A California firearm store just released a new and innovative product for its customers: America’s first “smart” gun. Unlike other guns on store shelves, the Armatix iP1 comes with an accessorized water-proof watch. When this watch is within close enough range of the gun, a green light appears on the gun’s handle, effectively enabling its operator to use the gun as he or she pleases. Once the gun loses contact with the watch, however, the gun automatically deactivates and is rendered useless.

Advocates of the new smart gun posit the device is akin to cars’ airbags and that gun owners will thus demand these features in hopes of reducing the casualty rate of gun violence. Critics, though, are skeptical of the device’s utility and fear what will happen if the device fails when a homeowner encounters an intruder in his or her home.

Regardless of the debate surrounding the utility of such devices as the Armatix iP1, there is no doubt that smart guns could have a significant impact on society. James Mitchell, a pro-gun enthusiast and owner of a gun club outside of Los Angeles, imagines that these technologies “could revolutionize the gun industry.”

Legislators around the country have taken note of the potential value these smart guns could provide their constituents. Back in 2000, the right-leaning New Jersey State Senate passed the Childproof Handgun Bill, which mandates that all handguns sold in the state be childproof (within three years of the Attorney General of New Jersey concluding that such childproof guns are available and can be purchased on the open market). Last year in California, a similar bill made its way through the State Senate. And even at the federal level, Congressman John Tierney (D. Mass.) has introduced such a bill.

Only time will tell whether other legislatures around the country will mandate that all handguns sold must contain smart-like capabilities of some sort. Should they enact such legislation, though, I wonder whether the Second Amendment will soon be interpreted as only protecting a citizen’s right to bear “smart” arms.

Jake Raff

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One Response to Ladies and Gentlemen, the Smart Gun

  1. Parker says:

    I’m very curious to see whether this product goes anywhere. Right now the iP1 is essentially a conversation piece and not much more. A .22 pistol is really only useful for squirrels and target practice.

    Further, this technology really only targets one type of gun injury – where a child pulls the trigger of the gun while loaded. Those injuries are avoided at far lower cost by simply (1) keeping firearms locked in a cabinet, or disabled with on-weapon locks (which are much less expensive), and (2) storing them separate from ammunition.

    Ultimately, I suspect that careful gun owners will not be interested, since a safe can be purchased at much lower cost, and unsafe gun owners won’t care to pay the hefty price tag. But, it provides an opportunity for politicians to score points by mandating a technology that makes us feel safer, even if it fails to improve actual safety.

    It’s not all bad news for this technology though. Unless I’m mistaken, a large number of firearm injuries to police officers are caused by their own weapon taken from them. This incorporated into a patrol officer’s weapon may save a lot of police officer’s lives.