27 January 2012

FWS Topics: Future weapons and Future gun control

I was on another forum last weekend, and there was a thread about the 2nd Amendment, and there were people (me included) arguing about how people of the 18th century viewed firearms is completely different than here in 21st century. I also argued that when or if science deliveries laser blasters or plasma pistols, it is likely that governments will ban their sale to the common people. That got me to thinking about the future of civilian-owned personal weaponry, and a subject that sci-fi does not talk about much: future gun control.
Will the future generations be able to walk  into a sporting goods store and buy a Phased Plasma Rifle in the 40watt range? Will there be a difference between the military-grade DEW or HV KEW weaponry that the future soldiers use and the firearms that citizens could buy? Will guns be banned on Terra, but legal in the off-world colonies, like Replicants? Will Guns & Ammo change its name to Blasters & Batteries?
What about ship-based weaponry, would civilian haulers be unarmed like in Firefly or Cowboy BeBop, or would they be limited power output? One can imagine the horror a single vessel would reap with kinetic projectile.
Most sci-fi works are mixed on the subject, in the golden age of sci-fi, every explorer had a trusty raygun, and later, with the influence of Star Wars, every badass carried a blaster. In the Star Wars universe, blasters seem legal enough, Han walks around with a blaster like Clint Eastwood, and Mal and his gang from Firefly stroll around the planets with their weapons mostly out. But in the Star Trek universe, the only time I saw a DEW in the hands of non-Starfleet that wasn't a evildoer was in the pilot episode of Enterprise when some farmer from Broken Bow, Oklahoma shoots a Klingon with a plasma rifle, and later in the series, we see civilian cargo haulers equipped with the Starfleet issued EM-33 Plasma Pistol. However, most, if not all civilians in the Star Trek universe seemed unable or unwilling to buy a handheld phaser. And if they did, would it equipped with a "kill" setting? After all, in the ST:TNG epsiode the most toys the Federation banned the ownership of the Varon T-disruptor. In the book the Forever War, when Mandella gets back home the first time, he tries to buy a C02 laser, but the gun shop tells him that they are "legal" store, instead, he buys a .410 Revolver.  

I would like your opinion on the subject! Please comment below!


  1. It all depends in what kind of universe-slash-country you live in, and of course under what conditions.
    Most (Hollywood) SciFi movies are of course heavily laced with American culture and history ("Wild West") and as such often portray a frontier world/outback view of the future. While European or Japanese SciFi see it totally different.

    But that diversity is of course the fun of SciFi!

  2. Interestingly some cruise ships use Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs), which are basically non-lethal directed sonic weapons, to discourage pirates from attacking. I could imagine that cruise ships and maybe even cargo ships could be armed with non-lethal or less-lethal directed energy weapons in the future for a similar purpose.

    To some extent in the United States we have already have some distinctions between "civilian" and "military" weapons. In many cases the differences are arbitrary, such as the Assault Weapon Bans. Although many countries are much stricter in what civilians can own. I could see similar sorts of laws dealing with future weapons technology. Most SciFi I have seen seems to be based on the "Wild West" style. I guess I probably have not seen much SciFi from other countries to compare it to. Are there any good examples of European or Japanese SciFi stories?

    On a similar note, I read an interesting blog post once commenting about Han shooting first in Star Wars. Unfortunately I can't find the original blog I saw it on. Basically the author commented that the changes making Han shoot only after Greedo shoots at him are a misguided attempt to make Han appear "good," since Han would have been justified in shooting Greedo in self defense anyway. Since Han could reasonably believe Greedo a wanted to cause him physical harm or kill him, and he did not have another option since he was cornered, it was legally and morally justifiable to kill Greedo. Greedo obviously had the means to cause harm, he was pointing a weapon at Han indicating his intent to use it, and also basically stated his intent to cause harm. The author also stated this presents an interesting view of how modern society views self defense in general. He also brought up the ineffectiveness of only retaliating in self defense if you have already been attacked.

  3. It is interesting to think of sci-fi POV on the country you live in, and those creators experinces with firearms. Look at Star Trek, Rhoddenberry was very down on guns in sci-fi, and it was only the network pushing on him that allowed for the phasers to be seen week-after-week. Something to dwell on.
    BTW- Han totally shot first, that's the way it was growing up, and I wish GL would stopping changing my memories.
    Thanks for the comments!

