn’t address my main point: I, personally, want to see smart(er) guns developed. My owning a “smart” gun doesn’t affect your ability to carry a “dumb” gun in the least. So, what’s your beef with developing a technology to make guns safer? As I’ve heard said here several times, and personally demonstrated to my own satisfaction, any local yokel can put together a firearm with some basic tools that is neither registered, nor smart. I don’t care if you have a gun, but I do care if you try to stop me from owning one with the safety features I deem appropriate. I’ve heard the whole “guns make us safer” opinions that do not provide good supporting data over and over again – you repeating it doesn’t actually affect the truth (or otherwise) of the statement.

            Safer guns are safer guns, and trying to convince people that it’s impossible to make safer guns is disingenuous at best, and actively contributing to the problem at worst.

          2. My owning a “smart” gun doesn’t affect your ability to carry a “dumb” gun in the least. So, what’s your beef with developing a technology to make guns safer?

            Yes, it does. There are already laws on the books that ban “dumb” guns as soon as a smart gun hits the market, regardless of how poorly it performs.

            If the government were out of the “we want the only guns” business, then I would be all over all of the development. Because guns are so heavily regulated, we can’t have significant development on electronic triggers, silencers (a key safety device), new ammunition types (too easy to inadvertently run afoul of “armor piercing” or “exploding” prohibitions) etc etc etc.

            If this argument was about making a new system for securely accessing a computer, the problem would be that the government has made a law that says that if the new system is written, every computer has to use the new system. If that were the case, no one here would be supporting the development of that system.

            The government has poisoned the gun development well. And you helped.

          3. No, idiots in New Jersey legislature are the ones that we should be holding responsible for holding firearms development hostage. For the record, a repeal was passed (by Democrats, would you believe it?), but Gov. Christie killed the repeal via a pocket veto.
            ———————
            Just to say that again: Democrats (those gun-hating liberals) passed a measure that would remove the “personalized handguns only” restriction. Chris Christie (Gun-lovin’ Republican) is the only obstacle to removing this restriction. The result would be that the good people of New Jersey could purchase “smart” firearms, should they so choose.

            You are sitting here blaming me for NJ’s mess, and saying that no one in the entire country should be permitted to purchase the “smart” handgun of their choice, just to protect NJ voters from their elected representatives’ idiocy. (Last I checked, “dumb” wasn’t a protected class.)

            So no, you don’t get to blame me for some stupid suicide pact that the wonderful politicians of NJ passed into law. Do recall that if people really think it’s a dumb law, they can actually work within their political process to get it changed . . .
            ———————–

            Aaaaaannnd the government isn’t in the “We want the only guns business” any more than they are in the “we want the only cars” business, or the “we want the only medicines” business. They’ve been out of it for 250 years, and we’ve got all sorts of Supreme Court rulings emphasizing the fact. In fact, you can go to a store, and buy any of an immense variety of guns. Additionally, you have an established right to make your own guns (and all the the government asks is that you not sell any unregistered guns that you make – though full-auto weapons are frowned upon as well – but wait! Did you know there’s a process by which you can purchase and own them as well? I leave the details as an exercise to for the reader)

            Oh, and if you think that it’s regulation that’s slowing down innovation, you should try developing and selling a medical device, or a car. A single person can practice as a gunsmith and meet all the necessary regulations while running their own business (I’m not saying it’s easy, only that it is actually possible). Putting a heart stent on the market requires more development, testing and documentation than a single person can complete in their working lifetime. And yet there’s still amazing new developments coming out of those fields. Weird . . . It’s almost like regulation doesn’t actually prevent progress (Except when NJ state legislators pass dumb laws, or refuse to sign a repeal, as the case may be.)

            So, it’s not me whho is part of the problem. It’s you – you are sitting here supporting the status quo, where gun store owners are afraid to even sell smart weapons because they’ll get death threats from rabid gun people. (See here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/maryland-dealer-will-defy-gun-rights-advocates-by-selling-nations-first-smart-gun/2014/05/01/564efa48-d14d-11e3-937f-d3026234b51c_story.html) You’re sitting here telling me that a (safe) gun should never be produced, but if I were to take the position that a (silenced, high capacity, high fire rate) gun should never be produced, I bet you’d be all over me. What’s the word? Hypocrite?

