WASHINGTON, D.C. — Although National Rifle Association officials did not respond to requests for comment about smart-gun technology, the group fiercely opposes "government mandates that require the use of expensive, unreliable features, such as grips that would read your fingerprints before the gun will fire," according to the website of its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action. "And NRA recognizes that the 'smart guns' issue clearly has the potential to mesh with the anti-gunner's agenda, opening the door to a ban on all guns that do not possess the government-required technology."
Even so, smart guns are potentially more palatable than other technological mandates, such as placing GPS tracking chips in guns, a controversial concept floated this session in the Maryland General Assembly.
The arrival of smart-gun technology also comes amid a flurry of interest in the concept from investors who think the country — following the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary and the brutal legislative battles that followed — is ready for new, innovative gun-control ideas. Last month, Ron Conway, a Silicon Valley titan and early investor in Google and Facebook, launched a $1 million X-prize-like contest for smart-gun technology.
"We need the iPhone of guns," Conway said, noting how the new iPhone 5s can be unlocked quickly with a fingerprint. "The entrepreneur who does this right could be the Mark Zuckerberg of guns. Then the venture capitalists like me will dive in, give them capital, and we will build a multibillion-dollar gun company that makes safe, smart guns."
A variety of approaches are in development. Armatix, the German company behind the iP1, uses RFID chips, which can be found on anti-theft tags attached to expensive clothing. TriggerSmart, an Irish company, also uses RFID chips, though with a ring instead of a watch. The company also has technology that would render guns inoperable if they approached electronic markers, for instance near a school.