The Smart Gun Doesn’t Exist For The Smartest Reasons

BY Herschel Smith
3 months ago

That’s not actually the title of the idiotic Bloomberg article.  It’s titled The Smart Gun Doesn’t Exist for the Dumbest Reasons.

Smith & Wesson still feels the wound it suffered two decades ago when it decided to invent smart guns.

The idea was to invest heavily in the development of personalized weapons that could be fired only by a single person: the gun’s owner. This was considered a nearly science-fictional proposition in the late 1990s, years before the world was filled with smartphones and finger sensors. But consumer backlash against the project drove the gunmaker to the verge of ruin, and Smith & Wesson recently told shareholders that the corporate bleeding touched off by this long-ago episode has never fully stopped. “Sales still suffer from this misstep,” the company said in a February filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The ordeal also didn’t lead to technical breakthroughs, and Smith & Wesson never brought a smart gun to market. Nor has Sturm, Ruger & Co., Remington, Colt, Winchester, Mossberg, or Glock. It’s not clear that any other major gunmaker has seriously tried.

No one involved can quite agree on who’s to blame for the standstill. Gun manufacturers fault difficult-to-navigate technology. Investors and entrepreneurs are sure that restrictive legislation has created a dead end. Politicians blame each other.

Nobody blames the free market. Nearly half of gun owners in the U.S. would consider buying a smart gun, according to a Johns Hopkins University study. (Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, is a donor to groups that support gun control.) The promise of guns that can be used only by one person is that there will be fewer fired by accident or by someone who shouldn’t have access to a gun, and fewer sold on the black market.

This is the story of why the multibillion-dollar American gun industry hasn’t yet managed to make guns any smarter.

Stop right there.  Let me dissuade you from your fantasies, collectivists.  No gun owner actually wants something more complicated.  He wants to be able to work on his own gun rather than paying exorbitant fees for a gunsmith to rebuild or repair it.  He wants to be able to craft his own versions and variations.  He wants to be able to modularize it and put different parts on it if he deems it more comfortable, more ergonomic or simply better for him.

No gun owner wants yet another permissive in the process.  The U.S. military calls it the “kill chain.”  Even though you are probably repulsed by that term, we’ll use it anyway.  No gun owner wants yet another permissive in the kill chain.  That’s another potential failure that wasn’t there before.  And no gun owner wants another permissive in the kill chain that can be hijacked by either government officials or others.  This idea that half of potential gun owning America would actually drop cash on something like that is a lie you have told yourselves over and over until you actually believe it.

Trae Stephens isn’t afraid to put real money into a product most gunmakers are too anxious to touch. His venture capital firm, the Peter Thiel-backed Founders Fund, is noteworthy among its Silicon Valley peers for investing in defense and security. But two years spent looking at nearly a dozen different smart-gun startups aiming to raise seed or Series A rounds, valued in the six- to seven-figure range, haven’t turned up anything worth backing.

“I want to do this!” Stephens, 35, says with a wide grin at the firm’s office in San Francisco’s Presidio park. “But there’s just no way I can.”

It’s not easy finding a VC willing to speak openly about guns, let alone invest in them. There have been frequent calls for the technology industry to take on firearms, the type of stagnant industry that seems ripe for Silicon Valley disruption. President Barack Obama sounded the call for the Apples and Googles of the world to get into guns. “If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint,” he asked in 2016, “why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?” But funneling engineering resources into next-generation guns has proved anathema in the liberal Bay Area, even if the intention is to improve public safety.

Folks lament the demise of simpler automobile engines that could be maintained by the backyard mechanic.  Now many folks have to send their vehicle to be worked on by technicians who have been to school at Ford or GM to get repaired.  There is literally no way gun owners are going to make their firearms more complicated.  There is no way.

Wiring electronics into firearms feels like the inevitable next step for the tech industry, which has succeeded in putting motherboards in vacuum cleaners, microwaves, and doorbells. “I started to go down these long Google searches,” Stephens says. “Why is it the weapons we’re still using haven’t meaningfully changed since World War I?”

Because we like simple.  Simpler is better.  Again, wiring electronics into firearms is not the inevitable next step.

His research came up at a Founders Fund debrief with Thiel and the fund’s other partners. “I said, ‘Look, there’s zero chance that any of these companies will actually make money. Am I missing something?’ ” he said. “The answer was no. And that was it. End of conversation.”

And that’s it.  That’s all you need to know.  There’s more in the article, but they could have shut it down right there and been just fine.

And I repeat what I’ve said so many times before concerning “smart guns.”

