Let’s Not Kill Two Birds with One Stone
A Technological Solution to America’s Twin Firearms Crises
Two firearms crises currently haunt America, the specters of mass and police shootings. An inventor-entrepreneur could solve both and become a millionaire, if not a billionaire, overnight.
What America needs is an affordable, long-range, non-lethal weapon no bigger or heavier than a handgun. A gizmo easy enough for even a teacher to use that can reliably incapacitate a threat at 50, maybe even 100, yards with very low mortality risk.
Such a weapon would greatly decrease the costs of mistakenly shooting an innocent and could be used without hesitation by law enforcement personnel or citizens, in public or at home. For many people, taking a human life, even the life of someone shooting at them, is not an act easily contemplated, much less carried out. Few hesitate, though, to spray mace in an attacker’s eyes, or to tase him.
A technological intervention makes both political and common sense. Deployment of non-lethal weapons does not infringe anyone’s Second Amendment rights but can mitigate the threat to human life from the millions of firearms already in private hands. It also does not preclude stronger gun control regulations. Law enforcement personnel can still use firearms but can be trained to use the non-lethal option in many situations that now entail the use of deadly force.
Existing personal self-defense weapons only work at very close range. What we need is the equivalent of setting our “phasers to stun.” Phasers do not yet exist and probably will not for some time but some very real, well-understood technologies could be adapted to cause incapacitation instead of death.
The weapons I have in mind will not solve all of America’s problems. They will not be able to stop snipers, bombers, or drivers but they will be effective against suspects, home invaders, and school shooters. Muggers and rapists will want to use them to facilitate commission of their dastardly deeds but the weapons will not be firearms and hence can be tightly regulated without violating the Constitution.
The fact that engineers have not already provided a long-range, non-lethal technological solution for America’s twin firearms crises is largely attributable to the odd, polarized discourse surrounding both mass and police shootings. We all agree that we do not want innocent blood spilled but all we seem to talk about is guns, guns, guns. If we put half as much effort into developing a practical, workable solution, entrepreneurs would have the incentive to invent one, knowing full well that they will be rapidly rewarded with brisk sales.
If I have underestimated the development costs or overestimated the size of the market, let the federal government and/or some corporation or foundation fund an XPrize. By 2020, we should all be able to incapacitate shooters less than 50 or 100 yards away for long enough to close the distance and physically restrain them before they regain enough of their consciousness or senses to pull the trigger again.