Under Fire, Maryland Dealer Drops Plans To Sell Smart Gun

A Maryland gun shop owner has backed off on a plan to sell the nation's first smart gun after receiving death threats and protests from gun rights advocates.

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A gun store in Maryland had been set to become the first in the country to sell something called a smart gun. But after receiving death threats, the owner of that store has changed his mind. The Armatix iP1 is electrically programmed to make it hard for anyone but the gun's owner to fire the weapon. Some gun rights activists worry that if the pistol is popular, lawmakers will require all firearms to adopt this technology. That, they say, will encroach upon second amendment rights. NPR's Allison Keyes reports.

ALLISON KEYES, BYLINE: Andy Raymond, owner of Engage Armament in suburban Maryland, says he's disheartened by the hundreds of e-mails and calls he received after a Washington Post article ran saying he would sell the smart gun. Some even threatened to burn his shop to the ground.

ANDY RAYMOND: What really got me was that all these pro-gun people are coming out at somebody. And I've been very, very outspoken about gun rights here, especially here in Maryland. And everyone's calling me a traitor.

KEYES: Raymond was planning to sell the Armatix iP1. Electronic chips in the gun communicate with a watch that could be bought separately. The gun cannot be fired without the watch. Raymond says Maryland's strict gun-control laws have hurt his business and he was hoping the smart gun would lure in new customers worried about gun safety.

RAYMOND: I was upset about the hypocrisy of people in the gun industry saying that a gun should be prohibited.

KEYES: People posting on the website MDShooters.com worried that the technology used by the Armatix iP1 would be mandated nationwide. One posted, this is just pure counterproductive for our battle. Others said that the sale of the Armatix would trigger a N.J. law that mandates all handguns in that state be personalized within three years of smart guns going on sale anywhere in the country. Similar proposals are pending in Congress and in Calif.

The NRA didn't respond to requests for comment, but on its legislative blog, it said that the smart guns issue clearly has the potential to mesh with the anti-gunners agenda and that failed attempts to develop and market them have been going on for years. But even some gun-control advocates, such as Mark Glaze, Executive Director of Everytown for Gun Safety, have questions about the technology. He stresses that it must be tested to ensure that it works all of the time.

MARK GLAZE: I think this technology is very promising. Also very promising to keep people from losing and from having their guns stolen and having people use those guns, have them then at the crime scenes, and have them be virtually untraceable.

KEYES: Back at Engage Armament, Andy Raymond wants those who have attacked him to know they're picking on the wrong guy.

RAYMOND: When they were passing this stuff in Maryland and New Jersey, there was no national effort to overturn any of the stuff. But it's a national effort to shut me down now.

KEYES: There were protests over the strict gun-control laws in Maryland that took effect last year. But Raymond says his point is gun rights advocates need more people on their side, and he thought he was doing a good thing. Allison Keyes. NPR News.

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