Armatix smart-gun tech reignites gun fight, with retailers in the middle

Gun groups are OK with 'voluntary use' of smart guns, but they'll fight mandates

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Columbus, Ga.-based Safe Gun Technology (SGTi) submitted its prototype plans for the challenge. The company hopes to complete the prototype for a fingerprint reader that would be an aftermarket accessory on an AR-15 assault-style rifle. It hopes to complete that prototype in the next 60 to 90 days. It then hopes to complete a prototype for a pistol 90 days after that.

In the early stages, the company had been developing the technology for a shotgun, but the lack of a pistol grip and other factors on many models made it more difficult to apply. So it switched gears to focus on the AR-15, which has a pistol grip.

"There were 816,000 AR-15s sold into the private market last year, according to the ATF. That's a huge number," said Tom Lynch, president of SGTi. "How many [gun owners] would like an extra layer of protection just because the gun is laying around at home?"

According to the NSSF, not many.

But will it sell?

Last year, the NSSF released the results of a poll it commissioned McKeon & Associates to conduct that showed Americans are mostly skeptical about the reliability of smart gun technology.

That poll showed only 14% were very or somewhat likely to purchase a smart gun, and 70% said the government shouldn't mandate the technology.

Gun manufacturers such as Smith and Wesson have been wary about introducing the smart gun technology. Whether due to pressure from gun advocacy groups or a lack of demand, none have yet stepped forward with their own product.

Lynch, however, believes that once a start-up introduces a proven technology, the manufacturers will follow suit. "Once we prove consumer interest, that's when they'll want to get involved," Lynch said.

NJIT's Sebastian believes there's an enormous market for smart guns and he sees the technology not just infiltrating private homes, but also law enforcement and the military, members of which are just as passionate about protecting their weapons from the wrong hands. And, once the technology has been proven to work, the only thing remaining will be educating the pubic.

"All of this will depend on how successful we are overcoming fear, uncertainty and doubt," Sebastian said.

A demo of the Armatix iP! smart gun.

Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at  @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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