Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

NY Times editorialist Joe Nocera deceives readers about ‘smart gun’ technology

Written By: Bob - Mar• 24•13

I’ve read a lot of ignorant things on the editorial pages of the New York Times—after all, they employ Paul Krugman and David Brooks—but I’m forced to wonder if they’ve given up on even the illusion of self-respect, now that I’ve read this howler from Joe Nocera:

So why can’t we childproof guns? In an age of technological wizardry — not to mention a time of deep sensitivity to the welfare of children — why can’t we come up with a technology that would keep a gun from going off when it is being held by a child? Or, for that matter, by a thief using a stolen gun? Or an angry teenager who is plotting to use his parents’ arsenal to wreak havoc in a mall?

It turns out — why is this not a surprise? — that such technologies already exist. A German company, Armartix, will soon be marketing a pistol that uses radio frequencies that prevent a gun from being used by anyone except its owner. At the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the senior vice president for research and development, Donald Sebastian, has long spearheaded an effort to develop biometrics for “gun personalization,” as it’s called. Guns employing this technology fire only when they recognize the hand of the owner. There are others who have invented similar technologies.

Why aren’t these lifesaving technologies in widespread use? No surprise here, either: The usual irrational opposition from the National Rifle Association and gun absolutists, who claim, absurdly, that a gun that only can be fired by its owner somehow violates the Second Amendment. Pro-gun bloggers were furious when they saw James Bond, in “Skyfall,” proudly showing off his new biometrically protected weapon. They were convinced it was a Hollywood plot to undermine their rights.

Nocera isn’t just spinning here; he’s either flagrantly lying, or blatantly incompetent. He and his hack assistant Jennifer Mascia either covered up or made no attempt at all to seek out what radio legend Paul Harvey would call “the rest of the story.”

There have been, for decades, attempts to create devices to keep unauthorized users from firing firearms. The overwhelming majority of these devices have been developed with the law enforcement market in mind, because of the relatively high percentage of police officers murdered with their own firearms. There have been attempts to use magnets, electronics, radio signals, micro-processors, biometrics and other devices to restrict the access of firearms to authorized users only.

They’ve been tested by manufacturers. They’ve been examined by the military, as well as deep-pocketed law enforcement agencies on the local, state, and federal level, and yet, not a single military or law enforcement agency in the United States OR THE REST OF THE WORLD uses smart gun technology to equip their rank and file.

Not any department, agency, or division.



If Mascia was a competent researcher, Nocera was a competent columnist, and the Times capable of hiring competent editors, that refusal by the world’s law enforcement and military agencies would raise a red flag the size of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Professionals who put their lives on the line have examined these technologies, and they have found them unreliable, failure-prone, and more likely to cost law enforcement officers and soldiers their lives than save them.

The NRA isn’t poo-pooing this technology, it’s the NYPD, LAPD,  and every other metropolitan police department and military force on the planet. They are concerned—and rightfully so—that the failure-prone technology could end up killing their officers.

Mr. Nocera is clearly more interested in disseminating propaganda that arming his readers with the the facts so they can draw their own conclusions.

The rhetoric is more important than the reality.

It must be a New York Times state of mind.

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  1. BillC says:

    So if it worked in a movie, it must work in real life. I don’t recommend getting your science from Hollywood anymore than your history.

  2. Dave says:

    Right on, Bob. While we’re at it, why don’t we childproof all those violent video games and movies? Should be simple enough…

  3. Poshboy says:

    It is absolutely amazing just how widespread and how flagrant the lying in the “media” is today. They’re operating like they think the funding for news programs will continue, despite non-existent ratings and substandard advertising.

    Eventually the shareholders will demand answers as to why their networks are losing money hand-over-fist, and will demand a sudden change of programming–or they will invest elsewhere.

    Propaganda does not sell soap.

    • Comrade X says:

      Most media will be funded and supported soon by those they promote & also support; GOVERNMENT!

      Death before slavery!

  4. Survival Skvez says:

    The technologies exist, they just don’t work very well.
    I really don’t want to point a gun at someone in a their-life-or-mine situation and have the gun go “merp” instead of “BANG”.
    Then there is the problem of how a gun gets to recognise you. It presumably has to be programmed somehow to recognise ‘you’ as a rightful user. Presumably using some form of computer and authorisation code. New technology that the kids of today can probably use better than their parents, (similar to the many times I see an adult handing a bottle with a ‘childproof’ lid to their child to open for them).

    • Braden Lynch says:

      It will never be fool-proof and perfect since we seem to always make better fools (see Joe Biden). So, kids and hackers will “jail-break” the guns that they find within a heartbeat.

      I doubt the technology will be available at a low cost point, so it’ll effectively restrict firearms to only the rich and elite (their real goal).

      Suicide will still not be stopped by it.

      Criminals will circumvent it easily. They will just use a microwave oven. Zap, crackle, and pop!

      More terrifying, it will almost certainly involve some type of electronic communication scheme that would be exploited by the government to either ID those with firearms or to disarm everyone with the push of a button. Imagine an RFID chip, GPS beacon and a self-destruct/kill switch rolled into one.

      That’s not paranoia, that is what the government is capable of doing. They will suggest it could be used to find gang members and track stolen weapons and to set up a “gun violence-free” zone with the use of suppression broadcast towers. Except that then any future jack-booted thugs will be able to operate with impunity like the Gestapo.

      Never Again!
      Molon Labe!

  5. Russell says:

    What I notice is the eternal laziness of liberals. They hatch a “great” idea and then insist that someone else do something about it. You’ll never see one saying, “I’ve decided to leave my current career to create a [safer gun, green energy, new medicine, etc.].

    Reporters are especially bad about this.

    • Guav says:

      This is a pretty goofy complaint. I am a graphic designer. If I wanted smart gun technology, or personal jet packs, or apples that taste like bananas, obviously I would need scientists, engineers or the agricultural fields invent these things, as I am incapable of doing so. Likewise, if you create a new technology or product and want to sell it, you’re not going to leave your current career and go to school for graphic design in order to design the packaging and marketing materials yourself, you are simply going to hire someone such as myself, whose area of expertise is already centered around what you need done.

  6. Jens says:

    Armatix’s “blocking element” was tested quite a while ago with the result that it could be removed with commonly available tools within a few minutes, without scratching the barrel.
    Had reliable blocking systems been available that requirement would have been made it into the last set of changes to the gun laws here in Germany.