After Beretta revealed its PXi4 series of sensor laden pistols I started thinking of many cool things that merging electronics and firearms could enable. Then I got to thinking of a criticism I sometimes here in regards to marrying electronics and firearms, which is that the existence of such technology would lead to it becoming legally mandatory. This criticism isn’t entirely without merit. Ed Markey, a senator from Massachusetts, recently introduce the Handgun Trigger Safety Act of 2014. The act would require all handguns manufactured three years after the passage of the act to include technology that only allows them to be used by authorized individuals. It’s a great gun control tactic since such technology isn’t widely available. In fact the Armatix iP1 is the only pistol on the market that advertises such technology and it hasn’t been widely tested yet (not to mention it’s only available in .22 Long Rifle).
Alas I don’t believe the fear of access control technology becoming mandatory in firearms should stop the firearms industry from pursuing more high-tech firearm designs. After all, the technology doesn’t even exist yet and we’re already seeing legislation mandating access control for firearms. Whether the technology exists is irrelevant as far as legislation is concerned. But more importantly the advantages of merging electronics and firearms are many.
I touched on some of them when I was fawning over the Beretta PXi4 and have touched on other advantages in an earlier post. When you look at the advantage of tying a round counter, recoil sensor, slide cycle timer, trigger pull weight recorder, chamber pressure sensor, malfunction counter, and other statistics to a heads-up display or mobile phone the possibilities become practically limitless. Imagine being able to instantly call up the number and type of failures a particular gun has suffered over the years you’ve owned it. You could see, for example, that cartridges that operated at specific pressures caused a certain error. Tuning ammunition to give a desired bullet velocity while maintaining a minimal desired amount of recoil would be trivial. If you encountered an error that you had previously encountered years ago you would be able to call up that data and see what changes you had to make to get around it (because let’s be honest, after a few years we usually forget a lot of fine details about how we fixed something). Buying a used gun would involved less guess work if you could demand the data for the total number of rounds firearm and number of errors experienced from the current owner.
As a species we are merging electronic technology with all of our other technology and it is inevitable that firearms will receive the same treatment. In a generation or two gun owners will likely be just as baffled by guns that cannot report the number of rounds fired since it was purchased as we are by flintlock rifles today (that is to say there will only be a handful of people who know how to properly operate or understand the older technology). The sooner we get underway with his merger the sooner we get all of the kinks worked out.
Fear is a terrible motivation for failing to pursue a new technology. Allowing fear to prevent us from advancing technologically only hinders our species’s potential. Yes, there are wicked people who want to use technology for nefarious things. Senators want to use technology to enact gun control. Military leads want to use technology to reign more efficient death and destruction down upon their enemies. But those wicked people won’t stop their pursuit simply because good people are afraid of the technology. We might as well reap the benefits because we will certainly be dealing with the consequences regardless of our decision.