Quote of the day—Scott Connors

If judges can pontificate on questions of firearms engineering, then I can write legal decisions legalizing the possession of fully automatic firearms and rocket propelled grenades by the unorganized militia (ie, us). That’s fair, isn’t it?

Scott Connors
September 4, 2014
Comment to Judge Tries His Hand at Engineering
[Yes. It is fair.

It’s also just as likely to be faulty as the judge’s engineering efforts. This, of course, was his point.

What the judge and other “smart gun” advocates apparently don’t or can’t understand is that engineering against an intelligent adversary is dramatically different and more difficult than engineering devices to reduce the probability of accidents or the mitigate the effects of such an accident.

Turn signals and brake lights reduce the chance of accidents. Seatbelts mitigate the effects of accidents. There has been little need to significantly improve the technology of these in the last 50 years.

The technology of antitheft devices has seen dramatic improvement in the last 50 years. This is because in the case of the theft of a car the engineer has an intelligent adversary working against them. Both the thief and engineer attempting to protect the car innovate nearly constantly.

And even that analogy is weak because:

  • Guns have the contradictory criteria of failing to fire if the thief removes or disables the power supply and being useable by the owner in an emergency situation if the battery or electronics have died.
  • A inoperable gun is far more transportable than an inoperable car.
  • A car has large and reliable power supply.
  • A car can be disabled for many seconds or even, in extreme cases, a few minutes without serious consequences.
  • A few pounds of anti-theft technology added to a car are not an obstacle to its use.
  • Two way communication technology is common and relatively difficult to defeat in a car. Not so in a gun.

If you are going to pontificate on “Smart Guns” you should get the advice of an engineer with experience in security.—Joe]

13 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Scott Connors

  1. Upon “smart system failure” (from dead battery or whatever cause) does it go “bang” or not, and if it’s such great technology will the police gladly accept it being imposed upon them? If not, then it’s not ready to guinea-pig on the public.

  2. Remember, you are dealing with software. Think about the old joke where a wife asks a software engineer to go to the store:
    “Stop at the store and get a loaf of bread. See if they have fresh eggs, and if so, grab a dozen.”
    The engineer came home with 12 loaves of bread.

    Engineering software is entirely different from dealing with people.

  3. Yes, and there’s some truth to those jokes (as with all stereotypes). It’s also true that there are plenty of engineers, software and otherwise, who are quite good at dealing with regular people.
    Joe’s point about “engineer with experience in security” is a key point. Most software engineers do not qualify. A fair number of them think they do but they don’t. Look at your PC for confirmation of this assertion.
    In fact, what you need here is an engineer competent in the design of safety critical systems, and system security, and cryptography. I suspect the number of people in the world qualified for all that can be counted on the fingers of my hands. Or perhaps the thumbs.

    • But before you even get to the deep weeds of technical implementation details, the fundamental question of “bang or not bang on failure?” needs to be answered on a flow-chart.
      If not bang then it’s useless for self defense, police, and military.
      If bang then it’s useless for accidents.
      If it’s easily switchable, it’s useless for crime prevention, and will likely promote accidents.
      If it’s switchable with difficulty, it’s worse than useless for good guys in mixed environments, and still won’t prevent crime.
      Because there is no flow-chart arrow pointing to an acceptable [functional WIN] in the flow chart, the technicals make zero difference. You have to explicitly make major trade-offs on safety and reliability before you even think about pulling the trigger on a design.

      • Exactly right, and any competent engineer would make that analysis just as you did, and come to the same conclusion.
        Which I suppose explains why a judge came up with this: engineers understand these things, lawyers are too ignorant to.

  4. Actually, it’s much more easily explained.

    Automobiles have onboard computers to optimise performance and minimise pollutants. An anti-theft algorithm can be easily added as an after thought.

    With very rare exceptions, the basic gun is a mechanism with no electrical or electronic parts involved in the function. Two recent exceptions being the Voere VEC-91 and the MetalStorm system.

    Accessories like flashlights, red dot sights, night vision systems, etc. are just that; accessories. The gun still functions whether these work or not.

    Another issue is that, despite every effort by the legacy media to ignore the issue, the patent for the latest smart gun technology also claims the feature that the government can turn off your smart gun merely by broadcasting a signal. Is this something we should trust to our government? Another issue is that if the feature exists, it can be hacked; i.e. activated by unauthorized users.

    Due to the computer at it’s core, the TrackingPoint system may be a suitable testbed for such anti-theft technology but this is a very specialised weapon with a very limited market. Otherwise, the controllers are merely trying to add something to a system that has no innate capability of incorporating the feature.

    If Maryland is intent on pursuing this experiment, I would suggest they demonstrate the supeority of their systemm by equipping all Maryland state police officers and security services with smart guns. What’s sauce for the goose. Might even make a good lawfare effeort.

  5. There’s a big problem with saying that politician “A” or judge “B” are not qualified in a certain area is best explain with a question– What if a certain anti-liberty judge were a top notch engineer and gun expert?

    See? It’s STILL absolutely none of his business as a judge to tell anyone what kind of gun they should make or sell or buy.

    And as I keep saying; if we’re going to allow enemies of liberty in government, and if it’s a choice between dumb, ignorant tyrants and really super intelligent, experienced and knowledgeable tyrants, we’re far better of with the dumb ones.

    • In this case it wasn’t an active judge. He has been retired for some time and he wrote an opinion piece. Apparently someone believed that because his “caseload included homicides and assaults by gun” that made him an expert on engineering of firearms.

      • OK, but what if he were a retired firearms engineer with a background in electronics who then became a judge or a legislator? Then can he tell you what guns you may and may not build or own?

        • True. The first answer is “stop trampling the Constitution”. The second answer is “and besides, you’re an idiot who doesn’t know what he’s talking about”.

  6. Most judges, and lawyers, for that point, are completely disconnected from the reason we have the law. It has been perverted so far, that they have to be educated in how NOT to read plain English, but rather how to “interpret” it. I’d much prefer a truly honest “uneducated” fellow who can read the English language, and doesn’t come up with BULL like the justices we have now. The law as it is has been bent to remove life, liberty and property rather than protect it. Our whole damn government is corrupt and has been for over 100 years. Freedom my ass.

    • Indeed.
      Ask a lawyer to explain the meaning of the phrase “shall make no law” or “shall not be infringed”.
      Or take a look at any day’s issue of the Federal Register (average size: 200 pages per day) and try to find something — anything — that is authorized by the Constitution.
      Anytime you see a judge/justice use the term “balancing” in connection with applying a Constitutional right, or Constitutional prohibition, you’re looking at someone who does not speak English and has utter contempt for the Constitution. (And yes, there are a number of sitting Supreme Court justices that do this routinely.)

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