In the wake of Newtown, CT, Christopher Dorner, the theater shooting in Colorado, Columbine and a host of other terrible shooting assaults on a defenseless public, there are calls for greater legislation to ban assault weapons and proposals to arm elemetnary school teachers and even janitors with weapons.
A poll published last week in the LA Times shows a majority of Californians, even a majority of California gun owners, favor stricter gun control laws and regulations that require background checks for all gun purchases — even private weapons sales — and toughen penalties for illegal gun purchases or using an illegal weapon. The poll also calls for greater steps to keep guns away from the mentally ill.
Conservatives who adore the second amendment are crying foul that the majority wants to restrict the second amendment (all the while calling the majority vote on Prop 8 reasons for why gay couples can’t marry). But could technology be the answer to making it safer for responsible gun owners to keep and use their weapons while preventing bad guys from using these weapons. Is biometrics the answer?
Technology exisits today that would use biometrics, the science that uses our body’s unique identifying properties, to authenticate our identies wth our firearms so that only the authenitcated person could fire it. Biometrics for firearms would likely by a fingerprint, although a telescope attached to a rifle could be used for an iris scan. Once authenitcated, the weapon can only be fired while the authenticated user is holding it. In the case of Newtown, where the guns used were all legal firearms owned by Nancy Lanza would not be able to be fired by the shooter, her son, Adam Lanza. By requiring all guns to be equipped with biometric locks, illegal weapons would be nearly impossible to configure and enable for use.
Adding this technology to guns would add to the cost and there’s still the huge backlog of exisiting weapons out there. But a biometric lock on a gun doesn’t restrict anyone’s second amendment right, it advances gun safety and responsible use, and it would prevent stolen guns from being used in commission of a crime. Consider the consumer products industry’s response to the Tylenol tampering case from about 30 years ago; tamper-proof packaging emerged after someone poisoned bottled of Tylenol resulting in several deaths. The prescription drug industry responded to accidential overdoses of prescription drugs by children by placing a choldproof cap on the pill bottles. The added safety precautions didn’t erode our freedoms and made if safer for society to trust consumer products purschased. So why not add a child protection safety feature to a weapon?
Back to the LA Times survey:
The findings often cut across demographic and political lines: Nine of ten gun owners and slightly more among non-owners favored background checks for all gun purchases. Eighty-seven percent of conservatives shared that position, along with 96% of liberals.
But even in a state that is home to some of the nation’s strictest gun-control laws, voters were more closely divided over some measures now being considered by state lawmakers. Those included whether to enact a five-cent tax on every bullet or allow schools to hire armed guards. One measure was a clear loser, as two-thirds opposed arming teachers in order to protect their students.
“Everybody agrees on keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people — criminals and the mentally ill — and on punitive measures against criminal enterprises. Those are no-brainers,” said Drew Lieberman of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic polling firm that conducted the survey with the Republican polling company American Viewpoint.
But “when you get to the some of the more … nanny-state-type proposals, you’ve got a little bit of a difference there.”
The findings come three months after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., reignited the gun debate. President Obama set gun control measures as a priority at the start of his second term; the Senate and House have been tussling over whether the federal government should take steps to protect citizens from gun violence or to minimize restrictions on gun owners.
In California, legislators are working on a parallel track with a host of other gun control proposals. Among them are the bullet tax, heightened protections for schools and the registration, insuring and licensing of all gun owners. The state already bans assault weapons, has imposed universal background checks and limits the size of ammunition magazines for sale.
Besides the background checks, voters expressed strong support for increasing the penalties for committing a crime with a gun (87%) and increasing the punishment for illegally buying, selling or possessing a gun (85%). Republicans overwhelmingly joined Democrats in supporting both.
Having grown up in a family of hunters, I have great respect for those who respect their weapons. I can’t say hunting appealed to me on three levels: hunting season is too freaking cold in Upstate New York, I hate getting up early, and there were enough drunk hunters in the woods at daybreak that just made sleeping in safer.
I inheireted ny grandfathers .22 rifle that was made in the 1930s; I promptly gave it to my brothers for two reasons — I had no interest in keeping the weapon and I knoew they’d respect and take care of it better than I evenr could. The second amendment says you have a right to own a gun. But there’s nothing in the Constitution that says you have to. And for my conservative and libertarian friends who believe they need to be armed to protect themselves against a tyrannical government, I can say one thing: if the government wanted you dead, you’d be dead. Their weapons, training, resources and firepower could take out out pretty quickly. So let’s surrender this notion that we need to arm outselves to protect against the government.
Author – Dan Chmielewski