Miniter: The Gun Tech That Could Present Another Ferguson

I read Frank Miniter’s brilliant The Future of the Gun on the way back from Gunsite Academy in Arizona this past Sunday. Reading such a book after spending five days and 40+ hours dedicated to becoming a “student of the gun” provided an interesting perspective.


The Future Of the Gun provided a stunning look in the history of firearms in this nation, and their current state as technology, in culture, and in law.  Miniter also provided a glimpse into the future of firearms (which I sincerely hope goes beyond the much-maligned Remington R51 on the cover). The book vividly explains that our United States is intractably tied to firearms, and that for the Republic (and freedom) to endure, firearms must remain a vital part of our culture. I highly recommend it.

The history of the gun in the United States has been one of revolutionary private change, with civilian imagination and technology almost always outstripping the government’s adoption of these same arms by the military.

It is particularly amusing to hear gun control advocates to claim that “civilians don’t need access to ‘weapons of war,'” when the history of weapons development in this nation is that of our military adopting firearms first developed by and for civilians, with the military often adopting firearms technologies long after they were widespread among the general civilian population.

One of the countless firearms-related technologies being developed by the free market is a system that Miniter thinks could help prevent another “Ferguson.”

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A makeshift shrine has been created where Michael Brown fell.

On August 9, 2014, Ferguson Missouri police officer Darren Wilson encountered Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson walking in the middle of the street and allegedly asked them to step onto the sidewalk.

From there, accounts of what follow diverge wildly.

Dorian Johnson claims that Wilson then attempted to grab the 6’4″, 292 lbs Brown by reaching out the window of the police SUV, that Wilson shot Brown in the back, and that Johnson and Brown fled, only for Brown to be shot in the back again. Johnson then claimed that Brown turned around to surrender, hands raised, and that officer Wilson essentially executed Brown, shooting him down, “like an animal.”

Johnson has since been arrested for a pair of outstanding 2011 warrants, including filing a false police report.

The account from Officer Wilson’s perspective is a wildly different story, related by a family friend to the media.

In Wilson’s account, the 6’4″ 292 lbs. Brown attacked Wilson as he was attempting to get out of his vehicle, and struggled with him over control of the officer’s sidearm. The pistol discharged, and both Dorian Johnson and Michael Brown took off running. Wilson exited the vehicle, and yelled at the two men to “freeze.” Brown stopped and turned to face Wilson, mocking him, claiming that he would not shoot. Wilson them claims that Brown charged at him, forcing him to open fire. Brown was hit four times in the right arm as he charged forward, took a fifth round that ricocheted off the top of his right eye socket and down through his jaw to embed in his collarbone, and what is presumed to be the final and only fatal shot to the top of his head as he dropped, just two feet in front of officer Wilson.


Dorian Johnson and several other witnesses—with dubiously matching stories despite very different vantage points—asserted that Wilson was an out-of-control cop who murdered Michael Brown merely for being black. These assertions spread like wildfire, and have been responsible for the nightly protests, along with some rioting, arson, and looting, ever since.

In a post in Forbes, Miniter notes that one of the emerging technologies that he discovered while researching The Future of The Gun could have quickly determined which version of events was more nearly accurate and might have possibly prevented the rioting with video evidence.

[Eric] Lichtenberg said, “A gun could have a tiny video camera installed to give us the cop’s point of view. It could also use a time stamp to record when a gun is drawn and when it is fired. It wouldn’t be hard to install such technology in the polymer frame of a pistol. This real information could be available in trials, investigations and so on. Such technology could give us detailed accounts of police actions.”

When I asked if a small video camera could withstand the recoil of a firearm, Lichtenberg said, “In the short term yes. Cameras on cell phones and now on drones have been made to withstand a lot of abuse, but to design a camera that could stand up to long-term use by police officers it would take a few years of testing and engineering, but it’s totally doable.”

This is relevant to what’s been happening in Ferguson, Missouri. Part of what led to the protests and worse in Ferguson was a lack of information and the conjecture that, until video and other evidence was released, was rampant on the streets and in the media. If an officer’s gun could record his point of view then investigators would be able to immediately see what the cop saw. They could then make press statements accordingly. They might not release the video—such a thing could be too graphic and personal—but they could allow the family, their lawyers and others to view the video.


If video evidence of the shooting existed it might have gone a long way towards preventing the subsequent rioting by either showing that Brown was the aggressor, or by showing that Wilson shot a man who was trying to surrender. Either way, the evidence would have made its way to the grand jury, and would have allayed concerns that the police are unaccountable.

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An in-store camera captured Michael Brown's assault on a much smaller clerk.
An in-store camera captured Michael Brown’s assault on a much smaller clerk during a strong-arm robbery just minutes before he encountered Officer Darren Wilson.

Body and car cameras are already existing technologies that unfortunately have not yet become standard issue to most police officers. The development of gun cameras—something that already exists in a larger and not-mature-enough form—is another tool that would not only reassure the citizenry, but protect law enforcement officers from allegations that they exceeded their authorized use of force.

Perhaps the events of August 9 in Ferguson, and the turmoil that has followed, will help accelerate the widespread adoption of these technologies.

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