There’s a subscription-based website out there called Motherboard, which hosts independent videos which largely focus on social and physical sciences from a liberal point of view. It’s a division of the media company, Vice, whose informational videos also appear from time to time on HBO. One of the GVP state-level groups, Washington Ceasefire, recently collaborated with a Motherboard docu-maker on a program about smart guns; you can see it on Youtube and it’s worth a view.
The video moves back and forth between interviews with a woman who lost her son because another kid accidentally shot him with an unlocked gun; a gun-shop owner who, of course, doesn’t want to have anything to do with smart guns; several smart gun inventors including a guy who implants a chip in your hand which can be programmed to be used as a bio-identity device; and the head of the ATF’s firearm lab which contains a storage area with thousands of guns. There’s also a quick cameo appearance by David Hemenway and Deb Azrael from Harvard’s School of Public Health, both of whom have published research which makes the amazing claim that shooting yourself with a gun might just be hazardous to your health.
These smart guns, or what is also called personal gun technologies have been flopping around the edge of Gun World for several decades, and while a story breaks out here or there, the technology as a consumer product just hasn’t taken off. Most of the resistance to product development comes from within the gun industry itself which sees these efforts as just another attempt by the gun-grabbers of America to get rid of guns. But I think that Harvard’s Deb Azrael got it right in the video when she says that the gun industry’s real fear of smart guns is that the use of the technology would make it appear that guns without a digital safety device would then be thought of as not being safe.
One of the things which has always impressed about the gun industry in a perverse kind of way is the degree to which innovation in the industry is very similar to innovation in the auto industry, namely, the products look different every year but the essential technology remains the same. The first internal combustion engine which used gasoline was developed by Daimler in 1889, and although there have been numerous refinements, just about every car manufactured over the last century-plus is built around a Daimler-type machine. The externals change every year, new color schemes, new lighting systems, blah, blah, blah. But it’s what’s under the hood that counts and what’s under the hood isn’t different in the least. [Yea, yea, I know all about the Tesla.]
The gun industry suffers from a similar lack of real innovation; i.e., the finish and stock change from year to year, but the way guns work with a firing-pin (or striker) hitting the primer which creates an explosion that pushes out the shell, dates from back before we were driving around in cars. So the gun industry, which also suffers from fairly narrow operating margins, is not only conservative in a political sense, but from an R&D perspective as well.
Despite what the NRA and other gun promoters say, with all the recent upshot in sales, the gun industry has always been forced not to figure out how to grow their market, but to figure out how to protect the market they already have. And if gun makers believe that anything they say or do will diminish the number of current gun owners, it won’t be said and it won’t be done.
The fear of change courses through the gun industry like molten lava running down a hill. Unless, of course, it’s a change which makes it easier to sell guns. Want gun makers to get behind technologies which can be used to make guns safe? Figure out a way for those technologies to also promote sales. [Thanks to Po Murray.]
Here’s the video link again.