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Posted February 22, 2018 by Tim Wells in Technology

Could smartphone technology help deter mass shootings?

While reading this post, I’d ask that you keep a few things in mind:

  1. There are no perfect solutions. Consider this my simple contribution to a national brainstorming session on the deterrence of mass shootings.
  2. This is only the beginning of an idea. I have neither the expertise nor the resources to take it any further. I’ll leave that to smarter, more capable hands.
  3. I believe in the 2nd Amendment. I also believe that people who choose not to own and carry firearms should be able to feel safe in today’s society. While the ideas that I present in this post are not likely to completely satisfy anyone on either side of the gun control debate (and might even anger some), progress almost always requires compromise. Open mindedness and flexibility will almost certainly bear more fruit than stubbornness.

Could smartphone technology help deter mass shootings?

Leveraging wireless networks

We keep our home and public computer networks safe and controlled through the use of wireless access points, protecting us from internet threats. What if we could use those same access points to safeguard against physical threats as well?

Here’s my idea: manufacture firearms with WiFi technology, like the kind used in smartphones. When one of these guns enters an area with a wireless access point, the weapon’s ability to fire is disabled unless it has been granted access to the network by the network administrator. In the home, this would ensure that only the homeowners’ weapons function inside the house, hopefully leading to a decrease in crimes like armed robbery. The same increased safety would exist in public networks such as those in schools, malls, theaters, and hotels, while still allowing for exceptions like armed security guards.

Touch ID

Since we’re on the topic of apply existing smartphone technology to firearms, let’s take it one step further. You can enable touch ID on your phone, requiring an authorized fingerprint to unlock it; why not use the same system for guns? Allow the gun owner to enable touch ID on their weapon, only allowing an authorized fingerprint to disable the safety. This could lead to fewer accidental shootings in the home, as well as an added layer of security against stolen weapons being used by criminals.

Would it really make a difference?

The big question is, would these additional safeguards actually deter mass shootings? Personally, I believe they would. If you look at where mass shootings have taken place in recent years; schools, churches, hotels, malls, nightclubs, and office buildings; all of them could have been either prevented or at least made less devastating by these theoretical WiFi restrictions.

Obstacles to overcome

As I said at the beginning of this post, this is just the beginning of an idea. In order for these safeguards to become viable, a few challenges would need to be addressed:

  • Wireless networks would need some tweaking. If you look at the list of available networks available to your smartphone, chances are that you’ll see not just your own home network, but possibly networks belonging to your neighbors as well. Under my proposed wireless access point safeguards, this would create a conflict where the gun you use for the protection of your home is allowed on your own network but is also in range of networks it is not authorized on.
  • Obviously, certain agencies such as law enforcement would need to be exempt from wireless restrictions. I see this as less of an obstacle and more of something that just needs to be taken into account when implementing these safeguards. The simplest solution would probably be to continue to provide law enforcement and military with standard firearms while transitioning public sales to the WiFi-enabled weapons.
  • Areas without wireless access points controlled by an administrator would need to be addressed. My initial thought is that those areas would be unrestricted, allowing for recreational use of guns for activities such as hunting and target practice.
  • Compromise, compromise, compromise. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to overcome in the implementing of any change would be the public’s acceptance. Gun owners would need to accept that the addition of WiFi technology would almost certainly cause the cost of gun ownership to increase. Those looking for solutions to gun violence would need to recognize that while these changes would likely decrease the amount of damage done, people with hatred in their hearts will always find a way to hurt people.
Next steps

Where do we go from here? Honestly, I’m not sure. I think we keep having these discussions, considering potential solutions, and then get them into the hands of those who can turn them into something more than just the seed of an idea.

In the end, this idea may turn out to be completely unrealistic for reasons I’m not able to see from my vantage. As I said, I’ll leave that to smarter, more capable minds to determine. But as long as we’re willing to at least consider and improve upon the ideas of others, rather than dismissing them outright, I truly believe we can reach an acceptable middle ground between safety and liberty.

I invite you to share your own thoughts and comments below.

Tim Wells

Dad, husband, gamer, blogger, geek. Not necessarily in that order.