Despite people telling me it was a fairy tale…

science fiction, a waste of time, never going to happen, not even worth exploring, going to have bugs (unlike all other new tech), therefore too risky to even attempt, the ignorant suggestion of a lit major who should really just stick to what he knows and not bring his buttercup-twirling utopian ideas into the world of hard reality, as well as and lots and lots of other Can’t Do rhetoric, it appears that somebody has decided to forge ahead and try doing it anyway:

From the Intelligun website: Intelligun® is a fingerprint locking system which completely locks your gun, unlocking it immediately only for you and for your authorized users.

  • No change to your gun’s basic shape, weight, look or feel.
  • No actions needed to unlock — just hold your gun normally.
  • Relocks right when you let go of your gun.
  • Manual keyed override, allowing you to disable the Intelligun layer of safety with a key.
  • Available for order now on a model 1911 handgun.
  • Retrofit kit and additional handgun models coming soon!

Of course, it all remains to be seen how well the thing works. If it’s crap then nobody will buy it and that will be that. On the other hand, if it turns out to be a good reliable weapon that can’t be used by bad guys, then the market will (aside from some giant gun comglomerate doing something shady to destroy it) probably help make such weapons proliferate over the older versions. Seems like a good idea to me. Let’s head further in this direction.

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  • You mean ‘despite people entering into a conversation about an idea that still may or may not prove useful by asking questions and kicking things around.’ The ‘shut up, I’m brainstorming here’ approach was the shocker. Plus, just which parts of the gun violence problem would these help? That it can be programmed to allow ‘authorized users’ is promising, but it wouldn’t have stopped a Sandy Hook, since chances are the son would have been an authorized user. In fact, only four of the mass shootings in the last 15 years involved illegally obtained guns, and that includes Newtown. If there are no ill side effects to gun owners then that’s fine, since preventing even one death is a good trade off if lawful gun owners’ safety is not compromised. But that was the main question, and there is a debate about that among those in the tech side of things. Nobody asking those questions was unaware of the fact that our military no longer uses smoothbore muskets. Everyone is aware that technology can change. But just like the good and much praised Bob Goliard pointed out yesterday, there is the concern that changes could be rammed through and mass produced, not knowing any potential ill-effects, given the fact that to some, our reactions to Newtown echo our reactions to 9/11. That was all that was said, head forward with caution and ask questions.

  • Bryan

    I agree Mark that this is good tech, but it seems more likely to prevent your kids from firing off your gun or an assailant wrestling it away from you and shooting your with it than preventing a criminal who plans a mass shooting for weeks or months and buys guns and ammo for the purpose of using it himself. Doesn’t seem like it would prevent a gangbanger from obtaining one illegally that has been permanently put into the manual override position.

    • Karen

      That is still significant. Keeping kids from their parents’s pistols will reduce the number of accidental shootings.

      • Bryan

        I agree. I’m not saying it’s not a worthwhile piece of technology. In fact, the good in this whole debate so far to me seems to be the ideas like this that will make owning a gun safer for families with kids and things like that, which I welcome. But I’m not hearing anything that I believe will really prevent things like Sandy Hook, Aurora, or the gun violence in Chicago…which ostensibly is the whole catalyst for this new gun control push.

  • Will

    Is his name Robert Hedrock? “The right to buy weapons is the right to be free.”

  • Br David OSB

    Unfortunately this will only prevent other people from using your gun, it will not prevent the gun owner from going into a school or public place and shoot people. As much as I believe in the 2nd amendment and why it was created, all the technology in the world isn’t going to solve the problem of school violence.

    • keddaw

      Guns with built-in GPS that doesn’t work in certain areas.

      Guns with GPS and police over-rides so that they can switch off all guns in a limited area (mall or school, airport or bus station).

      Guns with wireless overrides so property owners (homes, stores, bars etc.) can disallow people to have live weapons in their place of business without actually taking people’s Arms from them. (although this one would be an excellent mod for your gun since it could disable your opponent’s while allowing you to fire).

      Lots of possibilities – many of which are useful for individual gun owners, but none of which solve the problem of the 200 million guns already out there.

