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

Lucas Mearian | May 21, 2014
Gun groups are OK with 'voluntary use' of smart guns, but they'll fight mandates

A demonstration of how the Intelligun grip accessory works.

NJIT's DGR technology has caught the eye of the US Army's Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, which is helping fund the work on the technology.

NJIT also is among a large group of innovators who hope to receive funding from a non-profit initiative. The Smart Tech Challenges Foundation, led by entrepreneur and gun-safety advocate Ron Conway, has offered $1 million in prize money, soliciting proposals for designs.

The Smart Tech Challenges Foundation has received more than 200 applications from innovators representing 30 countries and ranging in age from 13 to 81 years old, according to Margot Hirsch, president of the foundation.

"We believe that the majority of gun owners want to exercise their individual preferences when purchasing firearms and new accessories and features," Hirsch wrote in an email reply to Computerworld. "Admittedly, the technology has a way to go in terms of testing and refinement, but we're hopeful that without the fear of government mandates, technological innovation can begin to flourish and scale, and consumers who want to make safety a priority will eventually be able to find the products they want on the shelves."

The Smart Tech Challenges Foundation offers money toward three levels of development: companies with an idea in its infancy, those with a technology but no prototype and companies with prototypes. The competition closed March 31 and submissions are currently being reviewed.

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.


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