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Technology can reduce gun violence

Preston Gralla | Dec. 11, 2015
Smart guns can make firearms usable only by their owners. So why are pro-gun forces opposed?

Sounds like a solution everyone can love. Fewer gun deaths, with no legislation required. Those who want smart guns can buy them; others don’t have to.

But gun fundamentalists and the gun industry don’t see it that way. And they’re doing what they can to kill the technology before it can save people’s lives.

Fortune reports that two gun dealers were put out of business by gun-owner extremists because the dealers sold the Armatix iP1, a semiautomatic pistol that uses RFID and a smartwatch to prevent anyone other than its owner from shooting it. Andy Raymond, co-owner of Engage Armament in Rockville, Md., was targeted by threats to burn down his store and kill his dog if he continued to carry the gun. He told the Portland Press Herald, “I should have known better. I would rather be shot by an i-gun (a smart gun) than ever get involved with it again.” A dealer who sells the gun over the Internet to authorized gun dealers spoke to Fortune only on the condition that his name not be used, because he feared similar actions. The gun extremists are opposed to smart guns because they believe them to be the first step toward gun-control laws.

It’s not just individuals who attack smart guns. The industry itself isn’t happy about them. Steve Sanetti, president of the gun trade group the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told 60 Minutes that antigun groups, not gun owners, want to see smart guns developed. “It’s coming from people who, frankly, really want to put as many obstacles to a gun going off as they can,” he told Lesley Stahl. “Why are you trying to take my firearm and add something to it that’s going to make it more prone to failure?”

Richard Patterson, director of the manufacturer-run standards organization SAAMI (the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute), told Fortune that guns are already safe enough and don’t need to be made safer. “A product that does exactly what it’s supposed to do, every time you do it, is safe,” he said. “It goes bang — not click, not boom. There are other people who define safety as a firearm that never goes bang.”

Sanetti and Patterson might want to tell the parents of the 785 children who were killed in firearm accidents between 1999 and 2010 that guns are completely safe. (That number is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) The parents would likely tell them that it might not be a bad idea to put an obstacle in the way of a gun going off if that gun is in the hands of a child.


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