I have been imagining tech welded to a long gun that makes shootings of public groups of people -- public mass shootings -- almost or totally impossible. What if there was human body recognition tech on a long gun that could sense groups of humans in it's sight and when such groups were sensed, the gun trigger was auto-locked? A sensor installed on a long gun would react when it "saw" a group of humans and lock the rifle.

The first response will be "nope, not possible".

No is the customary response to all new ideas by other humans. Instead, identify the challenges and the changes needed, the tweaks, so to speak. There are, obviously, many challenges. But every new idea can be subjected to an analysis that improves the original idea. Required retrofitting is the easy part, imho and not requiring consideration. .

This is just a starting point for an idea, a seed that needs germination. It needs more innovation. A collective effort by many inventive minds may result in a permanent gun accessory more effective than any law. Can you contribute?

Imagine if we could make public mass shootings impossible...

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    $\begingroup$ Not sure what you are asking, do you want to be able to shoot mass quantities of livestock/aliens, but the gun should lock-up if you want to shoot people, or do you mean that the guns should only be able to shoot sanctioned targets? Also what's the worldbuilding issue here? Voting to close as unclear. $\endgroup$ – Tantalus' touch. Aug 8 '19 at 1:32
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    $\begingroup$ Worldbuilding is based on the SE Q&A model which is better with a focused single question and criteria for accepting answers. It is also based on World building so if this is not about building a world this is the wrong site for it. This question is unclear & too broad at the moment (it requires building an entire AI/ML system & distribution/installation system). Please edit to fit the WB model. $\endgroup$ – LinkBerest Aug 8 '19 at 2:01
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    $\begingroup$ Just remove the sensor. Then you have a working gun again. Or just 3d print your own, or use an relic weapon instead. I don't see the world building question here. $\endgroup$ – Trevor Aug 8 '19 at 2:01
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    $\begingroup$ @NWestern Making a 3d gun illegal isn't going to stop someone who is willing to kill people. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Aug 8 '19 at 2:11
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    $\begingroup$ Cover the Gun in foil and the wireless aspect no longer works. Signals are very easy to block. Cover the sensor and it no longer see's. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Aug 8 '19 at 2:11

Yes, but it won't solve the problem.

At that point, it'd be less of a gun, and more of a wide bore camera which has a gun attachment. Facial recognition is getting better all the time, and just recognizing a human face it pretty easy. You need wide bore, because guns, especially rifles, are aimed at one person at a time, not groups, so you have a wide bore camera which views, let's say something like 135 degrees of vision, and if it recognizes more than, say five humans in that field, the gun locks up. Net access not required, but a significant amount of computing power is. Power is, unfortunately an issue, but running it for five minutes shouldn't take that much and civilian gun use rarely exceeds that except for recreational uses which we can just drag along generators.

Incidentally, a camera can just be blocked with black paper. A better idea would be a thermal camera, assuming cost is not object, which also comes with it's own problems in that it can be fooled, just not as cheaply. But that's not the real problem.

Unfortunately, you'd also somehow have to design a gun which cannot fire when this system is disabled to the point where trying to hack into the system or tampering with it bricks the gun, because mass shooters who are willing to kill people won't care about pesky things like 'user restrictions'. And that is very hard to do. Guns are simple things. They're made of less than a few dozen parts, and require no electrical parts or motors, and semi-automatics reload based on their own recoil. You have to have the gun fuse itself shut from tampering, which seems dangerous. (Seems dangerous in the sense that you'd need some kind of explosive or reactant in the gun to fuse it at the first sign of tampering - at which the Liberator is a safer option.)

And then you get to another problem - the gun won't work against a mass shooter. If a shooter uses an illegal weapon which doesn't have these restrictions, than a weapon with these restrictions can't be used by armed civilians to stop said shooter.

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    $\begingroup$ "Power is, unfortunately an issue" - Not really. An average smartphone has more than enough processing power for the purpose, and if you remove unrelated components like the touchscreen and wireless transmitter, it'll easy last for a few days, if not weeks. Optimized hardware will do much better. Effective tamper protection would be difficult to implement, though. $\endgroup$ – Ruther Rendommeleigh Aug 8 '19 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ Of the 250 mass shooting in the US this year, how many of the shooters were stopped by a civilian shooting them? $\endgroup$ – Innovine Aug 10 '19 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Innovine Step 1: Stop using GVA to get numbers for mass shootings in America. It's 250 including incidents which were entirely accidental and no one was was killed. Mother Jones, which has a far better definition, puts the number at 7. Still too high, but thankfully much lower than 250. Step 2: Read this article: nationalreview.com/2019/08/… $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Aug 11 '19 at 21:07

Focus not on the target but where they are shooting

If you had a smart gun with a GPS system, the gun could be locked to only work in permitted locations. A "home defence" pistol works only in the home. Hunters can shoot in set hunting areas. Sports shooters can shoot in gun ranges. Gun won't work in schools, movie theaters and malls.

It's possible but will never happen as America has a gun culture and even attempting to research the possibility causes a backlash on the company

See The Smart Gun Doesn’t Exist for the Dumbest Reasons

Sure this tech can be circumvented with a GPS spoofer or a mass shooting at a permitted location but you can't just snap and go on a rampage cause you had a bad day. It would have to be planned.

