Police Officers: Don't Force Us to Test Smart Guns

Last week we reported on President Obama's latest push for so-called "smart gun" technology, which was part of his package of executive orders announced in January.

The President wants certain government agencies to adopt the as-yet perfected technology, which would prevent any unapproved person from using a firearm through some electronic means, in order to force gun manufacturers to bring them to market.

He has ordered federal agencies to explore the technology and report back. Some of the biggest skeptics of the tech are police officers worried about being used to test the unproven firearms on the streets in life or death situations, according to this story from politico.com.

“Police officers in general, federal officers in particular, shouldn’t be asked to be the guinea pigs in evaluating a firearm that nobody’s even seen yet,” said James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, in the story. “We have some very, very serious questions.”

"Entrepreneurs and researchers who’ve worked on smart guns say that government will have to take the lead on creating a viable market and showing the guns work when police and military use them — 'not the bully pulpit, but the buying power of these public agencies,' as Don Sebastian of the New Jersey Institute for Technology put it in an interview."

Advocates of the tech accuse the gun lobby of driving boycott threats against stores and manufacturers that have tried to sell smart-gun prototypes, but the fact remains, no viable technology has been introduced that will be effective 100 percent of the time. If you want an idea of the place the tech is now, think about the reliability of the fingerprint reader on a smartphone.

While there has been no indication Obama will issue an executive order mandating smart-gun purchases for the federal government, there is a precedent for such action.

“In 2002, a New Jersey law required that all gun shops sell only personalized guns within three years of a proven product hitting the market. To avoid triggering New Jersey’s countdown, gun rights activists pressured retailers not to sell any version, even harassing stores in California and Maryland that tried to sell one.

“Recognizing the unintended consequence, New Jersey Democrats tried to loosen up the rule recently, requiring New Jersey retailers to simply include a smart gun in their stock once a version is on the market, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie, in the thick of his presidential bid, killed it with a pocket veto in January.

“Gun rights groups, including the National Rife Association, are not against funding research for smart guns or putting them on shelves. But the NRA does oppose any law that would prohibit people from buying a gun that doesn’t have personalized technology and its website casts the motives for a mandate in ominous terms: ‘as a way to prohibit the manufacture of traditional handguns, raise the price of handguns that would be allowed to be sold and, presumably, to imbed into handguns a device that would allow guns to be disabled remotely.’”

In the story, Pasco compared the push for smart guns to the decision to limit local police departments' access to surplus military equipment.

“They sit down among themselves and decide what is best for law enforcement, but from a political standpoint, and then tell officers they’re doing it for their benefit,” Pasco said in the story. He went on to say that of the 330,000 officers in his union, “I have never heard a single member say what we need are guns that only we can fire.”