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One More Question About Speculation:

Say you're a mayor, and you're trying to decide whether to get smart guns for your city's police force. (Assume again that such guns do become at least as reliable as purely mechanical guns.)

There's an upside to such a decision: About 10 percent of all police officer shootings happen with the officer's own weapon (according to 1990s data). Sometimes the shooter might have his own weapon and might use the officer's weapon just to make tracing harder; but sometimes the shooter starts out unarmed and seizes the gun from the officer in a struggle. If the officer has a personalized gun, the officer's life could be saved.

But there's also a downside, and part of the downside is EMP risk: The last thing you want is for your police force to be entirely unarmed in case of an EMP attack and its aftermath. Do you take steps to try to protect against such risk, for instance by insisting that you only get smart guns if they operate in "work mechanically if the electronics fails" mode, or if they can be "dumbed down" using some simple mechanical toolkit that all officers in the field will have on them? Do you make sure that each police car has a mechanically locked purely mechanical gun just in case? (You can't just store such guns at the station, I think, given that officers may be stranded far from the station.) Do you do this even if the steps involve some modest expense, or some modest delay in getting the personalized gun?

Or do you not focus on the risk, because it's too speculative? If the answer is that such speculative risks should be ignored, would you likewise ignore the risk if you're deciding whether to spend city funds to harden some local infrastructure against EMP?

FantasiaWHT:
Would it be that hard to include a manual override to the "smartness" that's still personal, like a PIN, tumbler lock, or key? My thought is that somebody whose gun is knocked out by an EMP pulse isn't likely to need to use it THAT SECOND, and can take the time to override the smart lock, but somebody who grabs the gun from a cop, or a kid who finds a gun in a house, or somebody who steals a gun, still won't be able to override it without that PIN, lock combination or key.
2.4.2009 9:56am
Melancton Smith:
Prof Volokh,
EMPs aside, have you considered some rather basic issues with smart guns?

First, if you build a better mousetrap, do you have to ban the old mousetraps to get people to use the new ones? Most people don't use flintlocks anymore for a reason. Build a better (smarter) gun and let the market demand drive it.

Second, would other regulations go along with the smart guns? Limits on who can be 'registered' to a gun? Can I register my (fictional) 12 y.o. daughter to the family shotgun so she can defend herself against the 220 lb male assailant with a working gun instead of a club? What about my visiting mother-in-law? If she comes out of the back room and finds the rest of the family tied in chairs does she have to resort to beating the four home invaders into submission or can I have her registered to it as well? What about my friends that visit?

Third, do you seriously believe that the instant smart guns are on the market there won't be readily downloaded disabling software that conveniently runs on your IPOD or Blackberry?

72 children under the age of 14 killed by firearms accidents in 2005 is tragic, but you'd have more impact making smart pools and smart bicycles.

Emotional issues make bad policy drivers.

If you or anyone else wants a smart gun, by all means get one. Mandating them is poor policy *and* hopefully unconstitutional. Either way it is morally wrong.
2.4.2009 10:10am
Anonnemo:
It sounds from the posts (I haven't read comment threads just because of time constraints) that most people are saying you don't have to worry about an EMP because the probability of a nuclear attack is so small. However, I would point out that there are other ways to create an electromagnetic pulse - for instance my (very rudimentary) understanding is that with a coil of wire with an iron core and a capacitor, one can build a (probably weak) EMP-bomb.

If an entire police force switches to only smart guns, odds are the public will know. All criminals are dumb , but some are less dumb than others. (Stereotypes are horrible, I know.) If a small EMP-bomb were feasible (I'm not vouching that it currently is or that it would be by the time smart guns are reliable), then what would keep a less-dumb criminal from constructing a EMP-bomb in case they face a smart gun-armed officer. Then by setting off the EMP-bomb the criminal would knock out the officer's weapon and his communication devices at the same time (and his pacemaker if he has one).

Of course, this hypothetical would mean that the smart gun would need a built-in mechanical override switch rather than the officer having to sit there and use a kit to deal with his now-useless lump of iron.
2.4.2009 10:16am
SeaDrive:
What are the situations when a perp takes a gun from a cop? I'll bet most are traffic stops and the like. I can't see them as a priority in the 24 hours following an N-blast.

In most cases, a cop will have a chance to get the shotgun out his trunk.

Just a guess, but I bet that if you give Joe Patrolman the means to turn off the smart technology, a significant percentage will do so. They tend to have this real conservative notion that nothing should keep the gun from firing when they pull the trigger.

I presume, Prof V, that you keep your guns under lock and key, so you really have the same problem. It's just that the lock is not physically part of the gun.
2.4.2009 10:24am
Harry O (mail):
Why is it that the Police always ask to be exempt from the "smart gun" mandates whenever they are brought as bills to the legislature? If it is not reliable enough for them, it should not be forced on anyone else.
2.4.2009 10:30am
Steve P. (mail):
I don't see why cost-benefit analysis fails this scenario. Try to figure out the likelihood of such an EMP attack (presumably low but non-zero), and the possible ramifications, and figure out whether it makes economic sense to invest in smart guns.

There are all sorts of factors to consider, of course, but many are purely speculative. Keeping a mechanical gun in a cop's trunk, for example, would be a good backup until some innovative criminal organization comes up with a hand-held EMP device. But even in that situation, it's probably more economically beneficial to use smart guns until then, rather than stall because of something that hasn't happened yet.
2.4.2009 10:39am
wb (mail):

Just for the record, we have EMP "attacks" from the sky all the time. This amazing phenomenon is called lightning. Nearby ground strokes can disable poorly shield equipment. Moreover, the em pulse can also drive currents in transmission lines sufficient to ruin electronics. Still most devices (like car with electronic ignitions do function in thunderstorms). The Faraday cage also work very well; planes are stuck by lightning and keep on flying. To be sure the aircraft companies have been careful to shield electronics.

With respect to the nuclear EMP attack, I'd note that a detonation has to take place at an altitude of several tens of kilometers to have a wide effect - beyond the capabilities of commercial aircraft.

EMP is just a highly peripheral issue in the battles over gun rights and gun control.
2.4.2009 10:50am
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: All
RE: Oh....Joy......!!!!!

Speaking as a former member of the US Army, familiar with the use of 'cosmic flashcubes' and the current proud member of the early Borg proto-types, i.e., I wear a pace-maker, I look forward to having the dingus in my pecs 'fried' by the Islamist Iranians, or some other foul-minded group. NOT!

