David Gunn's modest proposal for gun safety

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David Gunn.
David Gunn knows he's stepping into the crossfire. He knows the gun-control folks are likely to view him as a crank while gun owners denounce him as the Antichrist. But the former gun shop owner is an inventor by inclination and has been a firearms buff ever since he was a kid, and he can't help tinkering. Let others rage on about gun violence and the Second Amendment; Gunn's busy working on a technological fix to the problem. And he thinks he has it -- a "firearms safety management system" both sides can embrace, once they understand it.

Growing up on a ranch near Granby, Gunn did his share of hunting and screwing around with guns; at fourteen he got shot in the heel when an untended .22 fell over and went off. In the 1970s, Gunn operated a gun-and-fishing-rod shop on Kipling. (Yes, it was called Gunn's Guns.) "We sold a lot of guns, including backup guns for cops," he recalls. "These days, nobody wants to deal in used guns, but we did."

Gunn went on to operate a successful construction business, while developing inventions and patents in his spare time, including a magazine for an electric screw gun that he suggests was "thirty years ahead of its time." He also worked on firearm innovations, despite a tiff with the FBI over his design for a fully automatic action for caseless ammo that didn't overheat. "The government thinks we're all idiots, especially inventors," he sighs.

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The Gunn removable trigger.
A decade ago, after one child killed another with a gun found under a bed in Arvada, Gunn devised a removable trigger, on the theory that when kids see a gun has no trigger to pull, they lose interest in it. He insists it's better protection for gun owners with children than safety locks: "Safety locks are ridiculous. They can take them off. It engages them to do so. What defeats them is when there's nothing there. They want instant gratification."

Yet the escalating toll of mass shootings, from Aurora to Newtown and beyond, has prompted Gunn to think much more ambitiously about gun safety. Collaborating with an electronics expert, he's come up with a prototype for a device that he believes can revolutionize the campaign for prevention of gun violence -- without altering the weapon's original specs or infringing on the right to bear arms.

The device is essentially a kind of plug in the gun barrel that can be activated or retracted with a signal from an electronic key. It could be controlled by a handheld transmitter or even a cell-phone app. The most obvious benefit of the device, the inventor contends, is in safe home storage. Guns could be deactivated when not in use, a home defense weapon could be rendered live in seconds when needed -- but an intruder would find nothing but useless weaponry (and, more important, couldn't use your gun against you).

Well, maybe not completely useless. A disabled gun could still injure the person who attempts to fire it. Gunn had one shotgun he was testing disintegrate when he fired it by pulling a string from a distance with the device activated. "Most modern guns won't explode," he says, "but they will fall apart." He's working on venting more of the gases so that won't happen.

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A pellet gun equipped with Gunn's barrel device.
Gunn sees more far-ranging -- and controversial -- implications to the technology, though. Schools, government buildings, even private businesses could be equipped with transmitters that activate the devices and make the guns inoperable, essentially creating gun-free zones. The device could also transmit a GPS signal, allowing authorities to track stolen guns. Attempting to tamper with or disable the device could also send out an alert to law enforcement, similar to what happens when parolees attempt to remove their ankle bracelets.

Remotely tracked and disabled guns? If that sounds like an Orwellian prescription for gun control and eventual confiscation -- well, Gunn has heard the objections already. But he argues that there are ways to make guns smarter, in order to stymie mass shooters, without stomping on the rights of the law-abiding. "We're looking for a beginning here," he says. "The two sides are so polarized that nothing gets done. But you have to start somewhere."

Gunn has spoken to state and federal leaders and even some gun industry executives about his plan. He says there would have to be a special exception in the patent law to allow for the devices to be manufactured without competing against the major gun companies. Yes, it would take years and plenty of incentives to persuade millions of gun owners to swap out their weapons, or components of their weapons, for ones equipped with the device. Yes, the government would have to actively encourage such a move, possibly by requiring that any firearms used for hunting or recreational purposes on public lands be so equipped. Yes, the government's involvement would undoubtedly raise the hackles of the National Rifle Association leadership and its lobbyists.

That doesn't bother Gunn. "I'm just stubborn enough to turn down anything the NRA could offer me," he says.

Gunn is hoping for more audiences with lawmakers who've been stymied in their efforts to pass any sort of meaningful gun legislation. This is a better way, he insists: "I'm way ahead of the times. If I had the media and the politics behind me, this would go so fast."

More from our Business archive: "Photos: Check out Liberty Firearms Institute, local gun Disneyland coming soon."


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40 comments
Noah Yetter
Noah Yetter

Absolutely unacceptable infringement on our rights. Besides, such devices would inevitably malfunction at the worst possible time.

