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The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz

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It took them awhile, but one or two die-hard left-wingers (Ronald Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times, most notably) finally figured out they could use the crime of hulking 16-year-old Jeff Weise -- who killed 10 at the Red Lake High School on the Chippewa reservation near Bemidji, Minn. on March 21 -- to lobby for a mandatory requirement for “personalized” firearms which can only be fired by their owners.

The crime stymied most of the usual calls for gun control, since young Weise used a revolver and a shotgun -- no so-called “assault weapons” -- and acquired them by stealing them from his grandfather, 58-year-old Daryl Lussier, a tribal policeman, after murdering Lussier and his 32-year-old girlfriend.

(One of the main goals of the gun control crowd is to leave government cops with a monopoly on firearms, of course. No help here.)

It was after the shootings at Colorado’s Columbine High School in 1999 that President Bill Clinton used the threat of crippling lawsuits (more on those, later) to pressure British-owned Smith & Wesson to agree to develop smart guns, “as well as to take other positive steps, such as installing locks on all guns,” Mr. Brownstein recalls.

But, gosh darn it, “The company was battered by a boycott organized by gun-owner groups, which considered the deal a sellout of ‘gun rights.’ After a change of ownership, Smith & Wesson cooled on the agreement, and President Bush allowed the company to back out of it. Today that once-promising effort is a dead letter.”

But don’t worry: They’re not giving up hope.

“In 2002, the New Jersey Legislature passed a groundbreaking measure encouraging the development of so-called smart guns that would not fire for anyone except their authorized owner,” Mr. Brownstein enthuses.

“No such guns exist today. But the New Jersey statute said the state would permit the sale of only ‘smart guns’ three years after any manufacturer brings to the market a viable model.

The New Jersey Institute has been working to develop such a firearm since 1999, the last few years with the help of federal funds secured by its two Democratic senators, Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg.”

Your April 15 “contributions” at work.

“The institute, part of the state public university system, spent the first few years examining alternative approaches for personalizing a gun to prevent anyone but its owner from firing it,” Mr. Brownstein reports.

Initial schemes seemed to concentrate on handguns that would fire only in close proximity to a ring or bracelet worn by the owner and emitting a proper radio signal. (Rings or bracelets can be stolen along with guns, of course. The real idea here was to implant cops and military personnel with gun-specific “chips.” But that doesn’t seem to have gotten very far ... yet.)

“For the last several years, the institute has focused on ‘dynamic grip recognition’ technology,” Brownstein of the Times reports. “That’s a system enabling sensors in a gun’s handle to recognize the owner’s grip and then block anyone else from firing it.

“ ‘The basic concept is this -- the way you grab the gun during the first incidence of the trigger pull becomes a coordinated and reflexive act,’ said Donald H. Sebastian, the institute’s senior vice president for research and technology. ‘The fingerprint equivalent is the pressure pattern of your hand on the grip of the gun over time. We can see enough uniqueness in roughly the first tenth of a second of the trigger pull in order to be able to identify you as you.’ “

The institute demonstrated a prototype at a shooting range in Bayonne last December. But Sebastian estimates the effort is still three years away from producing an actual gun that consumers will consider reliable enough to purchase.

(All getting ready to rush out and buy these overpriced lemons, are we? Don’t worry, the Democratic Party and their patron trial lawyers will find some way to “encourage” us. How about thousand-dollar “mandatory gun insurance” policies, with reduced rates if you replace all your smelly old collector’s pieces with bulky, unreliable new “smart” guns that police can disable with a radio signal from outside your house?)

“The technical challenges are formidable. Before it could be sold, the institute’s smart gun would need to demonstrate that it could recognize its owner if he was wearing gloves, or grabbed the gun in an unusual way under stress, or even picked it up with the hand other than the one he normally uses,” Mr. Brownstein writes. “Since many people buy guns for personal protection, the margin for error is understandably low.

“Yet Sebastian is confident, based on the research so far, that these technical problems can be overcome. ... ‘When the public becomes more familiar with personalization technology, such as computers, it will come to understand that the technology is feasible and ought to be applied to guns as well,’ said Stephen Teret, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

“Washington could accelerate that process if it focused more on the potential,” the Times columnist concludes.

Here’s a slightly different idea: 16-year-old Jeff Weise, understandably depressed over the suicide of his father and the serious injury of his mother in an alcohol-related car crash, had been doped up on Prozac. Kip Kinkel of Springfield, Wash., the first of the recent wave of high-school mass killers, had just been taken off Ritalin. One of the two young men who murdered their schoolmates at Columbine High School in Colorado was turned down when he tried to join the Marines, because he was on Luvox.

We wouldn’t want to examine why these terrible incidents only seem to happen in the public high schools (never in private schools or among home-schoolers), or why so many male inmates of the mostly female-run government youth propaganda camps are doped up (by their own school nurses) on these psychiatric drugs, whose package inserts often warn side effects can include “mania” and “hallucinated voices” ... would we?

Meantime, you’ll notice no one has asked why the Red Lake High School had no metal detectors or security guards ... because it did.

But maybe someone will now try to explain what good it does to have metal detectors and security guards ... if the security guards are unarmed. (One was shot and killed; the other ran away. On balance, I’d say the lady guard probably took the wiser course.)

So once again, we have a crime which could have been prevented by guns ... don’t we?

What’s the first rule of gunfighting? Anyone?


Although even Bill Clinton admitted that his anti-self-defense stance cost heir-apparent Al Gore the presidency four years ago, “Guns aren’t an issue,” for the Democrats today, Howard Dean explained to liberal Arkansas columnist John Brummett in early April. (Full disclosure: Mr. Brummett works for the same corporate masters who own the newspaper where I pretend to labor.)

The new Democratic solution?

“If Philadelphia wants gun control, fine. If Alabama doesn’t, also fine,” explained the former Vermont governor, newly minted chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

This is how Democrats think they “solve” their little constitutional blind spot, by re-discovering the 10th Amendment doctrine of federalism, which holds that each state can do things differently?

That was indeed the (generally wiser) way things were set up before 1868, back when the Bill of Rights restricted only federal actions, leaving the several states to do things their own way so long as they maintained a generally “republican form of government.”

Funny thing is, on virtually any other issue you can name — like, say, the notion that the constitutional “right of association” gives lunch counter owners the right to practice racial segregation (which I consider to be a stupid and hurtful and repulsive practice, just for the record) — the Democrats would be the first to point out that, since 1868, the 14th amendment has extended the constitutional protections of “civil” as well as constitutional rights down to the state level as well.

(The right of adult males to own military weaponry is a “constitutional” as well as a “civil” right. The right of children to own them -- akin to the right of women to keep and bear arms prior to 1920 -- is more properly a “civil” right. Funny how the political Left tends to forget that one when proudly dubbing themselves “Civil Rights activists,” though.)

As an exercise, try rephrasing Mr. Dean’s remarks, substituting any other constitutional right you care to name. How about: “If Philadelphia wants to allow the practice of the Jewish religion, fine. If Alabama wants to jail any Jew who refuses to convert, fine.”

The “new Democratic Party”? To say that dog won’t hunt sounds like a bit of an understatement.