U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced that his Justice Department would be spending a couple of million dollars to study installing the devices on firearms and requiring gun owners to have the devices installed on their weapons.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn sent a letter to Holder on April 16 demanding answers about the proposed program.
“Your testimony has raised serious concerns for my constituents given President Obama’s track record of acting beyond the scope of his legal authority and your hostility to the individual right to self-defense under the Second Amendment,” Cornyn said in the letter.
“Will you assure my constituents and me that, under your supervision, the Department of Justice will not issue regulations requiring law-abiding citizens to equip their firearms with fingerprint-reading technology, or to link them to biometric bracelets?”
Local gun shop owners have even more concerns.
Nick Bauer, owner of Beeville Armory at 1703 N. Frontage Road, said he is certain that Holder’s proposal for having firearms equipped with radio frequency identification devices or fingerprint identification devices is just another way for the federal government to impose a universal firearms registration on law-abiding gun owners.
“The whole idea with ‘smart guns’ was to protect police officers,” Bauer said. He said the original concept was suggested as a way to keep police officers from being shot with their own guns. The devices would not allow a gun to be fired if it was pointed at its owner.
“Now, Eric Holder wants to spend $2 million to figure out how to use the technology,” Bauer said.
The problem with that is that most of the mass shooting sprees Holder claims to want to prevent are committed by assailants who legally owned the guns they used.
That was the case in the recent shooting of soldiers at Fort Hood.
“Guns don’t kill people,” Bauer said. “Guns don’t commit crimes. Unfortunately, guns don’t vote Democratic either.”
If the government requires guns to have the biometric equipment, that will likely require the registration of firearms.
“It makes liberals sleep better at night,” Bauer said. “I think this is just another avenue to get guns registered.”
The most likely result of registering firearms with the government is the eventual confiscation of any guns that the government decides it does not want citizens to have, Bauer said.
The gunsmith said the technology is there to makes guns smart. But it has never been implemented.
Gun shop owner Jeff Massengill said he thinks the idea is to make it too expensive for the average American to legally own a firearm.
Massengill, who owns Americana Arms at 2820 Cagle Lane with his wife, Tammy Casciato, said arms manufacturer Colt actually got into the business of making smart guns some time back.
He also said the original concept was created as a way to keep police officers from being shot with their own guns.
The system was installed into the grips of the firearm, and a small transmitter was installed in a ring that the officer was to wear. No one who did not wear the corresponding ring could fire the gun.
“In a vacuum, it sounds like a good idea,” Massengill said. “But a lot of bad ideas started out as good ideas.”
“I think this is a back-door tax,” Massengill said.
The idea is the same as a recent scheme to require micro-stamping ammunition by installing something into a firearm that will leave a distinct mark on the empty case that police can trace to the gun owner.
Bauer said the most reasonable way to keep guns out of the hands of those who have no business with them is to make sure firearms are properly stored when not being used.
“Not everyone is going to have a bank vault in the back of the house,” Bauer said.
But for the price of a decent firearm, a gun owner can buy a safe to keep his or her guns in that will prevent them from falling into the wrong hands or from being damaged by fire.
Stolen guns and firearms in the hands of untrained children are the most significant threats to the public.
“That’s a responsibility that falls back on us,” Bauer said of gun owners.
“I think we should fight this with everything we’ve got to prevent gun registration, but we need to be more responsible,” Bauer said.
The technology is not perfected, and even if it were, implementing it would be prohibitively expensive for the average gun owner.
“It’s an end run around the Constitution,” Massengill said.
As an example, Massengill referred to the $200 tax stamp that a gun owner has to purchase to legally own a fully automatic firearm. In the 1930s, when the stamp was first required, that was a lot of money. Even in the 1980s, the tax stamp was considered expensive. But these days the economy has caught up with the tax.
Massengill said Smith & Wesson tried installing an integral lock in the frames of its handguns that required a key to open them. But gun owners quickly balked at the idea, worrying about any attempt to make using the weapon more complicated.
“It makes the weapon a lot less reliable,” Massengill said. When an emergency occurs that requires a firearm for protection, there is no time to search for a key to unlock a gun.
The same concern would apply to Holder’s idea of having a gun owner use a wristband to be able to fire a gun.
What would happen if the gun owner had not replaced the battery in the wristband?
Tom Lee, a retired Navy man who works at Americana Arms, said he believes Holder’s proposal is simply another way for some in the federal government to restrict or delay any attempt to own a firearm for legal purposes.
“Many things we’ve seen happen in the last five or six years, we never thought would happen,” Lee said. “That’s why it’s so important to protect the rights we have.”
Fortunately, Bauer said, the gun business in Texas not only is good now; it has always been good. State government has been on the side of protecting the Second Amendment rights of its citizens.
“We’re very fortunate,” Bauer said, “and a lot of people don’t realize how fortunate we are.”
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.