Besides regular domestic gun control and gun safety, there’s also been a growing concern since the fallout from arming the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s as to what happens to those weapons (and bigger, military-grade hardware) once they go overseas into war zones. So how to solve that? Lots of solutions are being floated, and The Economist has an extended rundown on them:
Technological tweaks may be able to make possible weapons that stop working after a certain period of time, or can only be used by specific people or in particular places. Proponents of such technologies believe they have the potential to succeed where political and legislative attempts at arms control have failed…
I suspect — and this is sort of alluded to in the article linked above — that the major flaw in these concepts is that the secondary market, particularly in developing nations, doesn’t acquire the weapons until maybe 15 years after they were sold to the primary buyers.
I’m not an expert by any means, but just from reading news descriptions of the equipment seen in various ongoing conflicts, I think they end up having a use lifespan of 20-30 years (depending on the type of weapons). So most of the technologies being developed now could probably be hacked or eliminated in refurbishment by the time the secondary market was using them.
It would be like selling safes with fifteen-years-behind-state-of-the-art security to third world banks and then being surprised that ten years after they were first cracked in the first world, people were able to crack them all over the third world and make off with lots of money.
I guess then the question becomes whether this high-tech approach is better than doing nothing. Letting top of the line U.S. weapons systems and light arms fall into the wrong hands is something to be avoided, but this may not actually be solvable. And other, older weapons that can’t be traced (or even new issues of old models by less scrupulous manufacturers in some countries) are likely to be fueling wars for many years still to come. The people selling the tech are pitching this as a panacea that will succeed where legal measures have failed. I don’t buy that.