Having thought on this scenario since 9/11, I've come up with something of a solution. Not so much the 'faraday cage' described by wb (above), but more like a shawl made of 'space blanket' material that would protect the device device from most 'angles of attack' by a high-altitude EMP detonation.

I had talked to the manufacturer of my device some years ago about this potential threat. They sort of pooh-poohed the notion. However, based on Iran's latest developments, I think I ought to call them back and see if their people are now taking the possibility seriously.

RE: Stupid Thinking

"EMP is just a highly peripheral issue in the battles over gun rights and gun control." -- wb

I wonder if wb would think this way if HIS life depended on a pace-maker.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[You haven't lived until you've almost died.]

P.S. Been there. Done that. And I had to make MY OWN t-shirt.....
2.4.2009 10:58am
Gabriel McCall (mail):
All evaluation of risk is speculative. For that matter, all planning is speculative. You don't ever know for certain what tomorrow will bring; you make choices based on what you think is likely to happen, with acknowledgement that the unlikely does happen too.

I think what you mean when you ask if something is "too speculative" is that the probability of the negative effect is too low to be worth including in your decisionmaking calculus. But you can't make that call based only on the low probability; you have to evaluate the cost of the effect and the opportunity cost of avoiding it as well.

If I have a process that has a 1/100,000 chance of destroying the universe and the rest of the time gets me a dollar, is the risk too low to take into account? Shouldn't be... if I get my free dollar every day for a hundred years, I have a 30% chance of destroying the universe. Weighed against the potential benefit, not worth it.

There's a difference between declining to evaluate a risk, and evaluating it and choosing not to insure against it. As the benefit of the process becomes greater and the cost of failure becomes less, at some point you can say "we're not going to invest resources in insuring against that low-risk eventuality." But you can only do that after evaluating the costs and benefits, not just the probability.

With regard to this specific issue... if an EMP burst can disarm an entire metro area, it's very likely that EMP weapons intended to do exactly that will come into existence. Smart guns might be the right answer for day to day carry, but there would need to be mechanical-only weapons as backup just in case. Decision making cannot be oriented solely towards optimum performance in ideal circumstances; you must consider resilience in catastrophe as well. If you don't, you'll thrive and prosper wonderfully for as long as the sun is shining... but inevitably things do turn sour one way or another and you need to be ready.
2.4.2009 11:00am
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: All
RE: Smart Guns

They may have their place, amongst police officers so that their own weapons cannot be seized and used against them.

However, for the average Joe and Josephine, I doubt it. Any member of a household should be able to use any weapon they can get their hands on in an emergency. Not one single individual. Unless they develop a method by which multiple individuals can be identified to use any firearm.

Personally, give the opportunity, I prefer edged and bow-string weapons. They don't disturb the peace of the neighbors as much as things that make loud noises.

But if confronted with an assailant armed with a firearm, I'm quite capable of resorting to that form as well.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Peace means having a bigger stick than the other guy. -- Tony Stark, Iron Man]
2.4.2009 11:03am
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: All
RE: EMP v. Smart Guns

Smart guns could easily be shielded against the adverse effects of EMP.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Smart weapons are not as smart as you might want to believe.....yet......]

P.S. It's all in the algorithms, ya know.....
2.4.2009 11:05am
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

As pointed out by "wb" EMP is an effect, not a cause.

This effect can be caused by other events such as lightning. Another potential source is a very powerful solar flare. In part the Earth's magnetic field prevents such flares from doing too much damage. But the Earth's magnetic field is starting to shift into a pole reversal where the North Pole travels to the South Pole and vice versa. Evidently a process that can take a thousand years or more.

Additionally the Sun has gone rather inactively lately and the Heliosphere has begun to shrink. This is the area of outward pressure from the solar wind and largely prevents extremely nasty cosmic rays from impacting the planet.
2.4.2009 11:08am
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

"Smart guns could easily be shielded against the adverse effects of EMP. "

How?

The normal method of shielding electronics involves surrounding the system in a Faraday cage capable of siphoning off the energy and redirecting it. If you're talking about a radio or Bluetooth style system implemented in a "smart gun" then you cannot completely isolate the electronics without disabling the gun.

Even if you did adopt a Faraday cage for the internal electronics, which I cannot imagine would work, the radio or Bluetooth based system would still need to use an antenna of some sort. The same antenna that would be burned out by an EMP strike.

So how would a "smart gun" be "easily" shielded and yet still work properly after an EMP strike?
2.4.2009 11:12am
Bill Twist:
If I were a mayor, I wouldn't let my officers use smart guns, much less require them to do so.

Mechanically, guns are a mature technology: Semi-auto's have been around for 100+ years, and revolvers have been around for 160+ years. We know how to make them reliable.

Smart guns are "new". We still don't have the ability to make them reliable enough to depend on, and this is something that inventors have been working on for a couple decades now.

Even with a permissive failure mode, I still wouldn't require it, because the permissive failure mode might itself fail.

For instance, if the gun uses a solenoid that needs current applied to it for the gun to be "safe", and removal of the current via a sensor (normal mode), or because the battery ran down or the circuitry died (failure mode) allows the gun to be fired, what happens if something jams the solenoid in the wrong position? I could easily see that happening: I've had regular mechanical guns that wouldn't fire because of fouling and oil building up into a sticky residue. That was with a pretty heavy striker spring on a bolt action rifle, so it would probably take much less to gum up a small solenoid.

Admittedly, I probably know a bit more about guns, electronics, electromagnetic radiation, and programming (any smart gun except the most rudimentary is going to require software) than most mayors, so these are practical reasons, not tort based ones.

/Mmmmm, tort....
2.4.2009 11:16am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
As others have said, it's definitely not either/or for police. Smart guns to wear on the hip during normal police stuff, and dumb guns for when the EMP hits the fan. It's like asking should cops give up RWD Crown Vics for traffic patrols because sometimes it snows and they need 4WD.
2.4.2009 11:30am
Fungible Billing Unit:
Allowing police officers to disable smart guns in an emergency is something of a no-brainer. But outside a large-scale EMP attack, with notable exceptions (e.g., the Hollywood Shootout robbers), very few criminals will have an EMP handy if their car is pulled over. Any concerns about EMP-armed criminals (bank robbers, organized crime, etc.) should be knowable ahead of time could be assuaged by giving SWAT teams "dumb" weapons or authorizing officers to disable their smart guns before a raid.

