As of two weeks ago, Colt Canadian has partnered with the Department of National Defence to produce a new “smart gun” designed to switch weapon types and aim itself at targets automatically, a prospect that should be alarming and is a terrible use of Canadian dollars. $7 million has gone into the weapon’s invention, which is able to shift between being a rifle, a shotgun and a grenade launcher depending on the situation. As a country without a massive military presence, whose foreign deployments are predominantly peacekeeping missions, it’s counter-intuitive to think Canada would be the country responsible for an invention that could very well definitively change the face of modern warfare for the worse, even as it aims to reduce civilian casualties.
A gun that aims itself is one that facilitates snap judgements by reducing the time between shots, and while proponents of the weapon argue that it could be programmed to differentiate civilians from enemy soldiers, no technology is perfect. If a human being is making a conscientious effort to aim and shoot a loaded weapon, there’s a bigger weight of responsibility behind it and a greater degree of guilt. If the shooter should hit the wrong target, and they are the sole users of the weapon when it’s fired.
Beyond that, there’s the issue of what differentiates a civilian from a soldier. In many cases, soldiers disguise themselves as civilians and hide in residences so that they can use that camouflage to increase damages to enemy troops. In such a situation, this weapon would not necessarily make a difference because there would be no overt markers to indicate that a potential target was anything other than an ordinary citizen.
There are vulnerabilities to these new “smart guns” that come with computer-operated technologies. Given the presence of software behind the auto-aiming and communications functions, these weapons are vulnerable to enemy tampering, an intensely problematic aspect when it concerns a semi-automatic weapon that can also fire grenades if it’s told to. In addition, chances are good that a hacker could change the targeting parameters so that civilians are targeted instead of soldiers, intensifying the number of civilian casualties.
The potential for this weapon to be used in a situation like school shootings seems like another obvious reason that it shouldn’t have been invented, especially since our closest neighbour who has a major military presence (and the largest military budget out of any other country) is the United States, a nation that’s also known for having the largest number of school shootings per year. If such a weapon were brought into a chaotic school shooting situation as a gun that has the potential to inflict so much more damage than even a semi-automatic firearm, it would definitely lead to a greater number of bystander deaths.
The inventors of this gun intended it to reduce civilian casualties by making it identify foes and target them rather than innocents, but there are so many ways that these weapons can go wrong that the negatives far outweigh any potential pros, unless the main goal was merely to generate profit. Controls such as the makers attempted to implement on this weapon can only work so well. At the end of the day, absence of guns on the market reduces civilian casualties and prevents gun violence, not more powerful, multi-purpose firearms.