    3. Ok… from your link:

      METHODS: We reviewed the police, medical examiner, emergency medical service, emergency department, and hospital records of all fatal and nonfatal shootings in three U.S. cities: Memphis, Tennessee; Seattle, Washington; and Galveston, Texas.

      I’m sorry but only the worst incidents will be counted via such a method. This is not a study of how often guns have been succesfully used for self defense. It is a study of how many incidents of shootings result in the intended victim being hurt vs the intended victimizer.

      Here’s a fun fact about people who use their guns for self-defense. They don’t actually want to hurt anybody. Seriously, sane gun owners do not long to shoot somebody. The best scenario… it’s not that you take out the bad guys in some grisly scene worthy of a Dirty Hairy movie. It’s that you flash your weapon and the would be victimizer simply walks away. No, you don’t even report it. There are too many complicated laws and too many police officers who would prefer an unarmed public. There is no reason to go announce that you flashed you gun to someone. Just be happy nothing bad happened and enjoy your day!

      I do share your preference for peer-reviewed research however until someone can magically conjur up a way to count such incidents anecdotes are the only data that is available.

      1. It’s also specifically not a study of guns being kept legally in the home being used injuriously against legal occupants of that home. That is made clear by the inclusion of three police justifiable homicides, but they disingenuously lie by omission in failing to point out that those assaults are mostly going to be guns brought into or near a home by outside aggressors. In other words maybe 438 people didn’t have to get injured or die if they had had their OWN legally owned gun. And yes, this does not even count all discharges of weapons never mind mere display, how many householders fired and missed, but the attackers ran?

          1. Nah, it’s up to you to provide checkable data that support the conclusions that you would like to draw from it. I am merely pointing out that this does not support the conclusions you want to draw, due to not being specific enough.

        1. You’re right! I can’t find any data to support your assertion that:

          “In other words maybe 438 people didn’t have to get injured or die if they had had their OWN legally owned gun.”

          I can’t find any science to support this position you’ve taken, so I shall cease to support it. You win! In the mean time, a quick newsflash: We’re still searching for the missing link that will finally prove the existence of macro-evolution, New study questioning the risks of second-hand smoke (Enstrom JE, Kabat GC (2003). “Environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality in a prospective study of Californians, 1960-98”. BMJ), and Experts discuss the last consecutive 14 months of record breaking temperatures as a truly amazing run of the cosmic dice game (It’s going to take a while to regress to the mean with this one!). More news with Stillen DeNile at 11…

          The data does support the conclusion that increased access to guns in the home is associated with increased incidence of gun homicide and suicide – but, as we all know correlation is not the same as causation. So let’s do more science: http://www.annemergmed.com/article/S0196-0644(03)00256-7/abstract (Okay, now I’ve submitted two published, peer-reviewed studies for you to read and discuss, and you have … none. I feel like I’m overdoing it here.) Please, I would love to have some actual-data-analysis-not-talking-points from you where we could discuss some objective information, rather than your unsupported assertions.

          That all aside, your comment doesn’t address my main point: I, personally, want to see smart(er) guns developed. My owning a “smart” gun doesn’t affect your ability to carry a “dumb” gun in the least. So, what’s your beef with developing a technology to make guns safer? As I’ve heard said here several times, and personally demonstrated to my own satisfaction, any local yokel can put together a firearm with some basic tools that is neither registered, nor smart. I don’t care if you have a gun, but I do care if you try to stop me from owning one with the safety features I deem appropriate. I’ve heard the whole “guns make us safer” opinions that do not provide good supporting data over and over again – you repeating it doesn’t actually affect the truth (or otherwise) of the statement.

          Safer guns are safer guns, and trying to convince people that it’s impossible to make safer guns is disingenuous at best, and actively contributing to the problem at worst.

      2. The same strategy as the US military. Peace through superior firepower.

        Honestly I would be totally willing to listen any gun banning proposal that includes national defense forces, but I don’t think they will consider such things because they know how crazy it is. Until bullet destroying lasers are a thing, we’re stuck with the strong needing guns to stay strong(er).