Police might oppose smart guns for a slightly different reason, i.e., the potential for increasingly smart guns to log the time or perhaps the trajectory of each shot fired. Such records would be (for better or for worse for the department or the individual officer) a goldmine in investigations or litigation following a police shooting.
2.4.2009 11:39am
Monty:
My understanding is that most smast gun proposals involve the use of a ring, or something else on the officer's person to signal the gun that the proper owner is holding it. While EMP may be a very remote threat, what about something much more common. Radio interference... either accidental or intentional. Could a criminal build a transmitter that would 'jam' any smartguns in the vicinity? Even if you designed your gun to fail to functionality, if the electronics are working and just can't get the signal, the gun would be inoperative. How could it distinguish between a jammed signal and an absent one? Would you want terrorists to be able to jam the guns of responding police and/or armed civilians while thier dumb guns continue to function?

Also, while this would protect an officer from having thier gun suddenly stolen, once the officer is incapacitated, using the gun would be a simple matter of stealing the officers rign/other authentication device as well as the gun.

You could design a gun with a finger print reader, but at least for the less tropical portions of the nation, I doubt officers would like not being able to wear gloves. Not to mention anything else that could interfere with the operation of the reader.
2.4.2009 11:41am
Gerg:
The last thing you want is for your police force to be entirely unarmed in case of an EMP attack and its aftermath.

Uhm, why?
2.4.2009 11:46am
EconGrad:
Personally, if there is ever legislation proposed to mandate guns be made "smart", then that legislation should specifically *not* exempt law enforcement and military -- at least for domestic use. If smart gun are "good enough" for the militia then they are good enough for the police and military when operating in this country. Whatever objection the police or military might raise to using them, applies to me equally.

Along those lines, I don't think there should be *any* laws that apply to citizens while exempting the government from their restrictions. 18 USC 922(o) is a particularly offensive example.
2.4.2009 11:50am
Sean Gleeson (mail):
Here's an idea (and I apologize if someone mentioned this already, as I did not read the other smart-gun threads): how about inventing a purely mechanical smart gun? I think it is possible. Some of the proposals for electronic smart guns involve the owner wearing a ring, with an RFID signature (or something along those lines anyway), and the ring unlocks the firing mechanism of the gun. A mechanical smart gun could work with a ring, too, but this ring would have "teeth" that physically fit into a sort of "keyhole" in the grip. A mechanical smart gun would lack the gee-whiz awesomeness of an electronic gizmo, but would be totally impervious to an EMP attack.

Anticipating objections to a mechanical smart gun:

Objection: It would not be reliable, or possible, or feasible, to make or use such a thing.
Answer: Objections of this sort will not be entertained in the context of this mental exercise, as per Volokh's assumptions.

Objection: It would not really be secure, or personalized, since a miscreant could have a copy of the keyring.
Answer: With many thousands of possible tooth configurations, the rings would be at least as secure as any mechanical key to a house or car.

Objection: A miscreant could steal the keyring along with the gun, thus negating the purpose of the security measure.
Answer: A criminal might snatch a cop's pistol from his holster or from his hand in a struggle, but simultaneously prying off a ring seems far from likely. It would of course be possible if he had already killed or injured the officer (using some other weapon), to take whatever he wanted; but this seems unpersuasive as an argument against the mechanical smart gun.
2.4.2009 11:53am
gtd179h (mail):
With all due respect, it is very naive to believe fully operation small and large EMP devices are not in the possession of/being used by law enforcement, the military, and "ordinary" civilians.

Law enforcement has operational prototypes of EMP equipped automobiles. The EMP "device" is built into the structure of the vehicle. The device emits an EMP from the front of the law enforcement vehicle for a very limited range and direction upon activation. The purpose of the EMP device is to disable the operation of a vehicle located close in front of and close to the LE vehicle as a method of terminating or preventing a potentially dangerous pursuit. For various reasons, the EMP device immediately terminates the targeted vehicle's operation, but not cease momentum and the gradual reduction in speed. One of many unintended effects of deploying the EMP is that the targeted vehicle's power steer and brakes will not work.

The LE vehicle EMP generator is not that large or extremely expensive, but requires a significant amount of energy and other engineering to deploy efficiently and effectively.

I won't comment on, and leave to the reader's imagination, "possible" alternative EMP device designs and engineering, such as portability (e.g., weaponized EMP in form of a "gun").

Finally, YOU can build your own small, but operational, EMP device by using various readily available parts, including a key component that is contained with every a microwave oven (very dangerous project).

Using Google and youtube, you can discover numerous operational and potable EMP devices with creation instructions that you can use to build it in your garage (links to such content not provided -- again and even though it is easy, I strongly discourage readers from attempting to make one - assembling an EMP generator requires a microwave oven component that is very dangerous to asemble and use outside of a microwave oven
2.4.2009 11:56am
Siskiyou (mail):
I've read both posts on this subject and seriously wonder whether some of the commentators and even the author of the posts are engaging in a sort of mental chess. With weapons, K.I.S.S. applies. Accidental discharges of firearms causing injury or death, while awful, are somewhat rare. Failures to fire by semi-automatic handguns occur frequently enough that there is still a considerable market for revolvers, which are simpler and more reliable. Reliable "smart guns" are like Chrysler concept cars at auto shows--you do not buy shares in the company because you belive that you will ever see one on the road. The evident intelligence shown here (no sarcasm, ladies and gentlemen) would be better used discusssing peace officer training and physical fitness, and handgun owner training.
2.4.2009 11:57am
Adam J:
ed - um... a Faraday cage, despite it's nifty name, is simply a metal box to put the electronics you desire to shield within. The only catch is the electronics can't touch the walls of the box.
2.4.2009 12:02pm
Bill Twist:
So how would a "smart gun" be "easily" shielded and yet still work properly after an EMP strike?

Any electronic device with very small leads, and mostly shielded from electromagnetic radiation is going to absorb a minimal amount of energy from any EMP.

You couldn't totally eliminate the energy coming into the electronics package, but my sense is that you could minimize it to a degree that it wouldn't damage the electronics relatively cheaply.

Most electronics, though, don't have the luxury of being almost completely self-contained in a metal package with few outside connections: They have wires connecting them to other things, and it is the induced current on those relatively long conductors that causes the problems.

Any EMP strong enough to induce a current large enough destroy a 1 inch square circuit board with leads no longer than an inch, buried in the metal of the frame of a pistol (or potted in epoxy and wrapped in foil, and imbedded in a polymer frame) is likely to kill you anyway.

