What’s The Best Way To Defend Yourself? A Gun Or An Iphone.

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This morning’s email feed from The Trace contained a link to an article in the online Forbes Magazine about the sale of a new iPhone case that looks like a gun.  The article wasn’t particularly positive about the product; in fact, it was downright negative, listing 15 different reasons why something could go “very, very wrong” for anyone who paid $51 for what appears to be something made in Japan or at least shipped from Japan.  The Gun Grip Case as it’s called is evidently no longer for sale on this particular website, which features all kinds of products from Japan, but a competitive product for $24.99 has already appeared in another online store.

gun-grip-case-iphone-5-cover-1                God Bless America – if there’s something out there – anything – which costs money, you’ll find someone in our great country who’s willing to buy it. But aside from our desire to shop until we drop, I found the content and tone of the article somewhat disquieting because why should an organization like Forbes which is committed hook, line and sinker to free enterprise look so negatively at someone’s attempt to make a legal buck?

And the reason may lie in the fact that the Forbes reporter, Tara Haelle, spends most of the story interviewing an attorney named Emanuel Kapelsohn, who is identified as the Vice President of something called the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors, which is sponsored by just about every major gun and ammunition manufacturer around.  Kapelsohn is quoted as saying that the Gun Grip Case is a “stupid, stupid, stupid product that should never be sold,” and the article then goes on to list no less than 15 reasons to support Kapelsohn’s point of view.  Here’s a couple of real doozies right off the list:

  1. Someone could mistake the iPhone for a real gun.  Huh? They could?  It sure as hell doesn’t look like a gun to me.  Actually it looks like exactly what it is: an iPhone stuck on a plastic gun.
  2. A cop could shoot someone waving it around or pulling it out of their pocket or purse. I thought that cops had to be able to pass a vision test in order to be a cop.
  3. A cop could injure or kill a bystander in attempting to address the perceived threat. See # 2 just above.

And in case these reasons aren’t enough to keep this product off the market, Kapelsohn who is also an attorney is quoted as saying that the company making this product will “absolutely be sued out of existence.”  Has Kopelsohn ever gone into Wal Mart and noticed all the air-soft guns that look a lot more like a real gun than anything that this Japanese company is trying to sell?  For that matter, how come gun companies haven’t been sued out of existence in states that allow residents to walk round with real guns that aren’t concealed?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that Kopelsohn’s concerns aren’t genuine or real.  What I am saying is that the problem isn’t whether or not someone can walk around with a droid or any other kind of gadget that looks like a gun.  The problem is that people are walking around with the real thing in their pocket and if somebody pulled one of those out and waved it around, Kopelsohn would no doubt have the same concerns.

Or would he?  One of the corporate sponsors of his training organization is an outfit called Team One.  And they run training classes for all kinds of shooting skills, including one course called “Concealed Carry Instructor Workshop,” which is described as a course that “is designed to merge combative handgun techniques with everyday carry and concealment of the personal handgun.”

I love the idea that Kopelsohn’s organization is sponsored by a training company like Team One. Frankly, I’d rather be sitting next to someone whose iPad is attached to a plastic gun than someone with the real thing in their pocket just waiting to engage in ‘combative handgun techniques.’

Is Smart Gun Technology Coming Or Going? I’m Not So Sure Either Way.

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Now that half the world will soon be walking around with an iPhone that recognizes the owner’s thumbprint as the way to unlock the device, it would stand to reason that smart-gun technologies would soon be offered to consumers as well.  But what stands to reason in the mainstream consumer market rarely, if ever, penetrates the world of guns, so it came as no surprise to me that the first-ever symposium on smart-gun technology came and went without a single representative of the gun industry in sight.

I’m referring to a meeting this past week in Seattle, hosted by the Washington Technology Industry Association devoted to the issue of smart guns and featuring an appearance by Loretta Weinberg, the New Jersey State Senator who authored the nation’s first smart-gun legislation requiring all new guns in New Jersey to be equipped with smart-gun technology within 30 months after the first smart gun was sold anywhere in the United States.  The countdown almost began last year when a gun shop in Maryland stocked a few models, but the owner yanked the guns off his shelf when the store was besieged by 2nd-Amendment terrorists who threatened to burn him down.

smart gun                Smart-gun technology got started in a big way during the Clinton Administration which awarded $600,000 in R&D monies to Smith & Wesson and FN in return for undertaking research into the development of smart guns.  These grants were the first step in a major investment in smart gun technology, with federal budget numbers as high as $10 million annually for research being bandied about.  The only little problem was that the initial awards were announced in 2000 and an unforeseen event, a.k.a. the election of George W. Bush put a quick end to all such plans.