Matt Corry
Matt Corry

Sorry, I blame it on my public education. :)

CorruptAmongUs
CorruptAmongUs

If you want to make the streets safer, you need to dis-arm the corrupt sociopath's we now call the police and only allow them to carry batons....Violent offenses against the public should be punished with long prison sentences...After that, you need to take the really big guns away from the sociopaths in our government and only allow military action for self-defense of the nation....Then, we need to start locking up the REAL criminals on Wall Street that our current police are paid to protect.....This would be a great start....

Dan Smith
Dan Smith

Devin the liberal democrats want to control what you eat and how much soda you can have

Eric Smiles
Eric Smiles

Great idea. The gun nuts will whine.

Matt Corry
Matt Corry

I am a very well reulated malitia of one! What would be the first thing you would do if you wanted to take over a country? Take away all the peoples weapons, so they can't shoot back.

Dan Smith
Dan Smith

Sorry for the error on Joshua's name,I work with a friend named Jason

Dan Smith
Dan Smith

Jordan as a libertarian/conservative /republican,I don't want government intruding on any of our rights or freedoms.Todays Democrats want to control everything you do

Dan Smith
Dan Smith

Look at who is passing the gun laws Jordan,They are leftist democrats

Jordan Snyder
Jordan Snyder

Exactly - public servants should absolutely be regulated in the same way.

Jordan Snyder
Jordan Snyder

Dan, I'm with Joshua (who's Jason?) and I'm a huge tree-huggin', gay-lovin', pot-smokin' hippie, but I have guns and I do not believe the government has the interest of the people in mind. And of my like-minded friends, no one agrees with all the hysteria around gun control. So, I believe you've fallen victim to the polarizing nature of bi-partisan politics, where most people actually fall somewhere in the middle but the extreme point of view is more interesting and attention-grabbing so that's the one more people talk about.

arcostrokeman
arcostrokeman

This guy is truly pro-IIa.  I mean, come on, disabling and exploding your guns if your cell phone app freezes.  Tracking you on GPS with your guns, yes, I say we give him all our money.  Maybe he needs my testicles too, someone ask him...

Bret Egan
Bret Egan

Because criminals follow gun laws?

Dan Smith
Dan Smith

Jason,almost universally it is liberal democrats who want to infringe on our gun rights along with our right to hunt or do anything else they don't like

Steven M Palmer
Steven M Palmer

It's not even about defending ones self against a tyrannical government but rather that people have had the right to self defense ever since we genetically lost our teeth and claws...

John Ashley
John Ashley

that was in judge dread..... quite dystopian goings on.

Matt Corry
Matt Corry

So the second amendment is so we can protect our selfs from the government as well. So giving the government the exact location of my weapon, would be a major infringement on my Constitutional Rights!

Joshua Wesner
Joshua Wesner

Idiocy, yes. Liberal? Maybe not so much. I'm a big ol' tree huggin', screaming liberal, but I'll be damned if I'm going to hand the government a switch that shuts off my gun. Talk about completely defeating the purpose of the second amendment. Idiocy indeed.

Joshua Wesner
Joshua Wesner

This dude is out of his cotton-pickin' mind.

mj_s
mj_s

Can you say Hack??


Don Finley
Don Finley

I'm sure the good folks committing crimes will be first in line to comply... said nobody ever.

RustyShackleford
RustyShackleford

Actually, this needs to transmit a GPS signal to authorities every time it's fired - along with a camera photo of what the gun is pointed at.

tcruse
tcruse

Sorry, but the cure is worse than the problem. All we are criminals that have transmitters to turn off a home owners gun.  Or when the government deems marshal law to turn off all guns and just ignore 2A all together.  Or maybe turn off the guns owned by "black people"?  Or just guns owned by citizens? 

Monkey
Monkey

This guy is ahead of his time, I'm sure this feature will be part of laser guns, when they're invented. Guns of today are great because they aren't electronic, one of the few devices we use that don't require electricity. I don't think I'd want a gun that could be disabled by an iPhone app, your kids and the bad guy are rarely stopped by parental control features, and looking for the misplaced remote to unlock your weapon seems like a bad idea when in an emergency situation. Since police do the most shooting, maybe we start with their weapons and see how it goes. Force police to program their guns with facial recognition software when hunting down a suspect, preventing them from shooting the wrong person when they enter the wrong house.

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

Pfft! 

Sure. Put a remote disable mechanism on guns and put the switch in the hands of the government. 

What could go wrong?

steppesmusic
steppesmusic

Good luck, Mr. Gunn.  Thank you for acknowledging gun safety can be improved without preventing law-abiding citizens the ability to purchase and own firearms.

Sincerely,

"Gun-Grabbers" Everywhere

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Matt Corry Your meme speaks volumes, Matt. Thanks for posting.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Jordan Snyder Very interesting post, Jordan. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. Thanks.

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