      • Mark Shea

        My idea was to make ammo that is somehow only usable in the new guns and forbid the manufacture or sale of the old ammo. Sort of like how software upgrades make old tech undesirable over time. The state didn’t need to “outlaw” 386 computers. They just went away over time.

        • HokiePundit

          Mexico more-or-less tried this, making it so that civilian guns were only available in non-military calibers. It just didn’t work out very well, because 1) ammunition is pretty easy to make, and 2) military/police guns go “missing” an awful lot down there. There’s more control and less incentive for that to happen here, but it still does.

        • Matt

          Mark, it’s helpful to realize that 386 computers “went away” because newer ones were significantly faster and made the old ones deprecated. The new ones were light years away from older ones.

          The same is NOT true for modern (~100 year old) firearms. Case in point, look at a modern “1911” pistol. Its design is over 100 years old, with almost nothing changed to it, and people still love it.

          Some bullets that were popular 100 years ago are STILL extremely popular, because there’s only so much you can do to “make it perform better.” Case in point is the .45 ACP. It’s designed in 1904 and one of the top popular calibers today. The 9mm was designed in 1902 and it’s the most popular pistol cartridge today. People reload their own bullets if they want to. Forcing one caliber or another isn’t very smart, because people will use what they think is best, not what you force them to do.

          You have to understand that guns are only big metal things that serve the purpose of putting in a cartridge with a bullet in a narrow pipe, hitting the back, and quickly removing it and putting another one in.

          They aren’t luxury cars, which evolved technologically from cars 100 years ago. They aren’t cell phones either. It’s more comparable to a shovel or a pickaxe. Is a modern shovel that much better than one 100 years ago? Maybe in some ways, but probably not by that much. Not in a way that a new computer is better than one 10 years ago (although interesting enough, the gap is closing now, and even 5 year old computers don’t necessarily need replacements for modern software to run well on them).

          The best way new gun-tech happens is to let this let the free market figure it out. This is what things like SHOT show are all about (Google what “SHOT show” is to get an idea).

          If people like an idea, great! The free market takes care of the rest 🙂

          Example: $600 Aimpoint brand red dot sights are all the rage for AR-15s today. Why? Because they amazing technology that’s rock-solid (note, almost anyone that uses anything electronic on a gun has a “backup” for it that’s not electronic) and have a battery life measured in years of constant-on usage.

          If the free market doesn’t like it, don’t force the issue. Rest assured that those that view guns as a “defense against tyranny” will not like the idea of police “disabling” their guns on a whim, probably to similar reasons that appearing on secret “kill lists” is against the spirit of the our judicial system.

          That being said, I think it’s telling that an Smith & Wesson M&P pistol without a magazine-safety sells for more than one with it. That’s the free market at work here. People actually demand the “simplest” guns possible, are are willing to pay for it. It’s not irrational at the least, if you understood the mechanics of a firearm, and the rate of failure inherent to mechanical things of this nature.

          I mean it in the most positive way, Mark… ask a friend of yours to take you to a gun range (after explaining things to you for a good hour or so). It’s not to “convert” you to one way of thinking or another, but simply to expose you to a concept that you may have not really understood first-hand before. It’s one thing to talk about guns as an other-worldly entity, but another to actually shoot one.

          For one, I can guarantee you that anyone who actually shot a pistol target at over 7 feet will understand how difficult it actually is to hit anything at that distance accurately.

          Closing remarks: don’t be un-necessarily unfair to people resistant to ideas of change in this area. If a new technology is introduced and it works well, people will adopt it. If it doesn’t, they will drop it. It’s best to let it happen naturally this way, rather than legislate it into place and force them to use it.

          Believe it or not, guns are one of the areas where there is actually a huge amount of diversity and “choice”… almost too much 🙂 If an idea is good, it will catch on.

  • The Deuce

    I have no doubt that something like this can be made to work, if not now then in the near future. The technology is certainly available. I simply wanted to point out the intrinsic limitation of it, so as to be clear on what the benefits are: It can stop someone other than you from using it, but if a thief has some time and know-how (or knows someone who does), they’d be able to open it and remove the lock. The primary purpose of this will be to prevent people who might be near the gun regularly (members of your household) from being able to use it if you don’t want them to.