So here we are in the waning days of another President who should be extremely friendly to the idea of smart guns, but he has no money to give out to anyone for anything related to guns, and it was clear from comments at the Seattle smart-gun conference that nobody else has any real money to fork over either for research or for moving such products into the consumer market which is where the real test of this technology would have to take place. The conference host, the Washington Technology Industry Association, has certainly seen its share of new, electronic innovations over the years.  After all, Seattle is a hop, skip and jump from Redmond, and I don’t have to tell you the name of a little hi-tech company that just happens to be located up there.

The folks who met in Seattle, while supportive of smart guns, were not unsparing in their concerns about possible technical and legal problems that such technology represents.  To begin, there is the simple issue of whether or not the technology actually works, and while there are several smart guns that allegedly have been tested under real-life conditions, even smart-gun proponents like King County Sheriff John Urquhart voiced concerns at the conference about whether he could trust this and other electronic gun accessories to operate in ways that would not impede the overall effectiveness of a police officer’s gun.

Much has been made in the liberal media about the NRA’s opposition to smart gun technology, but for once I have to say that taking the NRA to task over this issue may be a little bit overblown.  It’s true that some of the NRA bloggers and their allies in the ultra-right media have spoken out against these guns from time to time.  But this is nothing more than the usual attempts to feed the 2nd Amendment ‘absolutists’ their daily ration of red meat.

The problem with smart gun technology is that, unlike other new technologies, it’s coming from outside the industry rather than from within.  And the gun industry, the recent fascination with lasers notwithstanding, is a notoriously conservative, un-innovative industry from a technology point of view.  After all, probably the best-selling handgun today is the exact same gun that John Browning designed in 1907, a year before the first Model T.  Anyone seen a Model T lately?


Want To Get Rid Of Guns? Let Everyone Get One.


There’s been lots of internet chatter about a new technology that allows anyone to print out and assemble their own gun.  The company that developed this interesting product, Defense Distributed, was ordered to remove the diagrams from their website but not until more than 100,000 downloads took place.  In order to make the gun you need a 3-D laser printer which runs about $1,600, plus about $25-worth of plastic and yes, the gun “functions,” according to some early tests, but it’s a single-shot, 22-caliber, and it shoots but not very well.

I think that if Mike Bloomberg is really serious about spending fifty million bucks to promote more effective gun control, he should consider bankrolling a company that will find a way to cheapen the cost of the printer, which would bring down the cost of the gun to perhaps less than what Glocks and other standard guns cost now.  At which point, I’ll bet you that all kinds of computer geeks will start developing software that will let people print out and assemble lots of different gun models – AR-15’s, concealable pistols – and you can kiss the gun industry goodbye.

Liberator pistol.

Liberator pistol.

Chances are, for technical reasons I won’t bother to explain, that the plastic gun will never work very well.  But imagine the demand for such products given the fact that as long as you don’t sell the thing to someone else, you don’t need any kind of license at all.  And since guns, like alcohol and tobacco, fall under excise tax regulations, you can’t really regulate home-made guns for the same reasons that someone who brews up his own wine down in his basement is not required to tell anyone what he’s doing as long as he consumes the booze himself.

But here’s the problem with home-made guns.  The point of alcohol and spirits is that they are made to be used up.  The problem with guns is that the damn things don’t break down no matter how often they are used.  I have a Browning Hi-Power pistol that was manufactured in the Herstal factory in 1968 and it shoots as well today as when I first pulled it out of the box.  Until my son “borrowed” it, I had a Colt 1911 pistol that was manufactured in 1919, and my son didn’t walk off with it because he wanted a gun that wouldn’t work. The esteemed gun researcher, Philip Cook, claimed that one-third of all crime guns recovered in Chicago were more than 20 years old.

Obama is correct.  Gun folks “cling” to their guns because those guns are the only thing they ever bought that didn’t immediately break.  Computers last 2-3 years, the average car has been on the road for 11 years, some of the glassware you bought last month at Crate and Barrel didn’t survive three weeks.  But like that old Timex ad says, guns take a licking and keep on ticking.  And not only do they keep ticking, they are also cheap as hell.  I bought a new 1911 pistol in 1979 for 300 bucks.  There’s an internet reseller who will deliver a 1911 pistol to your favorite local dealer for $450, which includes overnight UPS.  That’s hardly a big increase in price considering that we are talking about thirty-five years.

Turning guns into mainstream consumer products has always been the dream of the NRA.  And a plastic gun that kind of works is no different from the cheap iPhones and droids which also kind of work.  When guns become just another cheap, disposable consumer item, they may sell like crazy but they’ll do much less harm.  After all, it’s kind of tough to make people think that they can defend themselves with a gun when they know that after one or two shots they might as well throw the thing away.




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