Michael Maiello's picture

    I Think I Have The Gun Solution (Not Kidding)

    This might be* stupid, but hear me out.

    One of the problems with guns is that for all the fancy gadgets and accessories, they are pretty low tech.  You can put a laser site on a rifle.  It's still just an enhanced version of a very old technology.  It's a technology that is so old that it is not networked in any way.  It cannot be controlled from afar any more than a hammer or hacksaw can be.

    We've been talking a lot about biometrics that would prevent anyone but the legitimate owner from firing the gun.  That strikes me as a credible idea.  But, it does nothing to stop a legitimate owner from committing crimes or killing people.  As we've been told, most spree shooters are, if not legitimate gun owners, could have easily passed the various screens in place to get guns.  They don't have priors, for example.  The spree is their first, and last crime.

    If you want to stop spree shootings, you need to retrofit all guns with a networked device that police can use to turn the safety and lock the gun down from afar.  Is that... far fetched?  I'd submit that the technology exists to do this.

    The complaint might be that this would disadvantage civilians in a gun fight with law enforcement.  I don't much sympathize.  Even in cases of police abuse (false arrest, harassment, etc.) you're expected not to combat law officers but to seek legal recourse after the fact.  If a cop walks into my office right now and places me under arrest for a crime I know I didn't commit, it is not my prerogative, no matter how wrong the officer is, for me to knock him down and put him in a figure four leglock.  If I do, I've committed a wholly separate crime.

    So... remote gun deactivators, run by law enforcement, on all new models sold going forward and retrofitted on all models out there with severe penalties for non-compliance.

    Why the heck not?

    * "will be"



    2nd read!!!

    You are kidding of course? Retro fit 300 million guns? The guy could kill dozens before the gun came on network. If the network was made by Cisco it would need at least one re-boot before it worked.

    Interesting idea and kudos for thinking creatively, but I doubt that you could make it foolproof. If this were introduced, hobbyists and tinkerers would immediately work out how to disable just as hackers now jailbreak their iPhones. Criminals could then learn how to do it online.

    Also, I suspect that it would be unconstitutional, as it would contradict the intent of the Second Amendment.

    If you watch the Defcon video I posted in the comments on my last blog, you can watch them break into a biometric gun safe in minutes.  You're right to suspect that such measures would be vulnerable to exploit.

    Once upon a time, as a part of my job, I was required to enter a colocation facility and as part of the authentication and logging process, I had to place my hand on a biometric thingum.

    One day, as I escorted someone who had to administer something; and as he waited while I "negotiated" with the biometric thingum, he said something like:

    'Yeah, we tested some number of those one time. Turns out that all we had to do was, instead of using our palm, turn our hand over and the biometric thingum let us in.'

    Then, there is this sort of issue:

    FBI Admits Attackers Compromised SCADA Systems in Three U.S. Cities Posted 2011-12-01

    And as far as rooting my Nook, my phone, or my Tivo; installing DD-WRT on my Linksys or a new BIOS on my PC motherboard; or running a cracking program off of my GPU...never mind the soon-to-be-if-not-already issue of spyware in firmware courtesy of Chinese hardware manufacturers: the possibilities are just as endless as the tech solutions.

    Which means (looking way ahead) that the Rapture of the Geeks is pie in the sky.

    While we're in creative mode, how about economic incentives? Penalize gun manufacturers for the use of guns in violent crimes based on some kind of statistics-based point system. If the penalties are large it enough, it should discourage manufacturers from producing guns that are popular among criminals. They would be incentivized to produce guns that lack elements like pistol grips and high-capacity magazines.

    This proposal would undercut the arguments of gun rights supporters because 1) nothing would be explicitly banned, and 2) the most affected guns would be those used for crime. You would also avoid the problem of manufacturers finding loopholes in the law because the market would determine the most lethal weapons, rather than a committee of bureaucrats.