  • ivan_the_mad

    Diabolical crimes like Sandy Hook and Aurora are outliers on the bell curve of gun violence. I intuit that such a technology can have a positive impact on a big, meaty chuck of that bell curve. America often deals in extremes, and it takes instances of the extreme ends of a bell curve to call attention to that middle eighty percent or so. Doubtless there is no single solution to that or a Sandy Hook, and it will likely require several measures in conjunction with each other to seriously retard such crimes in the future. Severely limiting the pool of available users of a particular weapon is a good first step to at least reducing crimes perpetrated with stolen weapons.

    • The Deuce

      FWIW, I think this is a great thing to have available, and if I were to buy a gun, and the technology were affordable, I’d probably get a gun that had it to keep my son from using it.

  • Alexander Anderson

    I just read something that said something like 70% of gun crimes are committed with a friend or relatives’ gun. If that’s even close to true, we need to put whatever resources we can into this technology.

  • The Deuce

    One thing I do like about this idea is that it’s one of the very few “responses to Sandy Hook” that conceivably has anything to do with Sandy Hook. This sort technology would be an ideal choice for someone who wanted to own guns, but had a disturbed individual in their household, because if they live in the house, they’re probably not going to have the opportunity to steal the gun, take it somewhere else, open it up, remove the modifications, and *then* go on a rampage.

    • To be honest, it probably wouldn’t have stopped Sandy Hook at all. By all accounts, Adam Lanza’s mom took him and helped him train with the weapons. Most likely, all things equal, he would have had access to bypass the given technology. Not that I’m in any way saying anything negative about the tech solutions, but in the Sandy Hook case, it most likely wouldn’t have helped.

      • The Deuce

        You’re probably right in this case, which is why I just said “conceivably.” Still, perhaps other people with a problem kid will think twice after Sandy Hook if this technology is available. Another good thing to have would be a temporary lock release, so you can bring others to the shooting range and let them use your gun, but not have to specifically add or remove their biometrics.

        • I’d like to think so. Some of the lock features are promising. My only concern is that no lawful gun owners be hindered or harmed. So nothing that would, in the sake of self-defense, make stumbling and fumbling for some tech feature be the reason a person can’t defend himself. Otherwise, if it doesn’t hurt anyone and can only help, that’s fine as long as we accept just which portion of the gun violence a given solution addresses.

  • Anson

    I owe you, Mark, an apology. Although really my snarky fictionalized exchange between a legislator who was a lit major and a mechanical engineer was actually a response to Oregon Catholic who made what I considered a breezy statement that we’ll just make guns where the trigger doesn’t move unless it is the authorized user’s finger on it. I asked for some further clarification of the idea since I was having a hard time picturing just *how* you cram a trigger-block technology into firearms that have little real estate available for jamming in servos, solenoids, hydraulics, battery packs, etc… (except for AR rifles which have all kinds of space for add-ons, I just don’t want to head down the road where we favor technology that increases demand for military style rifles). I got a breezy response back that if Oregon Catholic knew *how* to do it, then he/she would be in the shop right now doing it. I found this unsettling so I posted that snarky fictionalized exhange. It wasn’t really meant to *be* you. I’m not sure if I knew you were a lit major or not, but I had to pick out something from the humanities or fine arts for the purpose of building the snark. But I shouldn’t have been trying to build the snark.

    I was being dismissive and I picked out a particular “type” to be dismissive toward: the breezy humanities academic. And that was really unfair. Granted I thought that people like Oregon Catholic were being dismissive of my concerns, but that is not license to be brutally dismissive in return. I truly apologoze to both you and Oregon Catholic. I hope more people with degrees in humanities participate in the discussion. It would be easy to get into the technological weeds about how something works on a technological level and forget why we wanted it in the first place. A lit major is far more capable of teasing out issues like the solidarity owed to victims of gun violence, the justice or injustice of utilizing arms in a self defense setting. It is the lit majors that are best prepared to bring us back to our shared humanity and I was dismissive of them. For that you and Oregon Catholic have my profound apology.

    • Mark Shea

      Thank you. All’s forgiven. Sorry I’ve been cranky in response. My apologies too.

  • thomas tucker

    If you really want to cut down on accidental death of children, outlaw swimming pools, or mandate pool covers.

