Ask APD: Smart guns and dangerous weapons

Q: What is your opinion on the viability of "smart funs" (guns which have electronic systems which allow only the operator/owner wearing a special ring or bracelet to fire them)? It seems like such a good idea/concept, but do you think they would work (for police and/or personal use)? Has APD considered issuing them to officers (to reduce the chance of someone stealing an officer's gun and using it against them or someone else)?

A: The concept of creating a firearm that could help lessen the chance of a child being hurt and prohibit use if stolen or intended for use against the owner is appealing. Our job revolves around keeping people safe, and any tool that helps us do that is worth consideration. However, reliability would be a major concern for any law enforcement officer. Officers I have spoken with have expressed concern that adding complicated computer chips to the fairly simple operation of our firearms adds too many elements that can go wrong. Personally, I stand by the reality that a gun is still a gun — no matter how smart it is. I truly believe that education and responsible ownership are always going to be the most important part of firearm safety.

APD has not considered issuing smart guns to officers, and I am unaware of any law enforcement agency that has. Besides the issue of reliability, our agency just does not have the funding for such equipment.

Q: I know someone that was arrested for hitting someone with a rock. The police report called the rock a "dangerous weapon." Really?

A: Oregon law defines a "dangerous weapon" as any weapon, device, instrument, material or substance which under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used, is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury. Usually, if a rock is used to hit someone on the head, it is considered a "dangerous weapon" because it could cause death or serious physical injury. A small pebble thrown at someone's head is probably not going to fit the statute.

Most hard objects can be considered "dangerous weapons" depending on how they are used. Hands and feet, even under the circumstances they are used, are not considered "dangerous weapons." For example, kicking someone in the head generally is not going to bring the additional charge of using a "dangerous weapon," unless the person kicking was wearing steel-toed boots. The foot still would not be considered a "dangerous weapon" but the steel-toed boot could be.

These distinctions are important because if you intentionally assault someone and cause physical injury, typically you have committed a misdemeanor crime. If you intentionally assault someone using a "dangerous or deadly" weapon, you have committed a felony.

Send your questions to Ask-APD@ashland.or.us. Call the Anonymous Tip Line at 552-2333.

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