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James Dennin, Kapitall: Venture capitalists are salivating over the prospect of a "smart gun." What about mainstream gun stocks?
Ron Conway, a venture capitalist who invested early in
Google (GOOG) and
Facebook (FB) has offered a million-dollar
prize to anyone who can develop a "smart-gun." This shows just how eager tech enthusiasts are to disrupt the major players in the gun industry.
[Read more from Kapitall: Will Drone Stocks Follow Rolls Royce into Shipping?]
A smart gun sounds like science fiction or a James Bond gadget. The idea isn't far from reality, however; there's already a 1.0 incarnation on the market. Armatix, a German gun manufacturer, makes a smart gun named the iP1 that uses a microhip embedded in a radio-controlled wristwatch to communicate with the weapon. If the gun loses contact with the watch (for example, if James Bond drops his gun by the bed) it automatically deactivates.
In principle a smart gun should keep anyone but the owner from using it, which could go a long way toward preventing unnecessary gun deaths. Guns are as much as
41 times more likely to be used in a criminal act, suicide, or accident than they are for fending off an intruder.
Smart guns could theoretically improve that ratio by imlementing controls that would make it impossible for people who shouldn't play with guns, children or hardened criminals for instance, to fire the weapon.
After all, finger-print technology already exists on the new iPhone (AAPL). If smartphones can learn your browsing and dining tastes, locate you and direct you anywhere, it's not unfeasible that guns' functionality could be improved as well. Unfortunately, the gun lobby in America is feircely opposed to safety technology upgrades, saying any protections to keep guns from firing accidently will increase the chance of the gun not working at the crucial moment, and — more to the point
– it would open the window for more gun control.
Who'd want that?