Recently in the news you’ve probably been hearing a lot about "smart" firearms. The concept is simple: a firearm with an electronic "lock" that must be disengaged in an appropriate manner before the firearm can discharge. The flaws with the concept are immense and myths abound about it. So let’s get into this.
First, proper care of any firearm requires disassembly so you can clean it. Sometimes the takedown is simple to clean out the barrel and firing chamber, perhaps scrub out the slide. Every once in a while the takedown needs to be a bit more involved to clean out gunk that gets into all kinds of nooks and crannies and piles up over time. If you own a Beretta 92, you probably know that periodically you need to remove the extractor and clean under it – and you’ve probably seen what can build up under there over time.
It’s one of the reasons Glocks are so popular, as they are quite easy to properly maintain.
This means that because disassembly is a mandatory part of maintenance, there would need to be disassembly instructions available, meaning instructions to potentially get to the electronic lock on the firearm and either bypass it or completely remove it.
Now it’s a common assertion for anti-gun proponents that the NRA is "blocking" smart guns from coming to market – which is not true, they are only seeking to block mandates surrounding them, such as the one in New Jersey. They say these guns are needed because they can "only" be fired by the person who owns it. This is not true.
For one, any firearm that would rely on a radio signal to function can be jammed. This means that if these firearms started becoming standard issue for military and police, signal jammers, despite their illegality, would start becoming widely popular among gangs, organized crime syndicates, terrorists, and the like. Guaranteed.
Second, the eletronic discharge authorization mechanism – the electronic "lock", so to speak – can be bypassed or removed altogether, meaning the safety mechanism that gun control proponents are most demanding (short of an outright ban on civilian firearm ownership) is easily bypassed or disabled. All it’d take is a multimeter to various contact points on the circuit board to find out which chip to bypass, in which case it’s a simple solder job to render the "lock" inoperable. Meaning the stolen firearm that wouldn’t work because of a biometric or RF lock is no longer inoperable and can be used like any other firearm.
But you know what cannot be easily bypassed? The safety mechanisms already built into every firearm on the market today, because they are tightly integrated into the function of the firearm.
Plus, depending on how the firearm is built, something as simple as a static discharge to the body of the firearm could render it dead. So hopefully whoever’s making these "smart" firearms are doing some ESD tests across the entire body of the firearm.
"Oh but we can pass a law that makes it illegal to bypass such mechanisms." For one, most States already have such laws, as the laws against defacing a firearm would apply to attempting to modify or disable such electronic mechanisms. But do you really think that’d stop people from doing it?
And how much effect do you think that’d have on the illegal arms trade, both in the US and abroad? Likely none, since a lot of firearms are defaced or illegally modified before being sold on the illicit markets – an example is modifying the mechanisms that prevent automatic fire in a semi-auto firearm.
Plus if a person disables the electronic lock, how can a police officer determine if the lock is functioning? They have to discharge it. So are they going to discharge it during a roadside detention for something minor? Absolutely not, because it would be an unjustifiable discharge of a firearm and expose the officer to potential criminal liability. So they’d have to seize the firearm to either examine it on sight or take it to a lab, which would require probable cause under the Fourth Amendment, meaning if challenged the officer would have to demonstrate through evidence a very sound reason to believe the firearm they seized was illegally modified.
Too many gun control proponents appear to look at "smart" firearms as their Holy Grail without looking at the fake gems and flaking gold leafing coming off the chalice to reveal the smart firearm to be anything but.