        I’ve actually mulled this one around a bit. A “speed limit” with automatic destruction of objects exceeding that speed (say 300 m/s like a paintball?) would be an interesting way to prevent mall and school shootings.

      3. I’ll be the first to admit that particular study does not perfectly address all questions about the safety of gun ownership. I’ll also support your contention that you have posted no peer-reviewed paper, with no data to support it,and as such we can discuss relevance after you provide better data (gathering it yourself is always an option).

        1. Um no. The study you posted isn’t just a little imperfect, it’s useless in regards to the conclusion the author and yourself draw. It’s only value is to reinforce a point against gun ownership to people who have already made up their minds against gun ownership and will accept it without any critical thinking.

          As for presenting you with better data I already explained why it isn’t going to happen. An actual good study on this topic is an impossibility because the best case scenarios are non-incidents that most people will not report and may even fear reporting.

          Finally, it is not necessary to have a study contradicting the results of an earlier study in order to discuss the relevancy or validity of that first study. The data collection methodology of the study you linked does not support the conclusion that was drawn. Granted, this neither proves nor disproves the conclusion but it does show that the conclusion is not a conclusion at all but merely a so-far unsubstantiated hypothesis.

          Feel free to come back yourself when you have better data!

          1. So perfect is the enemy of good?

            You have ZERO data – only your infinitely valuable opinion. Interestingly enough, there are a few papers out there that support your position – but if you can’t be bothered to find them, then your are just another pushy person repeating talking points on the internet. It’s been fun!

  21. I don’t want to get into the politics, especially since I am canadian, some of the people here are american, british, and a myriad of other nationalities, so I won’t. I can’t care one way or the other in this case, at any rate.

    However, I think that biometrics is less useful due to, say, wearing gloves, having an RFID blocking card wallet that might be in the way of the firearm being unlocked.

    I think a combination or key is useful if you have the time, but who has that if the situation is one where there is no time? I would also not want it to be as easy as a three code combination.

    How about the firearm being kept in a charger (I suspect a cable might be best for that, and to use the device, you insert a ‘married’ key that works on that firearm, which the battery (which would not need to be large) would unlock the firing pin which if the key is not in place, is locked down by a pin that sits in place if the key is not plugged in?

    If you need to have a clip installed, it’s really nothing at all to have a different card/keylock that you insert to activate the weapon. If nothing else, you’re less likely to have your child shoot themselves or you accidentally.

    If the firearm is wrested from your grip, the key (which has a ring on it) comes off, you snap it, and the worst they can do is pistol whip you. You can request a new key from the firearm company, or perhaps the local constabulary might have a key creator that can make new ones if you supply your serial number, or FAC identification which your firearms are tied to, or some other way that does not force registration, if you are adverse to such a thing.

    Again, the politics do not interest me, but I am interested in how one would do such a thing. How would YOU, the hackaday folks, devise a smart firearm, so Billy/Janey Jr don’t blast themselves, their kin, their schoolmates, or you?

    I’ll go back to reading the comments now. Perhaps there are interesting ideas.

    1. So basically an integrated trigger lock? Interesting idea but it would be a bit difficult to clean. No real need to use electronics for this to work, so are you suggesting that as a way around the cleaning problem?

    2. the thing about Canada is you have a list of government approved weapons that would scare the crap out of California legislators. yet somehow your nation survives these “assault weapons” without a bloodbath. Difference in cultures and attitudes and only two cultures of note instead of a multitude of incompatible attitudes.

      I still believe a good cable lock is as “smart” as anyone needs. If anyone is gonna break/cut or pick that lock, they;d be doing the same with any electronic system.

  22. If we get smart guns microsoft will release a version of the windows operating system to run on them Every second tuesday of the month your gun will connect to the internet and download numerous patches and updates. Some of those patches and updates will break your gun and cause it to have a BSOD during use, which in this case could have a whole new quite literal meaning. Others will send information back to microsoft and if your running wingun 7 or 8, will try to force you to upgrade to wingun 10. Of course if you want to use directshootx 12, you’ll have to upgrade to wingun 10 as microsoft will make it incompatible with earlier versions of wingun.

