A few weeks ago I purchased a new handgun.
I wanted to write about it, but in light of the shooting in California I decided to delay the post. Blogging about my enjoyment at the purchase of a new firearm didn’t seem appropriate considering. And then there was a shooting mere blocks from my family home at Seattle Pacific University. And then another at a High School in Oregon.
Like or it not I now have a role in this conversation.
While discussing the events with friends I’ve seen the question forming on their lips. Very few of my friends have a firearm. What did I, a seemingly reasonable person and friend, think of gun control?
So many of the arguments, particularly those promoted on the preferred channels of the left and the right, are at the extremes and do little to advance the conversation. Solutions, as they so often do, reside in the murky middle. And there’s room for nuanced positions in this argument, there’s room for reason.
The most strident of gun proponents are quick to cite our nation’s rich culture and history with guns in defending their 2nd amendment rights. Regrettably, the all or nothing positions of the NRA and, worse still, of select members of the Open Carry community, do a lot of responsible gun owners a disservice. If only they were as quick to appreciate our history of ingenuity and innovation.
As an entrepreneur I’d like to see meaningful investment in gun safety. Regrettably most advancement in firearm development has been in furthering their ability to maim or kill and too little in making sure they don’t fall into the wrong hands.
As I type this post I’m on the road returning from a visit to the in-laws using a GPS navigation system to track our progress. A personal hotspot provides internet access to the iPad air resting on my lap. My point? What if a fraction of the talents of Silicon Valley were pointed toward gun safety? Ron Conway, regarded as the most successful ‘angel’ investor in the Valley recently pledged a 1mm fund for technologies advancing gun safety. It’s precisely what the industry needs; provided we also have the courage to use it.
It’s telling that one of the Q Branch gadgets from Skyfall was a ‘smart gun’ that would only fire if Bond was holding it. Palm readers have been in development for years with mixed results, but bio metrics are just one approach to ensure a gun doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. The newly developed Armatix iP1 uses radio frequency identification (RFID) and requires proximity to a paired watch to fire. The firearm is deactivated if the watch isn’t in range (10 inches) or lost. Other technologies with a similar intent require a ring instead of a watch while others analyze an owner’s unique grip instead of reading prints.
Ironically, one of the main impediments to smart gun sales is gun control legislation. In 2002 New Jersey passed the Childproof Handgun Law that says that all guns sold in the state must be smart guns three years after the first smart gun is sold in the United States – the first smart gun sale effectively starting the clock on the arguably presumptive mass commercial viability of smart guns. Not surprisingly, there has been strong opposition from interested parties to make sure this precedent is never set including death threats and ousted CEOs.
Smart gun critics exist on both sides. Select gun enthusiasts fear failure rates, cost increases, and legislation against guns without smart gun tech. But failure rates can likely be reduced, if not eliminated entirely, with continued investment. Costs likely would increase initially, but would fall over time as technologies improve and production scales. As for existing guns, a simple grandfather clause would suffice. Did the government come for our cars when seat belt legislation was passed? How about air bags?
Gun control advocates lament that smart guns will give a false sense of security and only solve part of the problem. Maybe, in this case, good should win out over great.
Short of a national reclamation project akin to what Australia enacted in the 80s, we’ll likely always have some level of gun violence. But I refuse to believe we can’t find a more peaceful co-existence with the 2nd amendment. As with renewable energy we’ll likely need an ‘all of the above’ solution to make real progress. Some efforts will work, and some will fail – any entrepreneur will tell you that experimentation and iteration are crucial to success.
Innovation, paired with improved access to mental healthcare, and comprehensive background checks could (and should) be just the start. The alternative is literally killing us.