German “smart gun” manufacturer Armatix is announcing a new, updated version of their design now chambered for 9mm Luger. This will be the second smart pistol Armatix offers to the public. Their first gun was chambered for .22 Long Rifle.
“Smart” or “personalized” guns use locking systems that prevent unauthorized users from shooting them. While the concept has more than a few people interested for safety purposes, many in the gun rights community see it as a way to foist gun control.
Some legislators have proposed banning the sale of conventional guns if personalized firearms become reality. Critics argue that smart gun tech adds reliability issues and increase costs. And a smart gun mandate would take away the majority of options available to gun owners. It would limit sales to a tiny number of vendors with a small selection and few features.
The new pistol is the Armatix iP9. Unlike the original iP1, the iP9 has a fingerprint scanner built into the trigger. The iP1 used a smart watch that unlocked the pistol when the authorized user was in close proximity to the handgun.
Details about how the gun works and other specifications haven’t been released. We do know it will be expensive. Armatix President Wolfgang Tweraser told Computer World that the iP9 will have a sticker price similar to the iP1: $1,395.
“Always the latest technology comes with a higher price tag,” said Tweraser. As you make hundreds and thousands of units, then the price will change also. We’re not going to replace regular guns because of the price point also.”
Armatix is also looking to reboot the iP1 with a new system that will prevent the pistols from firing when not pointed in a specific direction. This feature is designed for ranges that rent firearms to shooters.
New Jersey has already enacted a smart gun mandate, the 2002 New Jersey Childproof Handgun Law. Gun control activist and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) drafted the bill.
The bill was set to go into effect as soon as a single manufacturer brought a smart gun to market anywhere in the country. Surrounded by controversy, it did not trigger in 2014 when the first Armatix gun hit store shelves. New Jersey Attorney General John Jay Hoffman ruled that the gun did not qualify under the law because the gun unlocked when the smart watch was within 10 inches of the pistol.
Because the original Armatix pistol’s locking system could be remotely deactivated the A.G. said it wasn’t a true personalized firearm. By using a fingerprint reader the iP9 may have what it takes to qualify under the state law.
That isn’t to say that the mechanism will pass muster with the firearms community. Gun owners are particularly suspicious of smart gun tech because of the political — not safety — motivations.
It’s possible that the people pushing for smart gun tech are trying to shoehorn emerging technologies into firearms specifically to corner the smart gun market if a mandate goes into effect. It doesn’t matter if the technology is proven reliable — as long as it meets the legal standards to qualify as a personalized firearm, that’s good enough.
Supporters praised one fingerprint reading design at the 2016 International San Francisco Smart Gun Symposium earlier this year despite its clear drawbacks. The modified Glock 22, develop by 19-year-old inventor Kai Kloepfer, failed to correctly identify users with wet fingers and took 1.5 seconds to identify and unlock when it did work. The gun also had a dramatically reduced magazine capacity in order to house the locking system. Instead of a standard capacity of 15 rounds the magazine only holds nine.