  23. Can you imagine apple getting into this and releasing an iGun? I bet they’d make plenty profit but the media would be shocked. Plus you’d have all kinds of hipsters and nerds at gun ranges all of a sudden.

  24. Reliability reliability reliability. I use finger print scanners on the daily at work. Different scanners, different companies, and they all can easily fail to scan. Burn you finger, get a cut, hold something rough like sandpaper or or skateboard griptape? Well you’re boned, your finger won’t scan.

    1. Doesn’t seem simple to me, they have the constitution, they have more than 330 millions guns, and they have 50 states to get to agree on things.
      They also have areas with wildlife where even the most peaceful person would agree to carry a gun, on top of everything.

    2. I’m sorry, I deliberately dangled the bait with that comment.

      I feel the answer is simple but the means to implement it in America is not. Australia seemed to manage it though. They had loose gun control laws but after a series of high profile shootings which sparked a media campaign the general public agreed that they couldn’t be trusted as a collective and gave their guns in in a buy-back scheme. Since this was introduced in 1996 Australia’s firearms related deaths have had 3.7 fold decrease between 1996 and 2014. In numbers that went from 5.4/1000000 deaths in 1996 to 1.5/1000000 deaths in 2014, for comparison the US had at least 40/1000000 firearm related deaths in 2014, can’t find accurate data right now for US Deaths in 1996.

      I think what makes it difficult in the US is a lot of Americans love guns and get scared when someone says gun control and then the debate runs up against a brick wall of denialism. However many of the measures suggested just seem like common sense and are not there to take firearms away from law abiding citizens. For example it is currently possible to be on the “no fly list” yet still able to buy a gun. Surely if you are deemed too dangerous to fly you should be too dangerous to own a gun right?

      However, as I don’t live there my opinion means nothing.

      -Population data taken from Google
      -US Firearm deaths taken from http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/tolls/2014
      -Rest of data came from referenced data on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_Australia

      1. Even your answer oversimplifies to absurdity. Not only was Australia’s crime already going down, but the buy-back that they implemented only took in — in the best-case scenario — 20% of the guns. There was massive non-compliance, and you can only assume that the law-abiding were vastly overrepresented in the paltry 20%. In the end, 4 out of 5 guns were still “on the street” in Australia and the 1 in five was collected from the most law abiding — yet crime still continued to drop at the same rate, with no change shown in regression analysis.

        Like I said, if there is something simple here, it’s you.

      2. whats funny is even other Australians thinking that their entire country is the big cities on the coast, like Americans who are totally clueless about “flyover country”. Big cities brag about gun control and think theyve made a difference inland. But knowing quite a few people personally who have “bringbacks” either handed down from elderly relatives from WWII and Vietnam to newer prizes snuck home from various “wars on” where the Australian government decided to play along. Stuff stays out of sight until its needed, then it goes away and no one raises a stink, and law enforcement that actually lives in the area, only makes waves if there’s serious misuse.

        The city folk will keep talking great success and the rest of the country will continue to ignore them, like a lot of Canada does its own urban smug output.

        1. The above is a fiction, or at best a personal anecdote from one person out of a population over 20 million. The laws in Australia are very clear, if you have a device that can harm people it is banned or required a licence and even then you have to be clear to even carry it on your own property. Any clothing designed to conceal a weapon or block a projectile is also classified as a weapon. You can get prosecuted for simply “alarming” other people.

          http://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/LEGISLTN/CURRENT/W/WeaponsCatR97.pdf

        2. http://reason.com/archives/2012/12/22/gun-restrictions-have-always-bred-defian/print

          This backs up what you are saying, Rick.

          Countries with strict gun control, typically the citizens have their own off-the-books stash of firearms, far exceeding the supply of guns the government knows about. France has about 3 million registered guns in citizen hands. They have nearly 20 million “unlawful” guns in citizen hands, by their estimates.

          Even today, the French have other priorities besides tracking down unregistered guns.

