Smart Guns Are Stupid Science

REAL CLEAR SCIENCE — The power has been out for two months. Word of mouth, around the FEMA depots, says it should be back soon. That’s what they said last month too. Suddenly, in the wreckage of your home, you hear the footsteps of a band of looters. You reach for your gun, but it won’t unlock because its battery died last week…

You fell asleep on the couch. A burglar kicks down your front door and jams a cold pistol muzzle to your forehead. You realize that the gun your wife is groping for in the dark bedroom will only fire if it is within inches of the RFID watch. But the watch is on your arm…

The whole point of owning a gun is that you only need to use it in the most extreme situations (and you pray these never arise). You don’t plug your gun into a USB port before going to bed, knowing that tonight is the night that you’ll need it. You don’t pop on your special RFID digital watch before slipping between the sheets. A gun needs to be ready for the only circumstances it is designed for: the unimaginably horrible ones.

A gun that is hamstrung by special technological conditions to fire is a liability to an owner who keeps it for protection from these terrifying moments. Science would say that smart guns are a stupid idea.

Murphy, author of the famous law, is unknown to history. It’s a good bet that he was a scientist, or possibly an engineer. He stressed one of the most important things to understand as a practitioner of sound laboratory science — and daily life — is the minimization of extraneous variables. The fewer things that you need to happen perfectly right, the more likely your plan is to succeed.

Gun technology changes very little over time. This isn’t due to lack of scientific progress or some conspiracy. Quite simply, a reliable tool should be as simple as it can possibly be. A cleaned, oiled, mechanically sound gun is extremely simple. It doesn’t suffer from unnecessary complications that risk failure at a crucial instant.

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