Blog: Will “Smart Guns” be Accepted as a Trailblazing Technology or Lead to Constitutional Issues?

by Taylor Linkous, Associate Technology and Public Relations Editor

            Gun control is one of the most controversial and divisive issues in America and with a slew of mass shootings in recent years, the debate seems to have only intensified.  To make things more interesting, over the past few years, personalized guns or “smart guns” have also entered the conversation.  While at one point, smart guns seemed to be out-of-reach concepts used in movies like Skyfall, the Oak Tree Gun Club in California recently became the first store in the nation to put a smart gun on sale.[1]

            Smart guns were created with the aim of reducing the misuse of guns and accidents caused by guns by using radio-frequency identification (“RFID”) chips, fingerprint recognition, or magnetic rings which would allow only authorized persons to use the weapon.[2]  The thought is that this technology could prevent accidental shootings by children or even prevent violent gun crimes by barring anyone but an authorized user to fire the gun.[3]   

            As noted above, just recently, Oak Tree Gun Club, one of the largest gun stores in California, became the first in the nation to sell a smart gun.[4]  Oak Tree Gun Club is selling the Armatix iP1, which requires the user to be wearing a black waterproof watch in order to fire.[5]  The gun and the watch both contain electronic chips and when the watch is within reach of the gun, a light on the grip of the gun turns green and the user is able to fire.[6]

             Proponents of smart guns insist this technology is revolutionary and a momentous step in the right direction when it comes to controlling the use of guns and reducing gun violence.[7]  However, opponents of the new technology are mostly gun rights advocates who worry about its reliability and that the government will trample on their Second Amendment rights by eventually requiring all guns to have this technology.[8] 

Other opponents include the Violence Policy Center, a strong advocate of reducing gun violence, who argues smart guns won’t reduce gun violence because most gun homicides happen between people who know each other and the new technology would not prevent such crimes.[9]  Moreover, the Violence Policy Center argues smart guns could increase the number of people purchasing guns because those who were once opposed to owning guns may change their minds if they think this technology makes guns safer.[10]

Some of the concerns about Oak Tree Gun Club’s sale of smart guns come from a New Jersey law passed in 2002 which requires all handguns in the state to be personalized within three years of a smart gun being sold anywhere in the U.S.[11]  With the store selling the first smart gun in the country, arguably the clock on the New Jersey law has started running, putting many opponents of the technology in a panic.  The backlash against Oak Tree Gun Store has been so strong that the store has actually denied ever selling the gun, despite photos of the gun for sale at the facility.[12]

Just recently, Senator Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts has revealed a gun control bill requiring all new guns to be personalized so they can only be fired by their owners.[13]  While the benefits of such a technology seem obvious, smart guns have already gained some strong enemies and it unlikely Congress will pass such a bold law with so much controversy and debate already surrounding it.

                                                 




[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/california-smart-gun-store-prompts-furious-backlash/2014/03/06/43432058-a544-11e3-a5fa-55f0c77bf39c_story.html

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personalized_gun#Prototypes

[3] http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/02/21/gun-control-smart-technology-personalized-column/5645119/

[4] http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/we-need-the-iphone-of-guns-will-smart-guns-transform-the-gun-industry/2014/02/17/6ebe76da-8f58-11e3-b227-12a45d109e03_story.html

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/california-smart-gun-store-prompts-furious-backlash/2014/03/06/43432058-a544-11e3-a5fa-55f0c77bf39c_story.html

[9]  http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/we-need-the-iphone-of-guns-will-smart-guns-transform-the-gun-industry/2014/02/17/6ebe76da-8f58-11e3-b227-12a45d109e03_story.html

[10] Id.

[11] http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/02/20/smart-guns-new-jersey-california-washington-post-column/5610543/

[12] http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/california-smart-gun-store-prompts-furious-backlash/2014/03/06/43432058-a544-11e3-a5fa-55f0c77bf39c_story.html

[13] http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/02/20/dem-bill-would-require-all-new-guns-be-personalized/

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