A Scientist and a Gunslinger walk into a bar

It was late and this was the fifth or sixth pub they'd visited. They slur a request for some beers and the Scientist turns to the Gunslinger and says, "I bet you this round of drinks that you can't blast a bottle off my head from fifty paces."

"You got yourself a deal, Mister," says the Gunslinger, and they shake hands.

They grab an empty brown bottle and stumble out of the tavern and loudly count twenty-five steps away from each other on the rural country road. The Gunslinger lost count twice and had to start over. 

The gunman unholstered his revolver and the Scientist stands up straight and places the bottle on his head. The gunman aims, moves his finger over the trigger slowly, and begins to squeeze gently, searching for that sweet spot when the explosion is triggered, sending hot metal downroad.

Nothing happens. The Scientist opened one eye. They had been squeezed shut. "Well?"

"It won't fire! Damn thing's jammed!"

And the Scientist lives to Science another day. Literally one more day: he fell from some rafters in a barn while trying to get a prize chicken off the roof, knocked himself unconscious, and drowned in the horses' water trough. Man Killed by Rogue Chicken. Fowl Play Suspected. the newspapers read the next morning.

But seriously.

We have two-step verification for our web accounts, why can't we have two-step verification for our guns?

But Harper, you say, we do have two-step verification. It's called the safety. It's a tiny switch that renders the firearm unable to discharge. They already invented that. 

Yes, this is so. But not every gun has a safety, and not everyone is aware of that feature. So while yes, safety switches offer an additional measure of safety when handling the weapon, I'm referring to the actual pulling of the trigger, and I think we could implement a digital-age mechanism that, if it works, dramatically reduce accidental death by gunshot.

Because let's face it, when someone is carrying a loaded weapon, having the single twitch of a finger fire a bullet of lead thousands of feet per second in whatever direction the barrel happens to be facing is a fearsome and absurd prospect.

Some statistics I pulled out of this report. In 2013 there were 11,208 homicides, 21,175 suicides plus some others totaling 33,636 deaths by gunshot wound. That's 1 in 10,000. That's too many.

What I'm imagining here is a biometric sensor that is activated by the fingerprint of the handler when faced by a threat. This would send a signal to software that would 

  • get the read stress levels in the handler via heartbeat and oil/sweat analysis
  • activate a camera in the barrel that takes a snapshot of where the gun is pointing
  • activate a camera on the stock that takes a snapshot of who is holding the gun
  • run an analysis of the event and either lock the weapon or allow firing, until the threat is deemed neutralized.
What this would do, if this were at all possible to create:
  • Reduce all accidental deaths by gunshot
  • Reduce all suicides by gunshot
  • Reduce all warcrimes by gunshot
  • Reduce gun crime

Notice I'm not saying eliminate gun crime. Determined individuals would try to find workarounds. Old guns would have to be retrofitted and new guns manufactured. This would create jobs. 

This is impossible, you say. You're fixing something that ain't broke. 

Maybe it is impossible to require all guns to have this. But even if some do, and that number grows every year, as new model weapons phase out old ones, that would be a technology worth adopting. 

Maybe one person reading this thought knows a gunsmith and a scientist and tells them about this ridiculous thought and they start pondering it and all the problems they see with it, but keep thinking about it because they like solving problems and it's an interesting riddle: can you prevent a murder 1/1,000,000th of a second before it was about to happen?

What if the Gunslinger's gun wasn't jammed by accident, but by invention and intervention?


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