“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” – Robert F. Kennedy
“Oh it’s too sad to be true
Your blue murder’s killing you.” – Elvis Costello, “Shot With His Own Gun”
Basically, I am equal parts realist and dreamer. In most cases I know I am powerless to effect change beyond my little corner of the world, if even that. Still, I often concoct schemes to make the wider world a better place, at least in my mind. But what I am about to propose is much bigger than any “Occupy” movement. This could be the beginning of a utopian paradise. Join me in my excitement.
I have no agenda, nothing to promote but the simple wish for everyone to lead happy and productive lives where no one else suffers needlessly or is hurt unfairly in the bargain. I offer this as a public service, and if any technological savants are reading this, please feel free to canoodle with my ideas on the couch in the living room of your genius and figure out a way to make them a reality.
This is my plan to rid the world of handguns and firearms, starting with North, Central and South America, for these are the places in the world with the highest percentages of homicides involving guns.
A good place to start would be in the U.S., where technology and advertising are king. We have the best scientists in the world, we have cutting-edge medical technology (if not healthcare, but let’s not go there), we’re tops in space exploration sending rovers to Mars and peering at the outer reaches of the galaxy with amazing telescopes, we’ve cured diseases that ravaged the populace mere decades ago. Microchip technology has increased exponentially over the last few decades, making everything smaller and faster and smarter. Not only that, the world loves our amazing Super Bowl commercials.
We have smart phones, so why not smart guns? Come on, it’d be easy! If anyone can do it, we can. If we can create an iPhone “app” to tell someone why their baby is crying, why not a smart gun app? Or a step further, an entirely new gun. We could even give it a fun and clever name.
Introducing, SmartGun! (Accept no substitutes!)
Extremely precise “emotion-detection sensors” (EDS) underneath the grips inside these new guns would be triggered when the user points the weapon at an unarmed person with the intent to kill. The weapon would then send a sophisticated and powerful neuro-muscular reflex-altering electronic pulse to the user, causing them to involuntarily bend their arm at the elbow, point the gun at their own head and pull the trigger. In short, a homicidal threat ends in suicide.
SmartGun would recognize, for instance, a machete-wielding criminal approaching the SmartGun user by emitting an even stronger EDS from under the barrel at the attacker while the grip EDS detected the emotions of the user, making lightning quick calculations to assess the situation and choose the proper action. If the user is in danger, SmartGun would fire at the attacker. If no threat is detected, and the grip sensors pick up certain violent intentions on behalf of the user, then “user destruct” impulses are employed and suicide ensues.
I realize it’s a stretch for this technology to be foolproof, and a period of adjustment would occur while “bugs” are worked out of the system. This would be a time of near-suicides, people shooting only portions of their skull off and then lying comatose for months in hospitals. The remedy for this? SmartGun 2.0. Improved electronics and smarter “smart chips” would direct the gun barrel to the proper spot at the temple, or with the more expensive version (SmartGun 2.0 Plus!) the gun would be guided directly into the user’s mouth. SmartGun 2.0 would also contain advanced wireless technology that would render all older, non-SmartGuns useless by emitting a remote firing-pin disabler signal (RFPD).
For the budget-conscious gun enthusiast, a more affordable option would be available with SmartGun 2.0 B (Basic) which would be offered as a point-of-purchase add-on option featuring powerful hypnotic suggestions given by highly trained and fully certified hypnotists. “When you feeeeel yourself pointing this loaded weapon at an unarmed person who meeeans you nooooo harm, you will kill yourself instead.”
Now, being a realist, I know the NRA would not care for this at all, not one bit. Their political connections are strong, their presence woven solidly within the fabric of our society, and their cold dead hands reach far and wide. A flood of wrongful suicide lawsuits would be filed by a grieving and confused public targeting the NRA for no discernible reason, at least none to the grieving public, because, after all, they’re grieving and not thinking rationally. Despite the NRA’s fury at spending millions of dollars defending against frivolous lawsuits and being bullied into embracing the “pansy-ass” SmartGun (which they eventually would do) the “weapon of the future” would become so extremely popular that everyone would own one or be striving eagerly toward owning one. Eventually, the NRA would overcome this rough patch and in time would change its name to SLUG (SmartGun Legion Under God), which would still be enough of a masculine name to satisfy even the most testosterone-challenged member. And it has God in the title.
We are a smart country. We could do this. I dream on.
After a time, new bumper stickers would begin cropping up from all sides of the issue — awkward and not very catchy at first: GUNS DON’T KILL PEOPLE, PEOPLE WHO ARE CRIMINALS WITH SMART GUNS KILL THEMSELVES — SMART GUNS KILL THEIR OWNERS, NOT INNOCENT PEOPLE — HAVE YOU SHOT YOURSELF TODAY? — ASK ME ABOUT MY SMARTGUN — got smartgun? And then later, simply: SMARTGUN OWNER. STILL ALIVE. This last sentiment would satisfy people’s need to own guns, yet they would be hesitant to fire them lest they off themselves. To be a SmartGun owner and to still be alive would be quite an accomplishment. These people would be honored as elite citizens. Still, they would be avoided by the average citizen because they would be viewed as odd and unstable.
Imagine, too, a future with SmartGuns. Drive-by shootings would become drive-by multiple suicides. Self-defense class enrollment would skyrocket. Hypnotists (mentioned earlier) would be in high demand to serve as gun shop consultants, resulting in Schools of Hypnotism sprouting up at universities around the country — a B.A. in Hypnotism would be a respected degree. Over time, it would become a noble thing to kill yourself rather than taking another’s life. Suicides would be well thought of after their self-inflicted death, especially if a smart gun was involved.
