Ready, Aim, ID Check: In Wrong Hands, Gun Won't Fire

Trei, Peter ptrei at
Mon Jan 10 12:04:21 PST 2005

John Kelsey

> >Ready, Aim, ID Check: In Wrong Hands, Gun Won't Fire
> I just wonder what the false negative rates are.  Seem like a
> gun that has a 1% chance of refusing to fire when you *really
> need it* might not be worth all that much.  Similarly, one
> that you can't get to work if you've got a band-aid on your
> finger, or a cut on your hand, or whatever, loses a lot of
> its value.  On the other hand, a gun that can't be made to go
> off by your toddler is a pretty huge win, assuming you're
> willing to trust the technology, but a 90% accuracy level
> sounds to me like 10% of the time, your three year old can,
> in fact, cause the thing to go off.  That's not worth much,
> but maybe they'll get it better.   And the "suspect struggles
> with cop, gets gun, and shoots cop" problem would definitely
> be helped by a guy that wouldn't go off for 90% of attackers.
> --John

A remarkable number of police deaths are 'own gun'
incidents, so the police do have a strong motivation
to use 'smart guns' if they are reliable.

In New Jersey, there is some kind of legislation
in place to restrict sales to 'smart guns', once
they exist. Other types would be banned. (Actually,
getting a carry permit in NJ is already almost
impossible, unless you're politically connected.)

This particular model seems to rely on pressure
sensors on the grip. This bothers me - under the
stress of a gunfight, you're likely to have a
somewhat different pattern than during the
enrollment process.

Many 'smart guns' also have big problems with
issues which arise in real life gun fights -
shooting from awkward positions behind cover,
one-handed vs two-handed, weak hand (righthander
using left hand, and vice versa, which can happen
if dictated by cover or injury), point vs
sighted shooting, and passing a gun to a disarmed

There are other systems which have been proposed;
magnetic or RFID rings, fingerprint sensors, etc.

The one thing that seems to be common to all of
the 'smart gun' designs is that they are
conceived by people with little experience in
how guns are actually used.

To look at a particularly ludicrous example, try

For a gun to work, it is just as important that
it fires when it should, as that it does not
fire when it shouldn't. A safety system
which delays firing by even half a second,
or which introduces a significant false
rejection rate (and 1% is way over the line),
is a positive hazard.

When the police switch to smart guns, and
have used them successfully for some time
(say, a year at least) without problems,
I'll beleive them ready for prime time.

Peter Trei

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