Electronics and firearms. Spoken in the same sentence it can turn an otherwise reasonable gun owner into a very upset individual. The reason for this is because many gun owners see the marriage of electronics and firearms as the gun controllers’ wet dream. I think this is mostly due to the fact that electronics and firearms generally only get mentioned in the same sentence when access control technologies are being discussed. But there are so many more possibilities made possible by loading firearms with electronics. One company has developed an sensor package that inserts into the grip of a firearm that enables several interesting capabilities:
A Silicon Valley startup said Friday that police agencies were field testing its new product: a wireless sensor that transforms officers’ weapons into smart guns with real-time telemetry.
Yardarm Technologies’ sensor is a small device that goes inside gun handles and provides dispatchers with real-time geo-location tracking information on the weapon. The Yardarm Sensor also sends alerts when a weapon is unholstered or fired, and it can “record the direction of aim, providing real-time tactical value for commanders and providing crime scene investigators valuable data for prosecution,” the company said.
What I’m about to say is considered heresy by many gun owners but I really like the idea of this sensor package. First, it’s an optional accessory that doesn’t interface with any of the firearm’s mechanisms so if the package fails it doesn’t render the firearm useless. Second, this technology is being aimed at police officers and I believe it’s time to start tracking the actions of on-duty police officers are thoroughly as they track us. Police departments have invested in license plate scanners, cell phone interceptors, and other technologies meant to track us so it’s only fair that the police submit to the same scrutiny and be made to wear body cameras and have firearms that record valuable information when they’re unholstered and discharged.
This sensor package could potentially be a valuable tool for armed civilians as well. Many drivers have started using mounted dashboard cameras in their vehicles to record evidence if they are involved in an accident. Those of us who carry firearms could benefit from our firearms collecting data on any defensive shootings we are involved in as it could help us prove the shooting was defensive in nature.
Although the term smart gun is a dirty word amongst gun owners it shouldn’t be. A smart gun merely implies a firearm that has electronics on board, not that it has some kind of access control mechanism. The obvious trend of our species is to collect more and more data. That’s because we find data incredibly valuable. So smart guns will become prevalent in the future and firearms without electronics will likely be seen similarly to muzzle loaders today. That isn’t a bad thing. More data can lead to further improvements in firearm technology as well as shooting abilities. What is important is ensuring the data collected can be controlled by the owner. This is no different than currently pervasive technologies. Our smartphone are the most obvious example. They’re data collection devices. The major debates surrounding smartphones isn’t really whether or not the devices should collect data but who should have access to the collected data. This is because a lot of people find the collected data valuable but they want to control who can access it. Smart guns will be the same. Gun owners will find the collected data useful but will want control over who can access it.