Perform a fault tree analysis of smart guns.  Use highly respected guidance like the NRC fault tree handbook.

Assess the reliability of one of my semi-automatic handguns as the first state point, and then add smart gun technology to it, and assess it again.  Compare the state points.  Then do that again with a revolver.  Be honest.  Assign a failure probability of greater than zero (0) to the smart technology, because you know that each additional electronic and mechanical component has a failure probability of greater than zero.

Get a PE to seal the work to demonstrate thorough and independent review.  If you can prove that so-called “smart guns” are as reliable as my guns, I’ll pour ketchup on my hard hat, eat it, and post video for everyone to see.  If you lose, you buy me the gun of my choice.  No one will take the challenge because you will lose that challenge.  I’ll win.  Case closed.  End of discussion.

And to date, no one has taken the challenge.


Comments

  1. On April 16, 2019 at 10:18 pm, wes said:

    Others will probably make some of these same observations.

    I will not purchase any product so equipped. In the event a weapon is needed for protection and I am incapacitated I will want my family or compatriots to be able to acquire any of my weapons and engage the threat. I could list many scenarios where this could become a possibility.

    In short, why would anyone want a defensive weapon that could be fired by only one person? That’s right they don’t.

    I would really like to know where they got that nearly 50% figure they claim, by polling the DNC headquarters perhaps.

    wes
    wtdb

  2. On April 17, 2019 at 10:26 am, Fred said:

    IDK, I tend to believe the 50 percent number…based on the wording of the question. A great many gun owners would answer yes to “would you consider purchasing” a SmartGun. (If that was the question asked. I didn’t see a link to the survey questions and data.)

    There are a great many gun owners that have heirloom or historical pieces and a separate but sometimes overlapping group that buy the latest gadgets and accessories. Would you consider purchasing a SmartGun is a much different question than would you make it your primary defensive weapon and an even further different question than would you rely on it to defend liberty against a tyrannical government.

    By my casual observation, seriously lacking foresight, the number of gun owners that have consolidated calibers and interchangeable platforms is pathetic. I’ve very little doubt that many would buy a SmartGun for the novelty. Talking about your latest toy remains all the rage.

    Having said all of that, I demand that my weapons go bang…Every. Single. Time. Period. The end.

    The engineering object of the technology added to cars, to continue the example above, was to add reliability and longevity. The more recent move to Smart(thing) is for tracking and remote control/cut-off. So the comparison is mute with car tech and SmartGuns because the object from the start with SmartGuns is make them less reliable, and of course trackable. Smart = Trackable.

    By the very concept that only one person can operate it, the SmartGun instantly becomes 7 billion times less reliable.

  3. On April 17, 2019 at 4:16 pm, scott s. said:

    I imagine if some poll taker asks if you will consider buying a smart gun, the socially correct answer is “sure”. When there are smart guns gov’t will control “who” the person is that can operate it. (And, oops, the system is down so your gun is inoperable until we can get back up.) While they’re at it making them smart, might as well just add a transmitter so the gov’t can track it at all times, just like with your i or droid phone.

    scott s.
    .

  4. On April 17, 2019 at 6:35 pm, Ratus said:

    Of course they don’t mention that the only “smart” gun available has already been hacked.

  5. On April 18, 2019 at 5:41 am, Todd said:

    I can’t unlock my iPhone with my finger if I washed too many dishes recently- I sure don’t want that happening if I needed to use my gun. Oops, let
    Me enter my 6 digit bypass code…wait, it does have a number pad.

    Let me know when the government goons sign up for them.

  6. On April 18, 2019 at 1:02 pm, Henry said:

    “There is literally no way gun owners are going to make their firearms more complicated. There is no way.”

    Yes, but that isn’t the point.

    I agree that no one who knows anything about or has any significant experience with guns wants these things.

    However, it would definitely open up a market of debatable size among the ignorant newbies, the people who secretly want to own a gun, but have been intimidated by the media lies and subject to peer pressure from their progressive friends into not owning one. Now that there’s a “safe gun,” how many would take the plunge (which is, after all, the needed first step in desensitization, deprogramming, and conversion to a greater understanding of the beneficial nature of weaponry in the right hands)?

    Case in point: In the 1990s, “no one who knows anything about guns” would have chosen to purchase a 1990’s era Lorcin or Jennings, as opposed to something that actually went bang when you pulled the trigger. But there was no shortage of people who bought Lorcins and Jenningses.

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You are currently reading "The Smart Gun Doesn’t Exist For The Smartest Reasons", entry #21001 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Gun Control and was published April 16th, 2019 by Herschel Smith.

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