SmartGun would be helpful, too. Since suicide by firearm is the third leading cause of violent death in the U.S. for people age 35 – 65+, SmartGun sensors would detect an intentional suicide and disarm itself, and then send a silent emergency signal to the nearest suicide hotline which would dispatch trained counselors to the user’s location via GPS.
Imagine if George Zimmerman had owned a SmartGun. He would be just another accidental suicide statistic, and Trayvon Martin would still be hating high school (every teenager hates high school, this is a fact), and his parents wouldn’t be missing him so terribly.
Of course, SmartGun would be kid friendly. If a child picked up a loaded SmartGun, the weapon would immediately perform an unrecoverable crash which would destroy all of its smart electronics, rendering itself forever unusable — SmartGun would, in effect, kill itself. The adult SmartGun owner would then be forced to discard the dead weapon and purchase a new one. This could prove to be very expensive for an inattentive parent.
As for rifles and shotguns, there would be SmartGun EX (Extended). Because of the difficulty of shooting oneself in the head with a shotgun (famous literary shotgun-suicides aside), SG EX would employ the same EDS as SG 2.0, but instead of emitting the neuro-muscular reflex-altering electronic pulse, this version would cause the gun to self destruct, literally blowing up in the user’s face, resulting in facial disfigurement and often blindness. Citizens affected this way would bear common and recognizable injuries and would eventually be shunned from society for having attempted to take an innocent life.
Eventually, a current (or prospective) gun owner would be reluctant to pick up a loaded weapon for fear of offing himself or ruining his face. This is the point at which firearm operation would become so complicated and risky that people would eventually give up gun ownership altogether.
Hunters would be restricted to designated hunting grounds (much as they are today) and would be required to use SmartGun EXI (Extended Immediate), forcing them, by post-hypnotic suggestion delivered by aforementioned Point-Of-Sale Hypnotists, to consume their prey raw immediately following the kill. This would confine hunting to only the most hearty, bloodthirsty of outdoor sports enthusiasts.
Law enforcement officers would be issued SmartGuns, but would also be offered SmartTasers. Officers who frequently discharge weapons on unarmed suspects might lean toward the latter.
Deaths involving firearms — especially assassinations — would be retroactively reversed: murders would become suicides. To bring this about, mere human technology would be useless. This is where the aliens come in. (Wait! Wait! Just hear me out.) It’s common knowledge that for decades aliens have been watching us from afar, right? Well, as the SmartGun program progresses, these altruistic aliens (akin to Swift’s Houyhnhnms or Klaatu in The Day The Earth Stood Still) would step in and share with us their time-altering technology designed specifically for this task. We would not be permitted to change history at our whim, no siree. (The aliens would also be responsible for the RFPD technology used in SmartGun 2.0.) At first, only assassinations and murders within theUnited States would be reversed. (Sorry, Franz and Sophie, since this would not apply outside the U.S., you would still have been assassinated and World War I would still have happened.)
Think of all the assassinations alone that would become famous suicides. The images would fill the pages of LIFE magazine and edgy photography galleries for years to come: Booth slumped over the presidential box railing at Ford’s Theater, his blood and brain matter splattered all over the back of Mary Todd and a shocked yet very much alive Abe. Sirhan Sirhan lying on the kitchen floor, his busboy smock soaked with his own blood, someone holding his head as he gurgled his last breath, a stunned Bobby Kennedy looking on. A blind James Earl Ray lying folded into a corner of that rooming house bathroom, his face blown off. (Years later, Barack Obama would be only the second black President of the United States.) Lee Harvey’s brains oozing down a stack of Texas textbooks as he bled to death in that hot, dusty room, unable to speak, choking on his own blood. Jack Kennedy would resign the presidency in disgrace after being discovered with a dying Marilyn Monroe in her hotel bathroom, a fatal gunshot wound to the temple — everyone would know what went down. Years later, Jack Ruby would suffer a fatal heart attack after not ever shooting anyone, not even himself.
Best of all, Mark David Chapman would be a long-dead, forgotten nobody, and John Lennon would still be alive and making great records, although he would have finally wised up and divorced Yoko. (Don’t tell her I said that.) Of course, too, the band would have gotten back together briefly before George died to record one more amazing album.
This last scenario makes me the saddest of all, because it reinforces the fact that these are just dreams of what might have been if we’d only been a little smarter, a little wiser, a little kinder, a little less crazy. Criticize me if you will for making light of this topic, but I’ve lost friends and co-workers at the hands of gun-toting spouses and strangers; suicides, too, all of which really sucks. If there were any way (Hello, aliens?) to make my SmartGun dream a reality, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
The only downside would be the eventual release of SmartGun 3.0. The technology would become so “smart” that the guns would begin to make their own decisions about who to shoot. Improved grip EDS would be hypersensitive to the user’s psyche if he even glanced at the gun, detecting any glimmer of a suicidal thought (even one from way back in college when the user’s first serious relationship went sour) and fire a lethal shot into the user’s brain at the exact spot of the memory. Production of SmartGun would cease after version 3.0, its mission complete, its lifecycle ended.
Although I am totally behind the SmartGun idea, I realize (being a realist, of course) that we will still find ways to destroy one another. As intelligent and forward-thinking as the aliens are, they will be powerless to stop our desire for global warfare and will only be able to look on pityingly as we slowly remove ourselves from the planet. Once we are gone, the aliens will feel so bad about a burned and crippled but still perfectly good planet going unused, they will convert Earth into a landfill. Oddly enough, it turns out that alien trash has the consistency and color of split pea soup, and had humankind not blown itself out of existence, most of us would have sworn that alien trash was the best split pea soup we’d ever tasted.
So c’mon, America! Let’s build some SmartGuns!