    PS You could alternatively tax gun sales based on the same statistics, but I don't think it would work as well because there would be a lag before the statistics came in. The manufacturers could keep changing the model every year to avoid the tax.

    I like it.  It's similar to the system of pollution credits that stopped the acid rain problem...

    The Republican Party National Platform explicitly stated their opposition to holding gun manufacturers legally liable for gun use.

    Additionally, the use of guns to 'stand your ground', wound or kill bad guys would have to be weighed against the victims of spree killers. One bad guy might be worth 5 innocents, to Fox News and the GOP. Call it a Homeland version of collateral damage.

    How to rate the shooting of a pizza customer who was complaining about waiting more than 10 minutes for his Little Caesars pizza 2 days ago in a St. Pete pizza joint, use of the gun good or bad ?

    True, the point system will provide the opportunity for many debates and endless Daily Show routines.

    PS That platform plank concerns civil liability, which is a little different, but nonetheless, I am under no illusion that the Republican Party would support my little proposal.

    Enacting this policy would be tantamount to banning handguns:

    Data is from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.  Again, this is why I keep trying to point out that discussions focused on rifle furniture are misguided.  Knives are responsible for as much or more death in the US than all other guns combined, including any that have features frequently targeted by many gun control advocates.

    When the police have the drones, the spree killers will hit the subway....

    Michael, why are you spending time trying to outwit spree killers? Isn't it a bit like having a hero fantasy?

    They want to kill and die at the same time, but it's easier to fight something like Al Qaeda when they do the same thing, than to outwit spree killers, as Al Qaeda has an ideology you can profile....

    To me it makes no sense to focus on preventing spree killings when so many many more lives can be saved by certain gun control measures that aim to prevent  the much more vast damage of their use in crimes of passion....

    Yes, we can probably blatantly use the emotional response to spree killings to get more gun control, but I don't fool myself into thinking that when you do it will have much affect on spree killings, as the professor said:

    sensible gun laws, affordable mental-health care, and reasonable security measures are all worthwhile, and would enhance the well being of millions of Americans. We shouldn’t, however, expect such efforts to take a big bite out of mass murder. Of course, a nibble or two would be reason enough.


    Fascinating idea, Michael. Stupid, as you yourself concede, but fascinating.

    If we are retrofitting hundreds of millions of guns with such a remote-control device, we could go one step further. In addition to a button to disable any gun, we could program one to cause any gun within a certain radius to discharge.

    Then, if your gun-toting neighbor pisses you off, you just walk down the street carrying your remote and cause his own weapons to blast holes in his living-room walls, pickup-truck windows, and body parts if he's unlucky enough to be in the process of polishing up his arsenal.

    Level the playing field, I say. If guns simply become too dangerous to own, we'll see a drastic drop in gun-related crimes. Also in NRA membership. So it's a two-fer.

    Well it sounds to me like you have the basis for a great script here!

    By the way, all of you naysayers...

    Magneto basically did this in the first X-Men movie.



    Even in cases of police abuse (false arrest, harassment, etc.) you're expected not to combat law officers but to seek legal recourse after the fact.

    " Six days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, members of the city's police department killed two people: seventeen-year-old James Brissette and forty-year-old Ronald Madison. Four other people were wounded. All victims were unarmed. Madison, a mentally disabled man, was shot in the back. New Orleans police fabricated a cover-up story for their crime, falsely reporting that seven police officers responded to a police dispatch reporting an officer down, and that at least four people were firing weapons at the officers upon their arrival….. Several officers—including Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, Sgt. Robert Gisevius, Officer Anthony Villavaso, and Officer Robert Faulcon—arrived at the scene in a Budget rental truck. They proceeded to open fire with assault rifles and a shotgun on an unarmed family, the Bartholomews,


    Danziger Bridge shootings  From Wikipedia,

    Damned if I would seek recourse, after my death. When the cops shoot to kill you, for no reason; you think you should just let them kill you?


    Ha! We are the collective. It's like Battlestar Galactica meets Harry Potter.

    I like the idea and even with the flaws mentioned above,  it could work. You could probably add some anti-tamper mechanism that would ruin the firearm if an owner tried to tamper with it. The biggest hurdle would be modifying firearms that are already in circulation. Actually, the biggest hurdle would be gun owners who already feel the government is too intrusive in their lives. They'd fight this with motto's like "They can take my life, but they won't touch my guns!". 

    Isn't this kind of a combination of  the OnStar and LoJack systems for cars? They can track stolen cars and unlock doors remotely ...

    Yes!  I'm telling you... the technology exists.  It's all about putting it to work.

    Heck, maybe I invited criticism by suggesting we retrofit the guns out there. This could be applied to guns going forward, and that would either deter new gun sales or make for guns with off switches taking over as the rest of the arsenal ages.

    Also, your comment brings to mind... ignition locks on cars for people with DUI convictions.   We could make people take a breathalyzer before firing a gun!

    LOL.. I'm not sure why we need outlandish, impossible solutions when we already have all of the tools we need to preempt/stop at least some of the rampage killings.

    "The Joker" in Aurora being a prime example.

    The guy planned his attack for FOUR months, making numerous purchases of guns/ammo/gear online with his credit cards. deliveries were made to his home or workplace. the guy made NO attempt to hide what he was up to.

    The notion that buying hundreds of rounds of ammo online is "normal" for a hunter or sport shooter, and therefore when a brainiac college student/NON hunter makes similar purchases (given the fact several recent rampage killers have been college students or in that age group) and that should not raise a red flag is total, dangerous nonsense.

    Let's stop the bullcrap excuses.


    Unfortunately, we don't have the tools. Or rather, we're not allowed to use them...

    For example, under current laws the bureau is prohibited from creating a federal registry of gun transactions. So while detectives on television tap a serial number into a computer and instantly identify the buyer of a firearm, the reality could not be more different.

    When law enforcement officers recover a gun and serial number, workers at the bureau’s National Tracing Center here — a windowless warehouse-style building on a narrow road outside town — begin making their way through a series of phone calls, asking first the manufacturer, then the wholesaler and finally the dealer to search their files to identify the buyer of the firearm.

    About a third of the time, the process involves digging through records sent in by companies that have closed, in many cases searching by hand through cardboard boxes filled with computer printouts, hand-scrawled index cards or even water-stained sheets of paper.

    In an age when data is often available with a few keystrokes, the A.T.F. is forced to follow this manual routine because the idea of establishing a central database of gun transactions has been rejected by lawmakers in Congress, who have sided with the National Rifle Association, which argues that such a database poses a threat to the Second Amendment. In other countries, gun rights groups argue, governments have used gun registries to confiscate the firearms of law-abiding citizens.


    I suggest you read Bamford's piece:


    and this:


    The notion "we can't stop perpetrators of mass murder" is nonsense of the worst sort.



    Michael was pretty clear in saying that having/using a national registry of gun transactions is a political hurdle, not a technological one, so I'm not sure what sort of Aha! moment you believe will be provided by the Bamford piece. And while arresting people for making vague threats on Facebook might have some effect, it certainly wouldn't stop your more quiet massacre-ers from going about their business, and it's questionable from a rights standpoint.

    Indeed, I am not sure what the intention of your last few comments is, other than to not-very-helpfully let the rest of us know that we have no idea what we're talking about.

    Sorry if that seems grouchy of me.


    I see no any ill-intention in the comments, erica, but you're correct that the linked articles are beside the point.

    That said, I think Mr. Chained's comments do point the way to another approach to the problem: a national gun database.

    PS I'm sure the NRA loves this idea.

    Well, Mr. LaPierre did say the country needs a national database of people with mental problems. I don't recall him saying anything about a national database of gun-owners to compare it with.

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