In the movie Thank You for Smoking, there is a scene where the characters Nick Naylor and Jeff Megall are discussing the idea of making a new movie about outer-space to promote cigarettes by having characters light up. During the discussion, the two address the problem of the reality of being able to smoke in outer-space:
Jeff Megall: Sony has a futuristic sci-fi movie they’re looking to make, Message from Sector Six.
Nick Naylor: Cigarettes in space?
Jeff Megall: It’s the final frontier, Nick.
Nick Naylor: But wouldn’t they blow up in an all-oxygen environment?
Jeff Megall: [long pause] Probably. But, you know, it’s an easy fix. One line of dialogue: “Thank God we created the, you know, whatever device.”
The, ‘you know, whatever device,’ was one idea Joe Biden recently came out with in a long proposal of gun control measures. More specifically, during his Friday press conference, Biden stated:
We will be meeting with technology experts because. . . a lot could change if, for example, every gun purchased could only be fired by the person who purchased it.
That technology exists, but it’s extremely expensive. But if that were available with every weapon sold, there’s significant evidence that . . . may very well curtail what happened up in Connecticut.
According to one news outlet, that technology is commonly known as smart gun technology. As the Daily Caller reports:
A gun with the “smart” technology would sense the gun owner’s biometrics and grip pattern, allowing only the registered gun owner to operate the weapon. Similar devices, such as RFID chips and magnetic rings, are both available and under development.
However, Nick Bilton, technology reporter for The New York Times’ technology blog “Bits,” wrote Wednesday that weapons featuring the biometric technology are hard to find in stores, because demand is low.
Now, the smart gun technology is a little more developed than the ‘you know, whatever device,’ but there are enormous legal issues surrounding this specific proposal, and some of the gun control proposals in general. Against that backdrop, one has to wonder why the administration would put this particular proposal out there. Anyone else get even just a little uncomfortable when the government is proposing technology to be installed on consumer products? Now, just imagine how the likes of Alex Jones and others will react to that notion. I am not trying to join the tin-hat army, rather, pointing out the fact that proposals that use some form of the phrase ‘government required technology in home and consumer products’ is not going to set the stage for productive debate.
Then there’s the practical issue with the smart gun proposal. Suppose you are at home with your family, and an intruder breaks in. You get your gun, see the intruder is also armed, go to pull the trigger, and . . . nothing happens. Then you realize that your government issued drogan’s decoder wheel you are suppose to have on you so that your gun will fire isn’t working. I guess in that case you could remove the bullets, channel your best Sandy Koufax, and throw them at the intruder. Or maybe throw the gun at them and hope it knocks them out.
We could have a lot of fun with this (not to mention that this proposal is coming from a guy who, during the 2008 campaign, politely asked a man in a wheel chair to stand up), but there are serious legal and practical issues to the proposal that need to be addressed in a manner other than screaming at some poor Brit. However, after the actions of the last Administration, phrases like executive order, and government technology installed in consumer products, will not create a receptive audience.
The first issue is, as Biden alluded to, cost. Such technology cannot be cheap (I don’t have figures, but am assuming the cost is high), and the question becomes who bears that cost? Gun owners will not want to pay it, though the public will likely insist as, the argument will likely go, gun-ownership is why we need the technology. But it’s not just a matter purely of cost, there is a Constitutional angle in this. Presumably this technology would be a government requirement. If the cost of this technology becomes prohibitively high, making it economically impossible to purchase guns, you now have the question as to whether the government is attempting an end-run around the Second Amendment. The government is not physically taking guns out of the hands of owners, rather, just preventing them from purchasing them–in effect, an outright ban on a particular gun(s).
Next, there is the issue of how exactly this proposal (like other proposals) would have prevented tragedies like Sandy Hook, and whether it will prevent future tragedies. This technology would likely be used on all guns (firearms, or whatever the appropriate nomenclature) yet to be manufactured. That does virtually nothing to address the 270,000,000 guns in the country already. So yes, assuming the smart gun technology was in full use at the time of Sandy Hook, the shooter would not have been able to use the guns he took from his mother and the technology would have prevented Sandy Hook. But that also assumes he would have been so easily deterred and not sought a gun that he could fire.
There is also likely to be a real concern among gun-owners about how such a technology will impact the reliability of their guns. What happens when the above scenario takes place, and as a result of their firearm being rendered ineffective as a result of the technology, he/she and their family is robbed, murdered, or otherwise harmed? There is also the question of what does this mean when a family has one or two firearms in the home, and more than one person needs access to them. Do we have transferable fingerprint technology where multiple people can fire a gun? Who makes the determination that multiple people can fire the same gun? Further, are there limitations on who can be included in that list of people will be technologically allowed to fire a particular gun? Who makes that determination? In short, there are a lot of issues that need to be threshed out before this could proposal could ever come close to becoming law.
Lastly, there is the thorny issue of Biden’s remarks that regarding this and other gun control measures:
The president is going to act. Executive orders, executive action, can be taken. We haven’t decided what this is yet, but we’re compiling it all with the help of the attorney general and all the rest of the Cabinet members.
Among those proposals:
A working group led by Vice President Biden is seriously considering measures backed by key law enforcement leaders that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, the sources said.
These proposals are not going over well within the President’s own party. At least one Democrat believes the Administration’s proposals go too far. Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp stated:
I think you need to put everything on the table, but what I hear from the administration — and if the Washington Post is to be believed — that’s way — way in extreme of what I think is necessary or even should be talked about. And it’s not going to pass.
However, the use of executive order to push through gun legislation is not a new phenomena, and judging by what past Presidents have addressed through that mechanism, the legislation is likely to be tempered. Both Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton enacted gun control measures through executive orders, though the issues they addressed sat more on the periphery of the issue:
The first time it happened was in 1989, after a mass school shooting Stockton, California, as President George H.W. Bush used a 1968 gun control law to limit the importation of foreign firearms – his executive order banned the shipment of certain assault weapons, unless they were used for sporting purposes.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton expanded on the Bush Administration move by banning the import of almost five dozen different assault weapons that had been modified to get through that “sporting purposes” exemption.
So, there is history to this, and the history tells us that it is unlikely that the Administration is unlikely to use an executive order to institute wide-ranging gun control measures. However, the Administration has failed in one sense–it has framed the discussion in the absurd with some of the statements the VP made recently. Discussions about executive order, and government issued/required technology on consumer products do smack of royalism and totalitarianism. Sure, there is little reason to believe that an executive order will have wide-ranging measures, or that the smart gun technology will be put into full use. However, if the left cannot understand why people are so reactionary to such language that insinuates unilateral executive action, it only need look at the actions of the prior Administration, and what Democrats had to say about it to understand the public’s likely apprehension . . . to say nothing about whether those measures would be effective.