Saying the technology is unproven and potentially dangerous, state senators today advanced legislation to block any state or local law allowing people to purchase only “smart” guns.
Part of what is in HB2216 precludes any sort of mandatory tracking technology on guns. That includes not only being able to locate weapons using GPS technology, but also having weapons that can send out an electronic message when they have been fired.
But most of the debate revolved around the development of weapons that know who is supposed to be able to fire it, and, more to the point, who is not. And HB2216, if it becomes law, says what’s offered for sale in Arizona can’t be limited to those guns.
That stance bothered Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson.
“This technology holds the promise of potentially, particularly with fingerprint recognition before it’s able to be triggered, of stopping the horrible tragedy of children finding a gun, playing with it, and then killing themselves or others,” he said. Farley said the same is true of a teen who is depressed taking his or her own life.
But Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the flaw in those arguments is that the technology is not yet perfected. And the result, he said, is someone who and is rightly entitled to use the weapon may find it not working when needed.
Anyway, he said, it’s not like anything in the legislation precludes Arizonans from buying one of these guns.
“It simply prevents any government entity from mandating that’s the only type of weapon you can buy,” Kavanagh said.
None of that satisfied Farley who argued, in essence, that guns without this technology are essentially defective products because of how dangerous they are. And that, he said, should make the sale of anything other than smart guns illegal.
“You can’t buy certain car seats that have proven defective,” Farley said. And, he added, the Consumer Product Safety Commission bans the sale of items that cause death and injury.
“Sometimes, when there’s the possibility of saving innocent lives, you have to mandate something in order to make it happen,” he said.
Several companies have been looking at the technology that is designed to ensure that only those authorized to use a weapon can actually get it to fire.
One example involves the use of some sort of radio-frequency fob or ring. Only if the weapon is in the proximity of that device will it work.
Another is similar to existing technology that allows a computer user to sign in and unlock the device with a fingerprint.
Kavanagh argued none of that is ready for prime time.
“The finger might be dirty,” he said. “When the person needs the gun for self-defense, it won’t work.”
And then there are situations where the gun owner has been incapacitated.
“You might want a friend or a relative nearby to be able to use the weapon,” Kavanagh said. “They would not be able to use it if they were not part of the system.”
Farley sniffed at the argument that the technology may not yet be fully perfected.
He said the federal government mandated the installation of seat belts in vehicles in the 1960s, long before they were as effective as they are now.
“That doesn’t mean we should have banned people from being able to mandate seat belt use,” Farley said. “And it saved lives even before it was perfected.”
Now, he said, seat belt technology is better at saving lives.
“So, you shouldn’t in advance stop people from mandating a technology that can save lives just because it doesn’t absolutely work perfectly yet,” Farley said.
Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, told colleagues they don’t need to look far for situations where smart-gun technology would have saved a life.
He cited an incident last week in Phoenix, where a 9-year-old was killed by his 2-year-old brother. In that case, Quezada said, the younger boy found a gun that parents had left “laying around” the house.
“And a life was lost,” he said.
Quezada said this isn’t the kind of technology that should draw the opposition of gun-rights groups.
“We’re not taking guns away from people who have the right to be using them,” he said.
But Kavanagh noted that’s only part of the objection to smart weapons. He said there’s also “the problem with tracking,” referring to the ability for someone to use GPS to track a weapon and also be able to tell when it was fired.
The measure now needs a final roll-call vote. The House already has given preliminary approval to legislation with similar language.