Tag Archives: objects with agency

TrackingPoint Rifle: A Gun With Agency?


Image of the TrackingPoint rifle from manufacturer’s website

When I came across the story of the TrackingPoint rifle on NPR, “A New ‘Smart Rifle’ Decides When To Shoot And Rarely Misses,” I was really looking forward to untangling the moral implications of a gun that fires when it “wants.” Based on the headline, I thought that the rifle had an auto-lock-and-fire functionality along the lines of a camera that won’t shoot until all variables are within optimal levels. Or a military drone making surgical strikes.

If this was true, the technology would be a huge leap in the direction of seceding personal moral authority to a potentially deadly machine and I was totally jazzed and anxious about what this might mean for the future of guns and gun control and the concept of objects-with-agency. However, the story is slightly different. And slightly less controversial when we get into the details. According to NPR’s Mark Dewey:

The rifle’s scope features a sophisticated color graphics display. The shooter locks a laser on the target by pushing a small button by the trigger. It’s like a video game. But here’s where it’s different: You pull the trigger but the gun decides when to shoot. It fires only when the weapon has been pointed in exactly the right place, taking into account dozens of variables, including wind, shake and distance to the target.

So, as long as the target lock is correct, the gun provides a visual indication of optimal aim. Yes, it dramatically improves the accuracy and (by implication) the deadliness of the rifle. However, the shooter still makes the decision to fire. It is still a human brain that sends the signal to the hand to depress the trigger and initiate the mechanical effect of sending a high speed projectile from the barrel.

Video highlighting the TrackingPoint’s features, from manufacturer’s website

One of the more interesting features of the rifle sight is that it can stream video of the view to a nearby device. I’ve been planning to write a post about Paul Virilio’s War and Cinema and this technology fits perfectly into Virilio’s theories about the emergence of new ways of seeing from the destructive impulse of military and war technology.

I can foresee the creation of a non-gun product made of a camera mounted on a rifle-like object that turns the world itself into a first-person-shooter video game.  The user takes aim and “shoots” real life targets but the device’s computer detects accuracy/points and records it for sharing on social media. The social cache and pride in taking out a 22-point buck could be achieved without actually killing one.

Does such a product already exist?

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Gun Lit: My Mother Contemplating Her Gun

Revolver by Pearson Scott Foresman

Illustration by Pearson Scott Foresman

Today’s Poem of the Day from the Poetry Foundation has remained in my mind since it appeared in my inbox this morning.

Nick Flynn’s “My Mother Contemplating Her Gun” evokes some powerful and pertinent impressions of the role of firearms in our lives — guns as objects to be feared and to ward off fear, the marvel that such a small thing as a bullet can unmake a person.

And there’s something else here, too, that I can’t quite name but continues to resonate. Something to do with agency and mortality. I’ll have to mull it over.

My Mother Contemplating Her Gun
By Nick Flynn

One boyfriend said to keep the bullets

locked in a different room.
                                    Another urged
            clean it
or it could explode. Larry
thought I should keep it loaded
under my bed,
                     you never know.
            I bought it
when I didn’t feel safe. The barrel
                         is oily,
             reflective, the steel
pure, pulled from a hole
                      in West Virginia. It
could have been cast into anything, nails
along the carpenter’s lip, the ladder
to balance the train. Look at this, one
                        how almost nothing it is—
             saltpeter   sulphur   lead   Hell
burns sulphur, a smell like this.
                        safety & hammer, barrel & grip
             I don’t know what I believe.
I remember the woods behind my father’s house
          horses beside the quarry
stolen cars lost in the deepest wells,
the water below
            an ink waiting to fill me.
                      Outside a towel hangs from a cold line
            a sheet of iron in the sky
            roses painted on it, blue roses.
Tomorrow it will still be there.

“My Mother Contemplating Her Gun” © 2000 Nick Flynn. Reprinted from Some Ether with the permission of Graywolf Press, St Paul, Minnesota. Source: Some Ether (Graywolf Press, 2000). via Poetry Foundation

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