Unless my math is way off, an EMP pulse that induces 50,000 volts per meter would only induce about 13 volts in an electronics package like I envision. That would be relatively easy to design for.
2.4.2009 12:04pm
Gerg:
Accidental discharges of firearms causing injury or death, while awful, are somewhat rare

Can I live in your fantasy world too?
2.4.2009 12:06pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: ed
RE: How?


"Smart guns could easily be shielded against the adverse effects of EMP. " -- Chuck Pelto

How?

The normal method of shielding electronics involves surrounding the system in a Faraday cage capable of siphoning off the energy and redirecting it. If you're talking about a radio or Bluetooth style system implemented in a "smart gun" then you cannot completely isolate the electronics without disabling the gun.
-- ed


Simply lining the CPU housing and other 'sensitive' areas with space-blanket material as a shield.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
2.4.2009 12:13pm
Gerg:
One of many unintended effects of deploying the EMP is that the targeted vehicle's power steer and brakes will not work.

Hmm. Power steering and *anti-lock* brakes would stop working. But power-assist brakes work off engine vacuum -- when an engine stalls is there still a pressure difference just from turning over from momentum? Or does it need the actual gasoline explosion to create the vacuum?

And how old would you have to go to get an EMP-resistant engine? Presumably a diesel? Without fuel injection? Would the fuel pump keep working?
2.4.2009 12:17pm
Thoughtful (mail):
Eugene,

I don't have time to read all the responses, so my apologies if this has been pointed out already.

Your entire speculation of risk/benefits is based on one particular conception of smart guns which doesn't seem most likely.

The general argument for gun locks built into the gun (say, requiring a code be entered for the gun to work) is that in an emergency you don't have time to do that. Smart guns solve that problem with some type of instantaneous bioscan. But, you argue, the bioscan can be disrupted and made unworkable by an EMP; however, if you build a smart gun with a backup mechanical lock (either of which is alone sufficient to allow the gun to work) there is no problem. An EMP is not the sort of emergency that requires a gun response within seconds. So your entire problem goes away if guns are built with both:

*in most situations, you have rapid access to a workable firearm through bioscan smart gun technology

*in those rare instances where an EMP prevents the bioscan technology from working, you enter your mechanical code to allow the gun to function. Since setting off an EMP is not like breaking into a person's home, the gun owner has plenty of time to respond.

So I'm not clear on why you're spending so much time considering hypothetical risks and benefits of smart guns when a hypothetical design modification on the gun makes them moot.
2.4.2009 12:18pm
PC:
But there's also a downside, and part of the downside is EMP risk: The last thing you want is for your police force to be entirely unarmed in case of an EMP attack and its aftermath.

You know what else would disable a police force's weapons? A nuclear attack.

Seriously, an EMP attack? If someone is launching an EMP attack against a US city we have much larger issues to deal with than smart guns.

(And let the officers keep a dumb shotgun locked in the cruiser.)
2.4.2009 12:33pm
Bama 1L:
Is there going to be a crossover with a Somin alien invasion hypo soon? Because I am going to stop reading if not.
2.4.2009 12:37pm
Siskiyou (mail):
Gerg,

Thanks for the nudge. A q. c. (quick and cursory) look at wrongdiagnosis.com indicates that for one recent year in the U.S. there were 28,874 deaths attributable to gunfire (I didn't look to see whether the site showed how many of the firearms were hadguns, if that matters) of which 27,127 occurred as the result of murder or homicide. Of course, some of the other deaths may actually have been disguised suicides. I did not take time to look up injury figures not to confirm what wrongdiagnosis tells us. But my "somewhat rare" characterization may not be too misleading.
2.4.2009 12:45pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
For this scenario, as mayor I'd be a lot more worried about EMP-proofing officer's radios than buying smart handguns.

From Yglesias:
And the sort of gun you'd keep in your house is hardly going to help you if someone starts rolling tanks down the street or dropping bombs on your city.
The military disagrees. "BERETTA WINS LARGEST U.S. MILITARY HANDGUN CONTRACT SINCE WWII . . . Beretta U.S.A. Corp. recently announced its receipt of a U.S. Army contract to provide up to 450,000 Beretta Model 92FS pistols to U.S. military customers throughout the world." Current NSSF newsletter, http://www.nssf.org/.
2.4.2009 12:46pm
Siskiyou (mail):
Bama 1L,

Precisely.
2.4.2009 12:47pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
A mechanical smart gun could work with a ring, too, but this ring would have "teeth" that physically fit into a sort of "keyhole" in the grip.
I really can't see a key-ring with a protrusion large enough to move a mechanical part sufficient to remove the safety of a firearm that wouldn't snag on everything else. Then there's the gloves issue. And the crud-in-the-keyhole issue. Let me see a prototype, then we'll talk.
2.4.2009 12:50pm
methodact:
Maybe off-topic, but EV rocks on Alex Jones Radio show the world is listening to atm. :-)
2.4.2009 1:11pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
The faraday cage in question could be the gun itself. Simply put the electronics inside the metal grip.
2.4.2009 1:12pm
AndyinNC:
What if it's not just EMPs, but zombies armed with EMPs?

What about a flesh eating virus that destroys finger prints, making those biometric scanners fail?

What if the Soviets use a mind control program to make everyone shoot themselves? We would definitely want those plucky high schoolers who snuck into NORAD to be able to launch EMPs against us to save us all.

Clearly, we haven't thought through the nontrivial chances for these frightening scenarios.
2.4.2009 1:13pm
autolykos:

With all due respect, it is very naive to believe fully operation small and large EMP devices are not in the possession of/being used by law enforcement, the military, and "ordinary" civilians.


Rumor/myth/urban legend is that Stormin' Norman asked for permission to detonate a nuclear weapon high over Iraq at the beginning of GW1 (ostensibly to use the EMP to immobilize the Iraqi army).
2.4.2009 1:22pm
zippypinhead:
Back to the original premise of this post's question: I think a local politician who mandates "smart gun" technology for his police department would be committing "political malpractice," even on your assumptions. Re-read the other threads on the related posts, and you'll see a lot of the reasons. The first premise you need to drop, Professor Volokh, is that the primary concern is EMP from nuclear detonations. That's not right. To summarize:

1. the technology to disable "smart guns" exists and is already fairly accessible. The U.S. military and a few LE agencies already have high-end versions of EMP/RF generators used to disable electronics (e.g, I recall recently reading about the LAPD experimenting with helicopter-based RF generators to disable the engines of cars in high-speed pursuits). Low-tech versions can be built by people with modest electronics skills and readily-available parts. Even lower-tech versions might consist of simple attack strategies like hitting a holstered firearm with a taser to fry the electronics. And if the "smart" technology relies on RFID, the opportunities to hack or disable it increase exponentially. I daresay every drug gang, Mob family, terrorist, and even psycopathic but careful planners of mayhem like the Virginia Tech shooter, would put the necessary goodies to defeat "smart gun" technology on their Holiday shopping lists...