Now you can't retrofit this to existing guns. You need electronically fired weapons like Metal Storm. Existing guns are pure mechanical and there isn't a viable way of fitting electronics.

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  • $\begingroup$ Many mass shooters do appear to have planned their shooting. Your GPS lock might help with mass shootings, but it won't prevent domestic homicide, suicide or accidental shootings. Gun culture itself had to be inculcated into US society. Cultures do change, sometimes it just takes a long time. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 8 '19 at 3:48
  • $\begingroup$ Some mass shooters don't plan. The last one in Ohio got dumped by his GF. He was clearly looking at death by cop and wanting to take out others with him. The one in Texas was planned $\endgroup$ – Thorne Aug 8 '19 at 4:05
  • $\begingroup$ Quite agree. Many is not the same as all. Either way mass shooters are menace. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 8 '19 at 7:29
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    $\begingroup$ there's something about disturbed people and guns - sometimes knives, but the big kill- count ( as opposed to incident- count) is guns. i like the geofence- solution. sure it does not help with domestic violence, and it does not end world hunger, but mass shootings it definitely curbs. the problem is not technological, though, it's political. the government would need to pay the retrofit/exchange - handsomely - that would get the weapons manufacturers exited, they would retarget the nra, which would then turn it's pocketed politicians in a flamin 180... $\endgroup$ – bukwyrm Aug 8 '19 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ You can't retrofit. Has to be from new. You can't allow the system to be converted back else it's a waste of time so only a pure electronic system can work $\endgroup$ – Thorne Aug 9 '19 at 4:22

There are two parts that need to be invented which do exist today but aren't integrated into a rifle and would pose serious ethical problems to do so.

The first component would be an electronic fire control system. Basically a "fly-by-wire" all digital trigger group that isn't mechanically linked to the trigger at all. Instead, the trigger is an electrical switch. Pulling the trigger would close that switch and provide one of two signals needed to cycle the firing mechanism. For simplicity's sake, let's say the output signal is gated by a diode since they need two input signals to send an output. The output will go to a solenoid or DC coil that pulls the mechanism into motion.

//-- as an aside,

I don't like this idea because you're adding complexity and increasing the risk of malfunction. Stuck firing coil contacts? Now you've either accidentally created a fully automatic rifle, or it won't fire at all. Damage to the diode or wiring? Now it won't fire, even with a full magazine and full battery. It would have to be a very well engineered, maybe even with redundant control channels and a polling system that averages their inputs to determine weather it's really being asked to fire or not. That means occasionally it will have error codes that need debugging, and I'm guessing based on the theme here that isn't something the average Joe is going to be allowed to do on their own but only at a licensed service center, which means $$$. This needs to be a very rugged component that can take just as much punishment as the rifle can, plus the vibration and heat from the firing sequence itself, plus hazards like EMI shielding.

Lastly, someone could just short out the diode and directly link the trigger to the solenoid, bypassing the camera's input entirely. You can try to make that hard, but it comes down to two wires and almost anyone could do that.

The second component would be a smart-camera. This part is more complicated, because said camera not only has to recognize a human body (not hard, there are open source algorithms right now that can do that), but it also has to know which bodies this rifle has fired at and judge if each shooting was justified. That part is in my opinion, virtually impossible to automate. Situations requiring lethal use of force run a wide gamut. If a battered spouse pulls a gun on her abusive husband and he's unarmed, the gun decides a shooting isn't justified then the software just disarmed her. But assuming that algorithm worked perfectly, if the software said OK then it would send the second signal to bias the diode and let out the output signal to close the solenoid and cycle the firing mechanism.

And that gets worse. Since whoever designed that software is really the one deciding if you're armed or not, why stop there? There's going to be a temptation in today's authoritarian environment to pad extra software like preventing the gun from shooting at cops or soldiers. Now the weapon is useless to rebels. It's really not your gun at all anymore. I wouldn't buy a system like that willingly, for one thing it would probably cost more than the rifle, for another it would probably be illegal to tamper with it. It would only be a matter of time before you realize you're not the one in control of the trigger.

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  • $\begingroup$ Early on in your answer, you said there were serious ethical problems, but they don't seem to be addressed elsewhere in it. While your final paragraph raises some political issues, they aren't ethical ones. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 8 '19 at 3:42
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    $\begingroup$ The ethical problems are that the system can be easily bypassed, and that the smart camera's threat assessment system may misclassify situations that actually do justify use of deadly force. $\endgroup$ – Adam Coville Aug 8 '19 at 3:59
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the clarification. It seems to me that the ethical aspect is in using highly unreliable systems. Humans are good at misclassifying situations where deadly force may or may not be required. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 8 '19 at 7:24
  • $\begingroup$ That's true, humans err but so does the machine that's man-made. Our threat analysis system is very fast, honed by millions of years of evolutionary instinct. More to the point, ours is the life that might be lost if the gun malfunctions. It's a question of do you trust the machine do make a life / death decision. Same ethical problem faces self-driving car engineers. $\endgroup$ – Adam Coville Aug 8 '19 at 8:00

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