At a White House conference on Tuesday with representatives of state and local law enforcement from all 50 states, Vice President Joe Biden asserted that an “overwhelming majority” of Americans fully support so-called smart guns — firearms that can only be fired by a particular person. Biden claimed that this technology “could have gigantic payoff for us” in saving lives and reducing gun-related violence.
Now, President Obama wants to use federal grants to encourage police departments to buy “smart guns” for officers. The idea is to prevent officers’ guns from being used against them. In reality, this technology is more likely to endanger lives than to save them.
Smart guns use a fingerprint or palm reader in order to operate — something akin to what is available on your smart phone. Or they can require a radio signal from a wristwatch worn by the officer.
But perhaps the Obama administration should watch fewer James Bond movies and listen to the concerns of the police, who are less than thrilled about experimenting with these new types of guns. “We have some very, very serious questions,” says James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Another problem is that the recoil from firing a smart gun could damage the sensitive electronics. This would be especially true of larger-caliber guns. The smart gun that is currently available is a mere .22-caliber handgun and costs about $1,800, including the watch. The cost of arming all full-time law-enforcement officers would run in excess of $1.1 billion.
The Obama administration should watch fewer James Bond movies and listen to the concerns of the police.
It’s one thing to require that police officers carry these guns. But New Jersey now mandates that once these smart guns are available in stores, they will be the only type of handgun you can buy. Even if the price of smart guns falls to the point where they’re only a few hundred dollars more expensive than other guns, the higher costs will price many Americans out of the market. These laws would disarm the very people who are the most likely victims of violent crime — poor blacks who live in high-crime urban areas.As with the push for expanded background checks, it’s hard not to conclude that “commonsense” smart-gun laws are simply another way of increasing the price of guns and reducing gun ownership.
Gun-control advocates only seem to look at the benefits of gun control. But if they really want to save lives, they should to finally acknowledge — and answer — the fact that these laws have real safety costs.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated.