If RFID Can Aid Enemies, What Does It Say About Smart Guns?

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

RFID technology is really interesting. It has a plethora of uses in business, uses that are downright genius.

However, like so much other technology, there’s a dark side to it. Especially when it’s used in ways that go beyond what the originators may have intended.

Sometimes, even when it seems to fall in line with its explicit purpose for being, there are problems. Especially in the military.

Determined to keep track of their guns, some U.S. military units have turned to a technology that could let enemies detect troops on the battlefield, The Associated Press has found.

The rollout on Army and Air Force bases continues even though the Department of Defense itself describes putting the technology in firearms as a “significant” security risk.

The Marines have rejected radio frequency identification technology in weapons for that very reason, and the Navy said this week that it was halting its own dalliance.

When embedded in military guns, RFID tags can trim hours off time-intensive tasks, such as weapon counts and distribution. Outside the armory, however, the same silent, invisible signals that help automate inventory checks could become an unwanted tracking beacon.

The AP scrutinized how the U.S. armed services use technology to keep closer control of their firearms as part of an investigation into stolen and missing military guns — some of which have been used in street violence. The examination included new field tests that demonstrated some of the security issues RFID presents.

Now, this is a serious issue with regard to the military. The last thing you want to do is put a tag in place that makes it easier for the enemy to hunt down your troops. Especially since RFID technology is so ubiquitous in commercial life.

Yet that also gives us something to think about with regard to smart guns.

For some time, the gun control crowd has been enamoured with smart gun technology. They see it as some kind of answer to their prayers, and it’s not difficult to see why. After all, even they realize that much of the problem from so-called gun violence comes from stolen guns. In theory, smart guns can’t be fired by someone other than their lawful owner.

The problem? Smart guns also use RFID technology.

If RFID will allow the enemy to detect and/or track our troops, why should we trust the same technology in our privately-owned firearms? Couldn’t such technology be used by some communities to create a de facto gun registry? After all, with readers placed sufficiently in a city, you don’t need people to register their guns if you can just detect where they are in the first place and just how many.

I’m sorry, but there’s nothing about this that makes me feel more comfortable with the potentiality of smart guns being the only firearms we could potentially buy.

Especially when I can already see the justification for such readers. After all, they’ll say, it will help us track down people who use firearms illegally.

But it may also give them a glimpse inside your gun safe. Anything you have with RFID technology is now open to them. They’ll know you have a half dozen of these guns and can surmise you have many more that aren’t smart guns.

I’m sorry, but that’s yet another strike against smart guns in my books. More so, it’s enough of one that if everything else was hunky-dory, this would be a deal killer.

Since everything else is also sketchy as hell…

Nov 26, 2021 10:30 AM ET