Smart Guns, Dumb Gun Advocates

Second Amendment extremists undermine gun rights arguments by threatening a Maryland gun seller.

Editorial cartoon on gun control
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There’s a saying in the Second Amendment world: Outlaw guns, and only outlaws will have guns.

It's a clever slogan, to be sure. But it only works if the gun rights community doesn’t diminish its credibility by undermining its professed role as a bunch of law-abiding citizens determined to use firearms only to protect themselves and their homes. Which means it might not be so good for public relations to threaten someone with murder if he chooses to sell a gun that has extra security attachments.

That, in fact, is what happened to a Maryland gun seller, Engage Armament. Presumably, the Rockville gun dealer is pro-Second Amendment or it would not sell guns at all. It’s simply that the dealer was ready to offer for sale – not exclusively, but as an option – a special “smart” gun that is supposed to cut down on accidental gun deaths. The guns work by being hooked up to a special watch (sold separately) that controls the gun. So, the gun could not be fired unless the user had the watch as well. This, presumably, would all but eliminate all those tragic stories about kids finding a gun in the household and shooting to death another child, by mistake.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

The problem some gun owners see with that idea is that it would also make it harder for someone to respond quickly with his or her own gun in an emergency. That’s a reasonable concern, though it must be weighed against all of the killing that occur because of a stolen or misused firearm. It might be a reason to have hearings in state legislatures. It might just end up with gun owners refusing to buy the firearm with the added safety device.

But that was not enough for some gun over-enthusiasts in Maryland. They made death threats, the owner said, with one saying he would “get what’s coming to you” if he chose to sell the smart gun. Another caller said the shop might be burned down. These were anonymous threats, of course. It takes a bully to throw arson and murder on the table to stop someone from running his business. And it takes a real coward to make threats without identifying oneself.

The gun dealer decided it was just not worth it and announced he would not sell the smart gun. New Jersey, meanwhile, has passed a law saying all new gun sales must include the new technology in three years if it is available. Those threatening murder want to make sure no one gets the life-saving technology going. And the way they’re doing it is to deny the right of someone else – anyone else – to buy something that might prevent a child from shooting another elementary-schooler. That goes against a gun rights enthusiast’s basic argument – that no one should stop another American from making a legal purchase.