Every few years the media carries a story on some company that is in the process of developing a ‘smart’ gun, which is a gun that can only be fired by someone who is identified either as the owner of the gun or is allowed to use the gun. The identification process is usually the same process that you can find on many cell phones which contain a fingerprint scanner that automatically unlocks the phone.

              This whole ‘smart gun’ business actually started back in the 1990’s, when Smith & Wesson spent money from government grants to develop this technology. The company never put its resources behind the effort, and eventually the patents were purchased by a venture capitalist, Ron Conway, who then put together a tax-exempt foundation to develop a smart gun design, a deal which eventually went nowhere fast.

              It turns out that one state, New Jersey, actually has a law on the books which requires licensed gun dealers to stock at least one smart gun in their stores. But the law doesn’t take effect unless the dealers can stock smart guns which as of this writing, still don’t exist. In 2014 a German company, Armatix, started shipping a smart gun to the United States but it was quickly pulled from the market when the internet carried stories about hackers who were able to easily jam the electronic mechanism which unlocked the gun.

              The much bigger problem for the smart gun manufacturers is the question of price. The word going around is that a company named Lodestar, which is beginning to get noticed by the media for its smart gun, will set an MSRP of $895, which is about $500 cheaper than the retail cost of an Armatix, and a thousand bucks cheaper than a smart gun being developed by  a company called SmartGunz, a Kansas outfit which has yet to actually produce a working gun.

              I own and carry a Glock 17 pistol, and because I live in Massachusetts, I must keep the gun safely locked unless I’m holding it in my hands. When I bought the gun it came with a trigger lock, courtesy of a 2005 federal law which requires that every gun manufactured in the USA (or imported into the country for commercial sale) be shipped with a trigger lock or some other locking device, free of charge.

              If I wanted to buy a safety device to lock my gun and render it inoperable unless the locking device is removed, I could pick one up at the local gun shop for a few bucks, or I could go to the local police station which probably distributes free gun locks courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF.)

              What’s the advantage of an electronic security device over my little trigger lock which came with the gun? If it works, in theory I can disable the gun lock at the same time that I am pulling out the gun.

So, the question is this: Do I want to spend somewhere between $500 and $1,000 which will allow me to get my Glock ready to be fired at the ‘bad guy’ trying to break into my house or coming up behind me as I pull some cash out of the ATM?

              The point is that if the gun is being carried around as a self-defense weapon, even the states with the strictest laws on locking up guns exempt the gun owner from keeping the gun locked if he could reach the weapon with either hand.

              What the smart gun people say is that the real reason for owning a smart gun is to reduce the possibility that a child will somehow get his hands on the gun, and we don’t want to think about what that means, okay?

              Back in 2014 an accidental shooting occurred in an Idaho Walmart the day after Christmas, when a two-year old child reached into his mother’s purse, pulled the trigger of her legally owned handgun, and shot her dead.

              Leaving aside the question of why this poor lady felt it necessary to arm herself for a trip to Walmart in Hayden, Idaho, the more important question is this: even if a smart gun would have prevented this terrible accident from happening, what are the odds that violence of this sort represents a serious public health problem in the United States?

              We don’t know how many youngsters accidentally kill someone with a gun on a regular basis, because the CDC tracks victims, not perpetrators of shooting events. But if we can assume that the age of a victim and the age of a perpetrator in accidental shootings is more or less the same, the percentage of all 2020-gun fatalities involving a shooter under the age of 12 was .001% of all the gun deaths which occurred that year.

              In other words, if we want to use technology to help us reduce the 45,000 annual gun deaths that suffer, should the accidental gun deaths of children who pick up a gun without knowing what they are doing be an issue which should rank high on our list?