German entrepreneur Bernd Dietel had a radical idea about gun safety. After a 2002 shooting that left 16 people dead, Dietel envisioned guns with coded digital locks, similar to the ones his company installed on buildings, says the Los Angeles Times. In eight years, the Armatix iP1, a pistol that can be fired only if its user is wearing a wireless wristband that broadcasts on a specific frequency, was ready. No gun shop in the U.S. sells it. Though the weapons have broad support among gun owners, the staunchest supporters of the 2nd Amendment say smart guns only make it easier for the government to control the sale and use of lawful firearms. They fear that the advent of guns with high-tech safety mechanisms will prompt state governments to mandate their use. New Jersey already has such a law.
Andy Raymond, co-owner of Engage Armament in Rockville, Md., had no inkling of the controversy when he announced last year that he would sell the iP1. He didn’t see the harm in offering customers a new gadget. “I should have known better,” he said. “I would rather be shot by an i-gun than ever get involved with it again.” Each year in the U.S., 31,000 people die in gun-related incidents and 73,000 more are injured, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Using fingerprint recognition, hand biometrics, coded locks or other features to make sure a gun can be fired only by its owner could prevent many of those casualties.