The rapid evolution of modern technology has brought forward new questions on how to sufficiently regulate the use of firearms.
For years, gun manufacturers have been circumventing restrictions on assault weapons by implementing cosmetic design changes to new guns. Meanwhile, the government’s list of prohibited firearms have not been updated since 1995.
By failing to keep up with the evolution of gun designs, many powerful semi-automatic and sniper rifles are currently available on the market as non-restricted hunting rifles. This illustrates the importance for gun laws to be proactive in addressing public safety concerns as opposed to addressing the concerns once are prevalent.
In recent years, two notable revolutions in the technology space have received little attention by Parliament: 1) 3D printing technology; and 2) deep web networks.
3D printing technology allows users to produce fully-functional firearms from downloaded digital blueprints. This allows anyone to bypass gun-licensing requirements and assemble firearms without any particular skill or expertise. As of this moment, some organizations are developing such blueprints to be freely distributed online. Furthermore, the fact that 3D-printed firearms are made from plastic material means that these weapons would bypass metal detectors.
At the present time, there are no laws in place to sufficiently control the distribution of 3D printed firearms blueprints.
Recent years have also witnessed the rise and fall of Silk Road, an untraceable online black market for illegal products and services such as firearms. Many retailers make weapons legally available for sale online, while some online classifieds contain listings for private sales where there are no guaranteed licence checks (especially since the repeal of the registry). But new untraceable deep-web networks emerging since the fall of Silk Road facilitate explicitly illegal transactions, with some networks purported to have even larger user bases than that of Silk Road.
Using IP masking technology and digital currency, deep-web networks allow for the anonymous transfer of illegal goods. As digital anonymization technology continues to evolve, the deep-web may soon flourish as a primary source of illegal firearms.
Amidst these growing concerns, the development of smart gun technology as a viable solution has been given even less attention. This technology has the potential to prevent gun crimes by limiting its use to licensed individuals using biometrics and radio frequency identification (RFID). The United States Attorney General has expressed an interest in exploring the technology, while the European Commission has also stated its commitment to implementing smart guns in a recent report on firearms:
“The Commission will work with the firearms industry to explore technological solutions, such as biometric sensors where personal data is stored in the firearm, for ensuring that purchased firearms may only be used by their legal owner. It will carry out a detailed cost-benefit analysis on the question of making such ‘smart gun’ security features mandatory for firearms lawfully sold in the EU.”
Evidently, as the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act continues to be debated in Parliament, there is a need to review the rapidly-evolving landscape of firearms and consider technological solutions in response to emerging technological concerns.