  • HokiePundit

    1. When I have kids of getting-into-trouble age, something like this would be a very nice thing to have, so long as my wife and any responsible children could use it, too. That said, I want my “iPhone to be as reliable as my Kalashnikov, not the other way around.” Getting the BSOD during a robbery would be a pretty big bummer.

    2. I’m all in favor of developing gun safety technology. I know I prefer to use a 1911 as my carry gun because it has two external safeties. That said, things like fingerprint sensors and microstamping aren’t even remotely well-developed enough to be reliable. And, even if they were 100% reliable, they might still be an unreasonable infringement. If requiring a picture ID to vote is unconstitutional, then surely mandating these technologies is, too.

    3. It seems to me that an easy way to defeat this technology is to kill the owner and use his prints, like in all the Hollywood secret agent movies. Or, you know, use a flat-head screwdriver to unscrew the grips and use the gun normally.

    4. What if I’m outside and wearing gloves?

    5. Let’s see the police incorporate this technology first, as a show of good faith. If they’re not willing, then why should anyone else be?

    6. Cost: it’s important that self-defense isn’t priced out of the range of poor people. A commenter on an earlier thread noted that folks are managing to scrape together $2,000+ to pay for an AR that was going for $750 a few months ago. That’s true, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are people out there who have to scrimp to even save $250 for some Soviet-surplus pistol.

  • In ‘Licence To Kill’, Timothy Dalton’s second outing as James Bond, the character uses a signature gun. The target of the assassination bid survives.

  • Far better than trying to childproof your guns is is teaching your children to be gunproof. Children as young as four ought to be able to learn that your guns are dangerous, and to be left alone without your supervision. By the time they’re six, the first two of Col. Jeff Cooper’s Four Rules can be made part of their thinking. And I tend to agree with him about rifles.

    • Thomas Tucker

      Your kids must bedifferent from my kids.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Regardless of the tool discussed, key override is useless in an immediate emergency, especially one measured in fractions of a second.

    Weapons maintenance was my bread and butter in the Navy. I’ve been in that moment when time slows down and a half second may as well be an eternity. My point about your lit degree had to do with your hectoring approach to the subject at hand, not your ignorance of the subject at hand, great though it may be, Mark.

    But you are already showing signs, as evidenced in your post about Mr. Price. I’ll pray harder the Mark we know and love finally comes to the forefront on this issue. You have something useful to say. I hope you find a constructive way to do so.

  • Kenneth

    It’s an encouraging development, and proof that the technology is viable on some level. Will it stop all Sandy Hooks or be appropriate for every owner? Not at all. It will become a partial solution. Maybe it will cut down on accidental shootings or impulsive teen suicides.

    Will it be crap or reliable? Probably some of both, and in ways the inventor didn’t discover in testing. Like all other technology, the early adopters and gadget freaks will lay out the money, shortcomings will emerge, and new generations of the device will roll out that will be twice as good and half as expensive.

  • Well someone finally took one of these things out of the lab and put it in a booth at a gun show. For the life of me I can’t find any reliability data. That’s not a good sign (though it could just be bad PR). With the NJ law on the books, either this will soon be recalled or the rest of the 50 states can see how the NJ gun owners success rates in using their firearms are changed, if at all.

    The process of deploying smart gun technology has been long set up. A solution is now proposed. Now we wait and see how the bodies stack up.

    Mark, I think you might not have understood some of the commentary about science fiction. I speculate all the time on science fiction turning into science fact. For myself, and pretty much all the commentators I read the concern has been and remains that legislation will mandate non-existent or fundamentally flawed technology and that people will be hurt because of it. To avoid that bad outcome, rhetorical brakes should be appropriately applied. If the problems are solved, that’s a completely different matter and you judge based on results and *then* legislate after sufficient data becomes available.

  • Seamus

    I’m planning to take the kiddies (and the missus, if she’s interested) to go target shooting at the firing range at NRA headquarters next Saturday. I don’t own any guns, so I’ll be borrowing those from others in my group who will be there. Good thing this kind of gun isn’t the only one available, or we’d all be SOL.

    • Seamus

      I just realize that I’d overlooked the part about being able to override the fingerprint locking system with a key. So my family could still use such a weapon at the range after all.