The Armatix iP1 pistol ran into trouble in California, but has an edge in New Jersey, subject to approval. The pistol, made by German company Armatix GmbH, is the first smart gun approved for the American market. The pistol is a 22-caliber automatic which takes a 10 round magazine. It is sold with a wristwatch that communicates with the gun, and the gun will not fire unless a 5-digit code is entered into the watch, which must be within 15 inches of the gun. At that time, the gun can be set to operate for 1 to 8 hours before shutting off. The wristwatch accepts interchangeable straps and boasts a battery life good for 5,000 rounds or one year, whichever comes first. The price is high – an estimated $1,399 for the gun and an additional $399 for the wristwatch, compared with conventional guns that sell for $400-500. Still, the iP1 has important safety advantages over conventional weapons.
One of the most common and tragic causes of firearms death is the accidental shooting of a friend or sibling by a child who found the gun somewhere in the house. CNN: “A 4-year-old boy was shot and killed by his 4-year-old female cousin while they were playing with a gun.” KING5 News: “Puyallup (Washington) police say a 13-year-old boy has died in what appears to be an ‘unintentional’ shooting by a friend.” WFTV News: “Two Volusia County (Florida) parents could soon face criminal charges after authorities said a 13-year-old boy was able to get his hands on a gun and accidentally shoot his friend.” While firearms safety programs routinely emphasize the need for guns to be stored unloaded in a suitable locked safe, reports of this type mention guns left on closet floors, or slipped under sofa cushions. With the iP1, the gun won’t fire unless it is activated by the wristwatch.
A second type of tragedy might be avoided simply because entering the code into the watch causes a slight delay before the gun can be fired. While some gun owners might be expected to activate their firearms before leaving their homes, others might holster the gun in the “off” setting. When an argument escalates, whether between friends, family members, or strangers in a bar, a delay of even just two or three seconds to activate the gun might be an adequate cooling-off period to convince the would-be shooter to reconsider his or her plans.
While the National Rifle Association (NRA) has claimed that having more guns will make us safer, there have been episodes where more guns simply created confusion. In Seaford, New York, an armed robber entered a pharmacy to steal drugs, and left without a shot. An off-duty and armed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) officer was in the store at the time and attempted to stop the robber. Two patrons of the restaurant next door, a retired police officer and an off-duty officer, both armed, came out and tried to intercede. In the confusion, both the robber and the ATF agent were killed. At the time of the Gabby Giffords shooting in Arizona, Joe Zamudio, who ultimately helped disarm the shooter, nearly shot the wrong man. According to the Arizona Daily Star via Slate, “… upon seeing the man with the gun, Zamudio “grabbed his arm and shoved him into a wall” before realizing he wasn’t the shooter. One reason why Zamudio didn’t pull out his own weapon was that “he didn’t want to be confused as a second gunman.”
But the Armix iP1 hasn’t been met with approval. When the Oak Tree Gun Club in Newhall, California, put the gun on sale, gun rights advocates started an online attack against the store; one person wrote “These people are anti-gunners” on the store’s Facebook page. California has tight gun laws, but even so, Oak Tree has been forced to discontinue sales of the gun. According to one report, they were even forced to deny ever offering the gun for sale in the first place.
The Armatix iP1 is getting a more friendly reception in New Jersey, which passed a law in 2002 that has since been waiting for technology to catch up. Under the New Jersey law, when a gun is available that prevents its use by an unauthorized person, only that type of gun may be sold in the state within three years. While the iP1 hasn’t officially set the law in motion, two other technologies are available which might. The Intelligun, made by Kodiak, a Utah company, is an accessory that is designed to be used with 1911 model firearms and single-action, semi-automatic pistols. The original handgrips are removed from the pistol and replaced with the new grip, which has a fingerprint reader. “Intelligun completely locks your gun, yet allows it to be quickly unlocked only by you or your authorized users. No keys, rings, watches or codes are necessary. TriggerSmart, an Irish company, has developed a radio frequency identification system which allows a gun to be used only by people wearing a special ring. One feature of TriggerSmart, which will be popular with gun control advocates, is that the system can be blocked in gun-free zones, such as schools.
So far, none of these systems have been endorsed by the NRA.
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