          In the US, by and large, we have between 350 million and 400 million firearms in private hands, most of which are not tracked, or if they are, they are tracked only to the point of first purchase and even then there’s a disconnect (I won’t bore you with the 4473 process…) between what the Feds know and what the gun dealer knows. And the idea of having to sign Federal paperwork to buy a gun from a dealer has only been around since the 60s. Guns made before that probably aren’t on anyone’s books…

          And in states that demand registration, compliance is abysmal. Most cops don’t consider it a priority to find unregistered guns. They’ll tack on an “unregistered gun” charge if they catch you doing something else illegal, at most.

          Registration and gun control, that ship sailed a long time ago.

          Smart guns? Sure, make them. Just don’t mandate them. If someone can come up with a smart gun that is reliable enough for a cop or a Fed to use, then tell me where to get it. A smart gun that works 99.999 percent of the the time, uses common ammo and is not much different in bulk than the GLOCK 30 on my hip right now? I’ll take it. Just don’t force me to.

          1. That is bullshit, Australia is an island continent with very strong boarder controls so it is not even remotely comparable to nations with such porous borders. There has never been a lot of weapons in Australia, even in rural areas where they are tools people are not obsessive about them, because they are just tools. The USA has an OCD like fear about guns, or the need for them, that Australians do not share, the USA is paranoid, on both sides of the argument.

  25. One of the guys I fly with had a tiny water leak on the windscreen short out the autopilot on his Piper Seneca. The system was not fully active but the servos engaged(it was off he had no idea) and he had no aileron or elevator. He was able to make the landing with rudder and trim on a long runway. On a small airplane the control surfaces are simple, like on a modern firearm. Adding complexity adds a quantifiable chance of malfunction.

  26. The problem is a bullet is very easy to actuate, so making a gun with hardware-store bits is no problem if all the real guns are somehow perfectly magically locked.

    But then bullets are quite easy to make, and identifying marks etc. are quite easy to remove.

    To follow the argument to its conclusion, it’s easy to sharpen a stick and use it for evil.

  27. The revolutionary war was fought by militias and people who wanted to protect their rights that they felt were inalienable and endowed by their creator. This is the United States. if you dont like the principles it was founded on there are plenty of countries that will agree with you. but this is our country and there will always be people who will be willing to fight for the right to bear arms. We need to all brush up on firearm education because its about being knowledgible and not locking everything away that can hurt us. children should be protected from guns and sharp objects, but as adults we cant pretend we live in a utopia by hiding all the scary things away in a dark box.

  28. i would argue to put the “SAFETY” on the munitions side, just like larger/smarter ordnance, like missiles.

    The bullet will not fire and simply stay in the chamber if it was not “unlocked”. This way the firearm must have a (electronic) part to unlock the bullet, and it will be less likely to be removed from the firearm as it is needed to fire “legal” ammunition.

    For lone gunmen/crazies/etc it would be a quite an undertaking to mod/hack all bullets to work around it (?), and a manufacturer/supplier/distributor of munitions-without-safety would be easier to trace and stop.

    or is it trivial to make ammunition yourself ?

    Then again, prices for ammunition would go up and failure rate would also go up, and who exactly are we trying to stop here ?

    1. It is trivial to make ammunition yourself. MOST serious shooters load their own ammunition already.

      This is a big part of the problem. The vast majority of the people with “ideas” on how to fix the problem have knowledge that is way, way into the “incompetent” part of the dunning-Kruger effect. The people suggesting ideas dont have the knowledge they need to realize how ridiculous the idea is.

      Here’s the analogy. Violent video games. Take guns out, and make it that someone wants to make a video game that it is impossible to play without Authorization.

      Now do you see how stupid the whole idea is, especially when we throw in government mandates?

  29. The problem for most folk is that a gun already does its job extremely well and all these measures don’t add anything of value for them. Hell even best case these measures are basically a wash. (Example: Bad guy can’t shoot my gun, but if the computer bit goes on the fritz neither can I.)

    With cars and planes and everything else technology added value despite it being a bit more complex and/or costly and when possible failed in a manner described as safe. The problem is that in a defensive situation failing safe means that the gun would need to be able to fire.

  30. I think some of the freedom-loving people in the US reject the idea of biometrics or “smart guns” because you know one day the illuminati will hit the backdoor killswitch and disable all guns, then bam, before you know it there’s no defense and you’re hauled off to the death panels and FEMA concentration camps and Obama is crowned king. I never asked for this.

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