I just noticed on SSRN this effective short article about the modern Second Amendment debated headlined "Public Safety and the Right to Bear Arms." I found the final paragraph of the piece especially insightful:
[A better Second Amendment debate would not focus on whether the Amendment protects an individual right, but rather] would involve examining how best to recognize and protect the right while also allowing legislatures leeway to develop criminologically sound measures designed to limit, in so far as possible, access to weapons on the part of career criminals and those who are mentally unstable. Such a debate would involve recognizing that the right to have arms has been and remains part of the American Constitutional tradition, that it is valued by large segments of society and that the right sets real limits on governmental regulation. It also involves recognizing that measures designed to keep weapons out of undesirable hands are not necessarily inconsistent with this right. In the second half of the twentieth century, we were unable to develop this kind of debate on the national level precisely because of the effort to redefine the Second Amendment into meaninglessness, perhaps in the first half of the twenty-first century a greater willingness to recognize the Second Amendment will allow the dialogue to begin.I am eager to begin this dialogue, in part because technological advances are a potential "magic bullet" solution here. (Sorry for the bad pun.) Society is moving swiftly toward using technology like GPS tracking to deal with the risks associated with sex offenders, and I am troubled that we are not also moving swiftly toward using technology to deal with the risks associated with the misuse of guns.
Interestingly, though apparently there was a lot of "smart gun" talk and research going on years ago, I have had a very hard time finding any up-to-date materials on modern smart gun technology research. For example, the NRA has this fact sheet and this article by David Kopel assailing smart gun technologies, but the NRA fact sheet was last updated in January 2000, and the Kopel piece is from January 2003. Disappointingly, this page from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has over a dozen research reports, but none appear to discuss concepts of a "smart gun" or other technology-driven research seeking to reduce gun violence.
Meanwhile, I found this interesting piece in Science Daily providing a positive view of smart gun technology, but it was written in 2005. Of course, 2005 does not seem that long ago, but it certainly is in the fast-moving world of technology. (Consider again the swift pace of GPS technology advances: in 2005, a car-friendly GPS device cost thousands of dollars, now such devices are available for under $100 and are becoming a standard feature in many vehicles.)
Notably, I discovered that, in June 2001, the Bush Administration put out this very interesting document an "NIJ 'Smart Gun' Solicitation," which included this assertion: "NIJ is interested in bringing 'smart gun' technology to the law enforcement community as rapidly as possible, but in a manner that develops confidence in the technology through a clearly defined development, evaluation and demonstration process." So, apparently seven years ago there was a serious commitment by the Bush administration to bring "smart gun technology to the law enforcement community as rapidly as possible." Does anyone know how that's coming along these days?
In my view, techonology could and should provide a much more refined and effective way to regulate an individual right to bear arms than, say, completely prohibiting all felons from having guns. An effective smart gun technology could and should be able to keep guns out of the hands of those who are unlikely to be able use guns safely — e.g., kids, illegal purchasers, those with a history of violence or mental illness, abusive spouses under an active restraining order — while ensuring that police officers and lawful gun owners have little reason to worry about their own gun rights and usage.