2. the risk of accidental disabling of an officer's "smart" sidearm is uncomfortably high. Lightning, spurious electronic emissions (standing near a defective microwave oven?), accidental contact with electrical wires, or even the prosaic dead battery problem are all known risks.

3. work-arounds that various comments have posited for technological failures take valuable time that could cost the officer his life, except perhaps the probably unacceptable "fail-to-unsafe" mode (i.e., if the "smart" lock stops working the gun can fire normally). Many officer-involved shootings are the result of planned tactical unit stake-outs or weapons deployment with enough time to clear problems before needing to fire the weapon, but a significant minority, especially involving patrol officers, need near-instant responses to unplanned situations, as when the crook surprises the officer and/or opens fire first.

At bottom - even a cynical but rational politician would be worried about the popular backlash against a "smart gun" decision gone awry being a career-limiting event for himself. And a less cynical politican would be legitimately concerned about officer safety. Politically, the cost/benefit analysis just wouldn't add up.

In the words of the immortal political analysis of George HW Bush and/or Dana Carvey: "Not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent..."
2.4.2009 1:23pm
Alchemist:
I just want to point out...

The chances of a convict trying to steal a gun AND having an emp are slim to none. That's what the idea of a smart gun is trying to prevent.

The idea of a criminal and/or terrorist standoff is higher. But I would guess SWAT teams are rarely (if ever) disarmed. So the SWAT team uses regular weapons, beat cops use smart guns (again, using the assumption of 100% reliability). In case of an EMP attack, beat cops are unlikely to be invading a terrorist held position.
2.4.2009 1:25pm
anarchore (mail) (www):
Smart guns for all cops, EMP guns for all citizens. I don't identify with police, they are criminals. Fuck the cops.
2.4.2009 1:33pm
SeaDrive:

... for one recent year in the U.S. there were 28,874 deaths attributable to gunfire (I didn't look to see whether the site showed how many of the firearms were handguns, if that matters) of which 27,127 occurred as the result of murder or homicide.


Although I agree with you about the word "rare", the issue was accidental deaths, not all deaths. The majority of gun deaths are linked to crime and are not accidental.
2.4.2009 1:36pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

"

ed - um... a Faraday cage, despite it's nifty name, is simply a metal box to put the electronics you desire to shield within. The only catch is the electronics can't touch the walls of the box."


Let me try this again:

1. A radio or Bluetooth, or other short range wireless systems, requires an antenna.

2. Any electronics package enclosed in a Faraday cage, or box, is by definition isolated from the outside world and must communicate through an external antenna.

3. Any such antenna system must include some sort of fuse that would blow in case of an EMP strike in order to make certain the electronic isolation of the electronics package.

Sooo. Here we have a sequence:

A. Emp strike
B. Wave hits the antenna
C. Fuse blows
D. Electronics package in Faraday cage successfully isolated from wave
E. How does the isolated electronics package now communicate with the outside world?
2.4.2009 1:44pm
pintler:

In most cases, a cop will have a chance to get the shotgun out his trunk.


I concur (or go to the station and retrieve a backup gun or smart module or whatever). The looters will take a few minutes to get started :-(


Just a guess, but I bet that if you give Joe Patrolman the means to turn off the smart technology, a significant percentage will do so. They tend to have this real conservative notion that nothing should keep the gun from firing when they pull the trigger.


I am not sure; for example, I think usage of retention holsters is pretty well accepted/encouraged. If smart guns prove to be reliable in practice, I think they would be popular with police.

Other thoughts on the reliability tradeoff of smart guns:

IIUC, it is fairly common for officers to carry a backup gun. That may not matter post-EMP, if both are disabled, but might make them more willing to carry a smart gun - if it provides substantial protection against grabs, but you still have a backup if the primary fails.

Secondly - heresy alert - I don't think five 9's reliability is common, or needed. The stats are that 90+% of defensive gun uses involve zero shots fired, in which case reliability is a nonissue. Even if shots are fired, the average number is in the low single digits. Even a gun that has a 5% malfunction rate will probably get thru the average fight w/o failing.

Historically, if you read soldier's biographies, even paragons of reliability like the Garand and 1911 malfunction in combat. That's why the military teaches stoppage driils - as do police departments, even those using Glocks :-).

A patrolman today is carrying a software based radio, an LED flashlight that won't work w/o power supply electronics, driving an electronic ignition car, etc. The soldier adds a GPS, night vision goggles, and various electronic bases rifle sights.

I just don't think you can make the case that electronic devices can't be made reliable enough for mission critical applications; you don't have to build them with the MTBF of the #$%^&* $150 controller board in my refridgerator :-)

I have serious doubts about the cost/benefit and engineering viability of smart guns, but not because you can't make reliable electronics.
2.4.2009 1:46pm
John Moore (www):
This engineer feels compelled to add some technological reality to the debate.

First please see this link for my comment in the original thread.

Info specific to this thread: HEMP is similar to but substantially different from lightning EMP - see the link.

It is possible to design devices to be resistant to EMP. This includes radios and RFID devices. Whether they are adequately resistant depends on both the amplitude of the EMP at the weapon, and subtle characteristics of the design.

---

Also speaking as an engineer... no way would I want a smart gun, if the purpose of the gun was self defense.
2.4.2009 1:50pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm

A couple other points:

1. Doesn't a Faraday cage need to be grounded to be truly effective? Wouldn't an ungrounded cage provide so little protection from a nuclear EMP strike to be pointless?

2. No idea if it's true but the numbers being thrown around are that a nuclear EMP strike will generate 50,000+ volts per square meter. If the cage is grounded through the pistol and thus through the police officer, would that be dangerous?

