Friday, July 20, 2018

Pew Poll Shows "Smart" Guns Could Cost Thousands of Lives

Among those who wish a disarmed population, any measure that makes firearms harder to access, possess, and use, is considered a positive thing.

Thus guns with complex electronic circuitry, that only allow certain users, possibly at certain times and certain places, to fire the gun, are being promoted as items that can save lives. From Bloomberg the spark:
Bloomberg follows 21-year-old inventor and entrepreneur Kai Kloepfer, who's created a "smart" handgun that could save thousands of lives.
This is a one sided argument that pointedly ignores the other side of the equation. "Smart" guns can easily cost lives.

According to a Pew poll published in June of 2016, one percent of people who say they have never owned a gun, have used one for defensive purposes. Seventeen percent of current gun owners say they have used a gun for defensive purposes, and nine percent of people who owned guns in the past have used one for defensive purposes, as defined in the Pew poll question.

Pew found 30 percent of adults in the United States admit to owning a gun. Forty-nine % of the remaining 70% say they never owned a gun.

In 2016, there were about 246 million adults in the United States. One percent of those who say they never owned a gun is 246 million x .7 X .49 X .01.

That is 840 thousand adults who have never owned a gun, who say they have used one for defensive purposes.

How many of those adults would have been prevented from using that firearm for defensive purposes if the use were limited by "smart" gun technology?

The claim that thousands of lives would be saved with smart gun technology rests on the assumption that many illegitimate uses of guns would be prevented by the wide adoption of "smart" guns, but that legitimate uses of guns would be unimpaired.

Very few suicides would be prevented. Smart gun technology would not stop gun owners from shooting themselves. The vast majority of suicides are committed with a gun owned by the person committing suicide. If a person cannot access a gun, many other methods are readily available for suicide. In Australia, when access to guns was made more difficult, single vehicle crashes and suicide by hanging increased to make up the decrease in suicide done with guns.

Very few murders would be prevented. Most murders are committed by people with a long history of violent, irresponsible behavior. Murders are deliberate acts. Very few murders are committed with guns that are accessed only moments before the murder, and not before.

Very few accidents would be prevented. There are only about 450 fatal firearm accidents a year in the United States. Most of them occur with adults who have access to firearms, but who are irresponsible in their actions. Electronics do not stop irresponsible behavior.

Very few murders involve criminals who take guns from the hands of police or armed victims. The number of police shot with their own gun used to be higher, around 20%. Retention holsters and retention training has significantly reduced those numbers.  In the last 10 years, the number of officers who have been killed with their own weapons has averaged 2.2 per year.  2.2 per year is a little more than 4%. It is very far from thousands a year.

Complicated electronics installed on firearms would cost lives through a higher failure rate. Guns are a safety tool for life and death situations. No one is suggesting putting complicated electronics that limit who can use fire extinguishers.

Smart guns are inherently more expensive than regular, time tested designs. More expensive guns means fewer poor people will be able to afford guns.

At the heart of the issue is a divide on whether guns are a net benefit or a
net detriment in society.

Those who have made the decision to be armed, do not want "smart" guns. They see them as unnecessarily complicated electronics that can fail, and which do not accomplish any significantly useful purpose.  They are wary of complicated electronics that might have bugs or "back doors" allowing the gun to be rendered useless by an opponent. They do not wish to trust their life to potential battery failures.

Those who have made the decision to be unarmed see "smart" guns as another way to prevent guns from being used. They do not intend to use guns themselves. They do not see any downside to preventing other people from using them.

The Pew numbers show hundreds of thousands of people who have never owned guns who used them for defensive purposes.

Many of them would have been prevented from doing so if the guns had the electronic circuitry in place to severely limit who could fire the gun.

"Smart" guns are more likely to cost lives than to save them.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

Gun Watch


Anonymous said...

With the vast amount of "un-smart" weapons already out there, a more expensive "smart" gun hasn't a chance anyway. I, for one, will keep what I have rather than ever buy one of those electronic gizmos.


Paul Weber said...

Complexity and reliability are inversely proportional.