Last week, a gun shop in California introduced a new addition to its stock: A .22-calibre pistol that only works when the user is wearing the accompanying RFID-enabled watch. It's being heralded as the "iPhone of guns".
The gun is called the Smart System iP1, a pistol made by the German company Armatix that retails for $US1399 (a significant price cut from its $US10,000 debut). The important bit is the watch — sold separately for $US399 — which is activated with a pin number and contains an RFID chip. When the gun is near the watch, its internal safety mechanism releases and it's able to fire. A small LED on the back of the gun blinks green to indicate when it's shootable, and red to show when it's locked:
The idea, of course, is to make a common tragedy — kids injured accidentally by guns — less common. It's also intended to make it harder to steal, since if the robber doesn't have the watch, they won't be able to fire it. "As soon as the gun loses radio contact with the watch — e.g. if it is knocked out of the shooter's hand or in case of loss, theft, etc — it automatically deactivates itself," explains Armatix, which also offers a PIN-enabled case and other extras for the cautious gun owner.
But as the Washington Post points out, the main critics of smart guns aren't gun owners — they're anti-violence advocates. For example, the nonprofit Violence Policy Center argues that it won't reduce gun deaths, just increase the number of firearms in circulation. "You're really affecting a very small portion of the gun-buying public," said Josh Sugarmann, the director of VPC, to the Post.
It's hard to argue with his logic. But looking further down the road, using radio waves and other tech to better regulate gun use seems practically inevitable, even if it won't fix gun regulation in the US. There are already a handful of companies hocking similar systems, like a ring-controlled version and a fingerprint-tethered system. After all, if James Bond is using one, you know the public can't be far behind. [Washington Post; Kit Up!]