3. Are EMP strikes too fast for the use of circuit breakers and so require the use of fuses?
2.4.2009 2:02pm
Adam J:
ed- we're now exceeding my very limited knowledge regarding emps, but I don't see why the receiver would need to be set up in that configuration. A receiver for a smart gun would be extremely short range &lower power, and there probably unlikely to conduct much of the emp blast.
2.4.2009 2:13pm
James Gibson (mail):
To me this subject is mute. Though the original (official) reason for Smart guns tech was to prevent an officers guns from being used against him, that isn't the case anymore.

Originally, the smart gun was funded by Police Unions with support from the Clinton Administration. The idea was that by having all Police so armed they could avoid a major cause of officers deaths (theft in a struggle). But as development went forward at Los Alamos Labs and then at Colt, the story on were the funding came from changed to a redirect of Army funds. The reason being that most Americans found the idea of the Police funding weapon research unnerving.

The idea however that the Army wanted such a weapon was stupid. Outside of EMP (the subject of this thread) Army personnel have to be able to trade weapons during combat. If one man's weapon malfunctions he can still continue the fight as long as he can pickup and use the weapon of a dead or wounded comrade. But if the arm is "personalized" the first soldier is left disarmed until he can either receive a new arm from the rear or be sent to the rear. This problem is an extension of the problem Tom Diaz of VPC can't figure out when he suggested that the Army had no need for standardization of ammunition of arm. For if soldier one uses a different gun, ammo and Mag to soldier two, if his gun breaks he has to be able to acquire both the gun and ammo belt of soldier two to continue to fight.

Anyway, as testing continued the Police became disgusted with the concept. They were spending money on something that wasn't working and the costs were rising. Furthermore it was becoming apparent that the Police, as providers of the funding, were going to restrict access to the tech when proven. Thus, when the Smart gun becomes available and the State laws mandating its incorporation on any civilian arm sold come into force, the result would be a total ban on firearm sales since the required tech was restricted by the patent owner (the Police).

Thus, given the political ramifications, the Police have dropped out of all Smart gun research. All present research now is out of a single university funded by the New Jersey State government. And if the firearm is ever determined to be sufficiently developed to put on the market, the Police are now exempted from ever having to deploy the weapon by law.

One final note: Forget EMP as a way of disabling the Smart gun. The dam thing runs on a battery and batteries loose power just sitting around. So if you have one for self-defense, you'll find it signaling dead battery at you when you really need it to work. Or worse, the dumb thing will begin chirping at you like my Phone, pager, or Bluetooth when the battery gets low. And god help you if any water or cleaning solvent gets in the electronics when your cleaning your weapon.
2.4.2009 2:18pm
AndyinNC:

Secondly - heresy alert - I don't think five 9's reliability is common, or needed. The stats are that 90+% of defensive gun uses involve zero shots fired, in which case reliability is a nonissue. Even if shots are fired, the average number is in the low single digits. Even a gun that has a 5% malfunction rate will probably get thru the average fight w/o failing.

As you say, with a mechanical malfunction you can usually clear and fire again and, er, gun professionals drill for such things. But police certainly aren't shooting people that often when they draw their guns, and those stats are probably similar to defensive uses. So why bother with the drills? It's likely to "work" (either not needing to fire or firing without a jam) 99+% of the time, right?

Because when you need it to work, you really need it to work.


I just don't think you can make the case that electronic devices can't be made reliable enough for mission critical applications; you don't have to build them with the MTBF of the #$%^&* $150 controller board in my refridgerator :-)

It's not the electronics that aren't reliable, it's the biometrics -- the interface between electronics and human.
2.4.2009 2:25pm
methodact:
The faraday cage in question could be the gun itself.
I long ago found Faraday cages so interesting, it got me watching this whole series of hour-long lectures. How hardy would a Faraday cage have to be to stand up to an HPM raygun?
2.4.2009 2:27pm
Melancton Smith:
SeaDrive wrote:

Although I agree with you about the word "rare", the issue was accidental deaths, not all deaths. The majority of gun deaths are linked to crime and are not accidental.


The problem that Smart Guns attempts to solve is accidental deaths, of course. Smart Gun tech will have near zero impact on criminal use of guns.

Criminals will simply disable the smart gun chip or whatever and proceed on their merry way. Or use a 'legacy' gun.

If you think otherwise, you are the one in fantasy land.
2.4.2009 2:30pm
Lib (mail):
The last thing you want is for your police force to be entirely unarmed in case of an EMP attack and its aftermath.
The only worse thing would be for the general population to be entirely unarmed after an EMP attack because their "smart" guns failed.

After an effective EMP attack, virtually all infrastructure we rely on would be gone in the area. There would presumably be few if any functioning radios, TVs, computers, electrical power sources, transportation, lighting, landlines, cell phones, cell towers, ham radios, etc. In this environment, there are just too few police to maintain order and it would be impossible to contact them to summon them to ongoing crime scenes. Thus police are likely irrelevant in the hours/days following a EMP attack - armed citizens are the only hope.

So, smart-safe guns for police, dumb-reliable guns for private citizens.
2.4.2009 2:42pm
JKB:
First off, regarding officers being shot with their own gun, this is most frequently due to the assailant getting the weapon while grappling with the officer. This is why many patrol officer use the holsters that require the tripping of a release and are difficult to draw unless you are pulling straight up near the body. These holster prevent the gun from falling out or the assailant from pulling the weapon. This has been effective because patrol officers are far more likely to be in a grapple than a gunfight.

Obviously, EMP is a real although unlikely risk to "smart guns." All risk must be evaluated both on its likelihood and impact. While unlikely, the impact of EMP weapon damage is severe. The weapons would be rendered useless at the moment of most critical need. The impact on other city systems might be far less critical to maintaining order and combating enemy or criminal forces.

This critical impact would also strike civilian gun owners as their right to keep and bear arms for defense would be rendered moot at the time of most need. In effect any regulation that imposed this vulnerability would be effectively saying, "you have a right to keep and bear arms until, you know, you really need it, then not so much." It would be similar to saying that you have the right to free speech until you have a real need to say something people don't like.

There are other more likely though rare threats from "smart guns" even if we assume reliability at the level of current non-smart guns. The loss of power sources to recharge in event of power outages, government interference with battery supply, government interference with repair capabilities, loss of access to batteries and repair during an emergency, intentional damage to smart circuits by law enforcement during lawful custody situations, the insertion of virus or "backdoor" malware by law enforcement or others, etc.
2.4.2009 2:48pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmm.

@ Adam J.


