The debate over smart guns typically elicits the following questions:
Would Americans even buy one?
Would gun owners buy them?
Would conservative, Second Amendment absolutists accept them?
This week, Johns Hopkins University researchers offered some answers.
In a paper published online in the American Journal of Public Health, the researchers said results from a survey showed that 59 percent of Americans were willing to buy smart guns, which use electronics ranging from fingerprints to wireless-connected watches to control who can use them.
Some 43 percent of gun owners are willing to buy them, according to the survey. And 56 percent of political conservatives were too. (For liberals, the number soared to 71 percent.)
The Johns Hopkins results differ dramatically from a 2013 survey by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry. It found just 14 percent of Americans were will to buy a smart gun and that 44 percent didn’t think they were reliable.
That survey has been cited in the recent debate over smart guns, which flared up two years ago when a German manufacturer introduced a gun that connects wirelessly to a watch. It failed.
Gun rights advocates protested against two stores that tried to sell it, forcing them to drop the idea. They feared it would trigger a New Jersey law mandating all smart guns be sold in the state. Realizing the mandate was hampering smart gun development, legislators tried to roll back the law, but Gov. Chris Christie (R) blocked the effort earlier this week.
And so the debate continues — just as President Obama directed the federal government to research and potentially buy firearms as part of his executive actions on gun control.
The NSSF, which says it only opposes mandates of the technology, said this about its survey results: “We are not surprised, frankly, to find that the majority of those polled were skeptical of this technology, although the margins were perhaps higher than even those of us familiar with the arguments would have expected.
The Hopkins researchers said this about theirs: “Our findings suggest that there is, in fact, a high level of public interest in smart guns, and widespread willingness to consider purchasing such guns.”