Smart Guns Hit California Shelves, But What On Earth Are They?

The latest innovation in smart technology? Meet the smart gun. Really. One of California’s largest firearm stores has begun stocking its shelves with "smart guns," a personalized pistol that activates with an electronic watch. Smart pistols can't be used without the accompanying watch, and they're meant to make gun use safer (predictably, the NRA is against them.) The .22-caliber pistol, called the Smart System iP1, is made by the German gun-maker Armatix GmbH and sells for nearly $1,400.

The accompanying wristwatch is sold separately for an additional $300, and functions so that the firearm won't discharge without the owner's confirmation. Using radio frequency identification, it works with the gun after being placed in close proximity and unlocked with a PIN number. Once it's confirmed, a light on the back of the pistol turns green. And without the watch, it's just an inoperable chunk of metal. Simple, right? One investor tells the Washington Post that "we need the iPhone of guns." But do we really?

On Wednesday, Sen. Edward Markey unveiled a gun control bill calling for all new guns to be "smart guns," so that only authorized users or owners — not children, for example, or intruders — could fire them. The Democratic lawmaker says that new handguns should be required to have personalization technology within two years, and older guns should be retrofitted in three years. Markey's legislation seeks to eliminate kids' access to the weapons and target stolen guns.

One Utah company is already taking orders for a firearm called the "Intelligun," which operates using fingerprints.

Plus, a California start-up has created a smartphone app where owners can remotely disable their weapon and track their gun's location. Most will agree that if guns are going to be used, we need to keep safety in mind — bu, companies have got to make sure they have all the specifics taken care of when it comes to smart weapons. There's still the question of battery-life and how the guns will be powered, or how they will operate in an emergency. And there are concerns about what happens if the technology malfunctions, as technology is pretty apt to do.

Still, supporters of the smart gun believe it will decrease the risk of child-related accidental shootings, and restrict ownership for convicted criminals. And if this smart technology can reduce deaths from gun violence, then we're on board.