"ed- we're now exceeding my very limited knowledge regarding emps, but I don't see why the receiver would need to be set up in that configuration. A receiver for a smart gun would be extremely short range &lower power, and there probably unlikely to conduct much of the emp blast."



You and me both. My knowledge of EMP is very limited. But I think the vulnerability of an electronic device to EMP isn't bounded by the power level of the device in normal operation. In essence that's the problem as the EMP energy exceeds the limitations of the device and then burns it out.

I think the reality is that the whole concept of a "smart gun" is frankly a bit ridiculous.
2.4.2009 2:57pm
Bill Twist:
1. A radio or Bluetooth, or other short range wireless systems, requires an antenna.


Bluetooth?

Radio?

I've see biometric proposals (no RF needed), and ones that required the use of a special magnetic ring (again, no RF needed).

I can easily envision a system that uses a magnetic ring to close a solenoid that is inside a thin aluminum Faraday cage.


2. No idea if it's true but the numbers being thrown around are that a nuclear EMP strike will generate 50,000+ volts per square meter. If the cage is grounded through the pistol and thus through the police officer, would that be dangerous?

The officer is already exposed to it. And that 50,000 volts/meter is from the Wikipedia page on EMP (actual source is a US Army report) for a nuclear airbust over the middle of the country. It's a maximum, by the way.

3. Are EMP strikes too fast for the use of circuit breakers and so require the use of fuses?

Apparently the initial burst of EMP from a nuclear strike is too fast for either a fuse or a circuit breaker. I don't know about a non-nuclear EMP weapon.

In either case, though, small isolated electronics would be relatively immune. I don't care if you actually do have an antenna of some sort, if it is exceptionally the current induced on it would be small enough that you could design the electronics to 'handle' it. EMP isn't magical: It still has to follow the same laws of physics that other forms of electromagnetic radiation follow.
2.4.2009 3:25pm
GA Onlooker:
I would think much more likely scenarios than EMP would weigh against the 'smart' gun. What about when one officer goes down and another officer needs to use that weapon, or, heaven forbid, a helpful civilian wants to defend the downed officer? What about when the officer, with the ring, gets shot in the hand, then needs to use the gun in the other hand? Folks tend to aim at the gun, thus there are good many hand hits. How about the officer that accidentally picks up his buddy's identical service weapon, then can't fire when it's really needed. As a practical matter, it is a certainty that when you add an electronic layer on top of mechanical one, no matter how perfect, the reliability will be less than that of the mechanical layer alone.
2.4.2009 3:29pm
htom (mail):
I replied in the other thread; other than snark, I have nothing to add.
2.4.2009 3:47pm
SeaDrive:

The problem that Smart Guns attempts to solve is accidental deaths, of course.


Not of course. The example given was a perp killing a LEO with the LEO's own sidearm. Nothing accidental about it.

And my post was about using a statistic that not appropriate as support for his point of view, not actually an argument on the merits.
2.4.2009 4:30pm
Siskiyou (mail):
Seadrive,

My point, which I ought to have spelled out, is that 1700, more or less, annual deaths from handgun accidents (the total, minus suicides and murders), some of which may not have been accidents at all, while not desireable--zero is the goal--may not be enough to justify fallible attempts at requiring safety measures.
2.4.2009 4:31pm
Melancton Smith:
SeaDrive wrote:

Not of course. The example given was a perp killing a LEO with the LEO's own sidearm. Nothing accidental about it.


Sounds like LEO's need the smart guns and civilians should be exempted rather than the other way around as it seems to always be proposed.
2.4.2009 4:39pm
Acksiom (mail) (www):
Sigh.

The huge gaping hole in this whole discussion is male suicide. People, if you want firearm death rates, use the CDC as your primary source, please: WISQARS Fatal Injuries: Mortality Reports.

As I've pointed out at the Volokh Conspiracy before, the firearms suicide rate in the usa has for many years now been consistently 1.5 times the firearms homicide rate. The majority of firearm deaths are male suicides. In all likelihood, the majority of police killed with their own service weapon are suicides as well.

The number of accidental and service deaths preventable through the development and required use of so-called "smart guns" is barely a drop in the bucketful of deliberately self-inflicted male firearm suicides, which would likely see little if any decrease as a result of such programs.

If we're going to consider expending any amount of resources to prevent tragically unnecessary firearm mortalities, shouldn't we first and foremost be examining how and why the greatest majority of them occur, rather than the least minorities?

Frankly, Prof. Volokh, I think that point -- about better preventing tragically unnecessary firearm death by increasing outreach towards the suicidal -- would make for a far more interesting, useful, and productive article.
2.4.2009 4:43pm
PC:
Even lower-tech versions might consist of simple attack strategies like hitting a holstered firearm with a taser to fry the electronics.

So a criminal with a taser (!) is going to aim at the tiny target on an officer's waist rather than aiming at the officer. Um, what?
2.4.2009 4:50pm
Kristopher (mail) (www):
Why don't we simply let the police work out what kind of smart guns they want to use. If they cannot adopt such a technology for themselves, then we should not even consider saddling ourselves with it.

So far, all proposed or passed smart gun laws have exempted cops ... this must stop.
2.4.2009 4:57pm
Brendon (mail):
Eugene,

In response to your question whether insubstantial risk can or should play a role in constitutional rulemaking, my first thought was to draw a parallel to the abortion decisions.

Some abortion bans are unconstitutional because they do not account for the risk that the banned procedure is necessary for the mother's safety. Whether that risk is substantial or nonexistent is hotly contested. Before Carhart framed abortion laws as a facial versus as-applied issue, the Court was willing to strike down legislation on the ground that the statute did not adequately account for a small risk and accordingly placed an undue burden on the constitutional right.

I think the comparison to the abortion cases is interesting for a couple reasons. First, as you have written, one way to conceptualize abortion is as self-defense. Second, Heller did not articulate a test for determining whether a handgun regulation goes too far, and it's not inconceivable that the Court will eventually adopt something like an undue burden test.

The comparison is not totally apt. The mother's safety is an individualized risk which can be dealt with using as-applied challenges. That's not true for the generalized risk posed by an electronic pulse, although I suppose you are contemplating a facial challenge to any smart gun statute.

Off the top of my head, there are a couple other areas where risk plays a role in constitutional law, but those are usually grounded in procedural due process (e.g., whether the racial composition of the jury will bias the trial) or separation of powers (e.g., how much do we defer to the President's determination that Guantanamo prisoners might rejoin the fight if released).

