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'Smart guns' dumb idea for police, even dumber for the rest of us

Safety comes from learned behavior, not mandated gadgetry
Safety comes from learned behavior, not mandated gadgetryPhoto © Oleg Volk. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

With the recent entrance of so-called "smart guns" into the market (although that entrance was short-lived and rather disastrous), it is worthwhile to remember that back in the days when this technology was a fantasy, rather than the failure-ridden reality to which it has now advanced, one of the selling points was that police work could be made much safer, by greatly reducing (perhaps to zero?) the number of officers killed by suspects wrestling their guns away from them and killing them.

So way back in 2008, rabid forcible citizen disarmament advocate John Rosenthal, founder of "Stop Handgun Violence," argued in the Huffington Post that "smart guns" would save the 17% of officers killed in the line of duty by suspects using the officers' guns after wresting them away:

It could also help save the lives of the 17% of police officers killed in the line of duty by a criminal accessing the officer's gun.

Actually, he is still arguing that (again in the Huffington Post), although he is claiming a far more modest 4% figure:

As if those were not reasons enough, personalized gun technology could also prevent officers being shot in the line of duty by their own gun, which accounts for about 4% of officer homicides.

A problem that Rosenthal appears unwilling to address is that cops don't want the "safety" he is trying to bestow upon them. In fact, in New Jersey--the only jurisdiction so far to have passed a law mandating them--the "Only Ones" are specifically exempted from the "smart gun" mandate, presumably because the bill would not have passed in the face of police organizations' inevitable resistance to being forced to trust their lives to such gadgetry.

Actually, we have seen that officers resist even the far less intrusive, far more reliable magazine disconnect "safety feature," simply because it makes for a heavier trigger pull, and thus less accuracy.

Wednesday, a United Press International article went into some detail about the reasoning behind police resistance to the "smart gun" requirement. The article, which points out that officers are shot with their own guns sufficiently frequently that police body armor standards require that the vest can stop the duty rounds used by that department, still makes clear that the police are very skeptical:

For police, [FOP Washington advocacy center executive director James] Pasco believes the biggest weakness with electronic guns is reliability. Sensors and fingerprint readers need to work even when covered in sweat, dirt, or blood -- and once the weapon is picked up and ready to be fired, it needs to work no matter the situation.

And then Pasco makes a truly startling statement (emphasis added):

“In a combat situation, a shooting situation, there’s real confusion and chaos. It’s not like TV,” Pasco said. “Often times they’re very close quarters. We want a police officer to be able to take any gun, his partner’s gun, a criminal’s gun, any gun, and use that gun to his advantage. If he is in a scuffle, and he gets a criminal’s weapon and it’s useless to him, we’ve got a safety problem.”

Yep--apparently the Fraternal Order of Police don't want to take the risk that the criminal's gun won't work, in case the officer gets it away from him and needs to use it.

If police are endangered by a requirement to carry "smart guns," and they are endangered by criminals carrying them, just who is it that should be required to use them?

The obvious answer is nobody.

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