  4. You've raised a topic I have thought about before. Of course, I wish that gun control has no future. : ) But, given the attitude many people have towards weapons and self defense in general, it is likely that gun control advocates will be around a while longer.

    i'm worried that future gun designs may very well be banned as "destructive devices" unfit for civilian ownership and the state-of-the-art will move so far beyond what's available to us civvies that all our guns will be museum pieces. Imagine if all you could buy to protect your family was a single-shot black powder flintlock pistol. And that all the criminals had autoloaders. How long would you last in a home invasion?

    Another real problem is less-lethal weapons. People will get unrealistic expectations of less-lethal weapon's capabilities. Will civilian phasers only have the "stun" setting? Will these stun-only phasers be effective? What if you are attacked by the neural parasites from "Conspiracy"? What about criminals? If all they have to fear from a home invasion is a light stun, they won't be nearly as worried about invading peoples homes as they are if they might take a full load from a 12-gauge shotgun. The converse of this is that people might not be allowed to own full power stun guns since they might be modified for torture- remember the "agonizers" from the parallel reality in "Mirror Mirror"? We are very close to such devices. On the practical side, you'd probably want to leave your phaser on "kill" instead of "disrupt-disintegrate" in your home- you don't want to vaporize a gaping hole in the wall and kill the person on the room behind your target!!!

    I think that for the relatively near future, civvies will retain their right to own deadly weapons. However, "common-sense" gun control advocates will attempt to block us from having access to new technologies such as caseless ammunition, smart bullets, laser weapons, etc. Hopefully the NRA will change their name to the NDRA (National Death Ray Association) when DEW began replacing firearms and fight back.

    As for the far, far future- that depends on the political situation- and the world or spaceship you are on. If you live in a tightly controlled society, you might be lucky to have a stun phaser. If you live on the Planet of Giant Toothy Blobs That Try to Eat You, every teenager might be given an atomic ray gun and extensive training by 17. If you are on a spacecraft flying out on a decade long voyage to the stars, your crewmates will be like family to you. Hopefully, no one will have to worry about the phaser pistols locked away in the armory being used in a violent takeover of the ship or something like that. There won't be "gun laws"- the crew will carry what weapons they think might be necessary.

    On a practical side, it might be impossible to regulate future firearms. Energy weapons like laser pistols will use lots of electronic components that might be interchangeable with other pieces of technology. The only way that you could limit the power of laser pistols is by providing civilian guns with substandard chips and diodes- but a future machine shop might have the means to replace all these crappy parts with mil-spec diodes and crystal arrays. A future machine shop might have the means to build weapons from ground up- printing out parts with 3D printers and rapidly prototyping deadly seeker bullets, etc. This is a problem that nanofactory advocates have a real problem with. John Schilling actually discussed the possibility that a future machine shop could build deadly personal laser weapons, so this is not merely a fantasy.

    Han totally shot first.

    Christopher Phoenix

  5. I like the gun laws being based on the situation of the civilization...which makes a great deal of sense. Which is similar to the conditions in America during the 18th and 19th centuries, and England and her colonies.
    I think your discussion about the military vs. little people's right to access of certain weapons, especially DEW is a likely possibility.
    FWS is prepping a massive article on the military application of nano-tech, I will add that Mr. Phoenix to the blogpost...thanks!
    Thanks for the comment!

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  8. Even if gun control laws still exist in the future ( like space travel and space colonization future) it would be damn near impossible to enforce. Distance being the main obstacle. For a future space faring nation to enforce gun control laws they would have to make sure govoners of said colony enforce those laws. Also when a colony is set up varying on the state of the planet ( if like earth's atmosphere or nah) a colonist's neighbor might be miles away, I highly doubt that some contry boy in the outer rim is gonna give up his guns especially since crime will still be there.

    P.S. I am an honorary member of the NDRA for 2 years. Are motto Is... You can set my phaser to stun, over our dead FUCKIN body. We have meetings once a month

  9. In the past the age of the musket the only defining line between a military weapon and a civilian one was one lacking a bayonet. In the sci-fi sphere I think the limitation are going to very based on what kind of development we are talking about.
    The Urban vs rural debate. A colony world is more likely to be better armed at the civil level than a city planet in you centralized government.