In general, it seems like courts deal with risk inconsistently. My guess is that judges use this risk rhetoric as a cover for more political judgments.
2.4.2009 5:20pm
Splunge:
This again. Geez, I participate in my city's emergency planning, located in Southern California, and it's a struggle to get reasonable backup communication plans in place for when an earthquake takes out the phone system. Hardening electronics against an EMP attack? Might as well ask the City Council to allocate $6 million to defend against zombies.
2.4.2009 5:42pm
Iconoclast421 (www):
Not that I want to give police ideas... but wouldnt the electronics be protected if they were stored in a lead-lined cabinet or vault?
2.4.2009 5:43pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: All
RE: Alchemist Thinking

"I just want to point out...

The chances of a convict trying to steal a gun AND having an emp are slim to none." -- Alchemist

Maybe he could explain that to the dead copchick who had were weapon taken away from her by a bigger and badder guy she was taking to a hearing.

He shot her with it....DEAD.....

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[The Truth will out....and some people are not going to like it....]
2.4.2009 5:49pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
P.S. About the EMP scenario that Alchemist thinks is 'unlikely'....

....he doesn't seem to pay much attention to the news. Or maybe someone should 'connect the dots' of Iran and satellite-capable boosters and nuclear weapons.

I'm seeing a potential for the asylum escape from Batman Begins. Not quite as drastic, but it's easy enough to call in a false report of domestic violence and then ambush the responding police and take their weapons from their still warm hands. Not to forget those that are in their vehicle.

How do I know this?

Something to do with 27 years in the infantry and being an airborne-ranger.

[Look upon 'ambush' as a bloody-minded form of practical 'joke'. -- CBPelto]
2.4.2009 5:54pm
ohwilleke:
If you are considering buying weapons for the U.S military, who have specific opponents, like Iran, who are contemplating using EMP against hostile forces in conflicts, then sure, EMP is a legitimate factor to consider when evaluating "smart firearms."

For domestic police, considering EMP is ridiculous. In the most likely scenario where that possiblity could come up, a nuclear attack on the United States, an ability to use "smart firearms" will be the least of one's problems. The police force might already be without radios (or telephones or cell phones or the Internet), might have electronic transmissions on police vehicles disabled, would have every stoplight in their jurisdiction out of order, would have hospitals with electronic medical equipment that no longer worked, and would be faced with a high likelihood that tens or hundreds of thousands of people in their vicinity (including many police) were dead.

Also, "smart firearms" are almost exclusively a proposal reserved for personally carried handguns. Every police cruiser I've ever seen has a shotgun mounted on the front dashboard or in the trunk, and every cop is also issued a billy club. Handguns are rarely used for riot and crowd control in any case.

Further, this is a situation where both the National Guard, and the regular military (which can be called in for cases of invasion or insurrection notwithstanding the usual limitations of posse comitatus), would be called in, and they might have EMP resistant weapons.

Problem solved. Even when evaluated, the risk is appropriately dismissed. Saving lives of cops on the beat in situations that happen dozens of times every year is much more important a consideration.
2.4.2009 6:10pm
John Moore (www):

1. Doesn't a Faraday cage need to be grounded to be truly effective? Wouldn't an ungrounded cage provide so little protection from a nuclear EMP strike to be pointless?


Not an issue.


2. No idea if it's true but the numbers being thrown around are that a nuclear EMP strike will generate 50,000+ volts per square meter. If the cage is grounded through the pistol and thus through the police officer, would that be dangerous?

It's 50kV per meter, not meter squared. EMP might hurt you if you were touching something big and ungrounded (relative to you) the same way a nearby lightning strike could. The pistol (or a faraday cage around the parts of it that don't already work that way) isn't an issue.

3. Are EMP strikes too fast for the use of circuit breakers and so require the use of fuses?
2.4.2009 6:33pm
Carl Naaman Brown (mail):
I want a "smart" version of one of those Dardick Tround guns firing whiz-bang Gyrojet projectiles. "Smart" guns are another Pop Sci fad like the Dardick pistol or the Gyrojet, only in this case the taxpayers are funding the venture.

If they do succeed, they will make the illegal manufacture of "dumb" guns economically viable, especially the Sten or Mac10 type submachineguns.
2.4.2009 7:58pm
Ken Mitchell (mail):
Let me suggest that focusing on a threat as remote as EMP damaging your smart guns is pointless. If cops want to have smart guns to protect themselves against being disarmed and killed with their own weapons, then fine; have smart handguns.

Come the Revolution, or the riots, or the nukes, or the asteroids, or whatever, the cops won't be using their handguns anyway; they'll be quelling riots using their shotguns. The shotguns are locked to the dashboard of the squad cars and aren't especially vulnerable to being stolen in the heat of the moment by a struggling criminal, and the shotguns don't have to be "smart"; just pump action.
2.4.2009 11:53pm
man from mars:
Neuromancer has an important EMP scene, from the and that's one of the great books ever.
2.5.2009 5:42am
Gerg:

My point, which I ought to have spelled out, is that 1700, more or less, annual deaths from handgun accidents (the total, minus suicides and murders), some of which may not have been accidents at all, while not desireable--zero is the goal--may not be enough to justify fallible attempts at requiring safety measures.


Firstly, 1700 deaths every single year is a pretty sizable number. Secondly most bullet wounds are not fatal. Offhand if 10% of the above number consists of officers killed by their own weapons I wouldn't be surprised if 10x that number were injured but not killed...

And then there's the moral hazard of carrying weapons -- if people know officers' weapons can't be used against them they'll be less likely to try to escape since one route to freedom is cut off. Also officers can be freer to pull their weapon in close situations where currently they would be taking an undue risk. And even when the weapon is still holstered it's one less thing for them to worry about when getting into close situations.

Most employers would consider it worthwhile in investing in safer equipment if the had that even a few hundred preventable injuries on the job, let alone thousands.
2.5.2009 7:51am
Gerg:

Most employers would consider it worthwhile in investing in safer equipment if the had that even a few hundred preventable injuries on the job, let alone thousands.


Probably that's what it'll take to get them in place -- one lawsuit for negligence from a widow arguing that the city could have prevented the death of a police officer but failed to.
2.5.2009 7:54am
Kristopher (mail) (www):
Would one negligent cop death lawsuit caused by a "smart" gun jamming due to accidental EMI be enough to get them scrapped?
2.5.2009 2:32pm

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