Friday, January 25, 2013

Biometrics and guns

Mark Shea has a post about his reactions to reactions about a proposed solution to add biometrics as a safety to guns.  I find this proposal problematic for a number of reasons but will confine myself to technical issues as I have some experience with them.

I respect Mark Shea a lot.  He's been instrumental in my thinking about the Bush administrations torture policies and the Iraq War.  And major props to him for being virtually alone on our side of the political aisle in calling out Catholics who ignored or attempted to justify such evils (me being one of them).  I owe him a huge debt.

So when I say he's wrong on this issue I say it with the understanding that I've been on the wrong side of an issue before with him.  Having said that I have some background in tech stuff so I think I'm on more solid ground this time around.  :-).

So here are my concerns:

The current state of biometrics - When I say current I mean as of the moment I'm writing this post.  High end biometric readers are fine, but expensive.  But the mass market manufacture still has a long way to go before I would trust my life to them.  Which brings us to the second point.

Life or death software -  Software is in two states right now I would say and will be for the foreseeable future.  There is your general business software such as Google that if it fails you lose something "trivial."  Search results, your last order, etc.

Life or death software is a whole different ballgame.  If it breaks, people die.  Therefore it cannot break. Or if it does, have some kind of backup. Biometrics on guns falls into this category.  Which leads me to....

What happens when it fails? - Notice the bold.  "When."  Software/hardware is guaranteed to fail.  Period.  It is simply a question of time.  What happens when the biometrics encounter an error?  Does the gun lock up?  Or does it release?  In either case, the biometrics would have to be checked at regular intervals.  The same is true for a gun, but the number of times increases quite a bit.

These are the concerns off the top of my head.  There are plenty more that have to do with actual design issues relating to the mechanics of the gun and failure conditions.  But just this list alone has me concerned about a digital anything that interferes with the mechanics of the firing of a gun.

No comments: