Would you want any of your guns to contain a ‘permanent record’ of your updated personal information on a tiny RFID chip concealed in the frame and designed to resist tampering or removal? I didn’t think so. Chiappa Firearms, the maker of the Klingon-esque Rhino revolver and other guns, angered many American shooters earlier this summer when it announced that its firearms would be equipped with an RFID chip. Chiappa America president Ron Norton donned his best asbestos suit to (try to) put out the ensuing flame-fest. By now, he was probably hoping the whole affair had blown over. Not so fast, Mr. Bond . . .
In the August 23rd edition of industry mag Gun Trade World (link here), Chiappa spokeswoman Cinzia Pinzoni let slip a few details sure to scare the bejeesus out of American gun owners. To wit: Chiappa’s RFID chips will be reprogrammable, difficult to remove, and encoded with the owner’s personal information:
“The information on the microchip can be rewritten, several times over the years, if necessary. Also, the chip is very difficult to remove. Therefore it accompanies the weapon forever, providing all the information gathered regarding its production cycle, as well as sales information and the registration of the gun and the owner’s details.”
“So, it is easy to see how this constant monitoring of the weapon provides a powerful deterrent to the theft or improper use of the weapon.”
Which part of this scares us the most? I’m voting for “constant monitoring of the weapon” as perhaps the most chilling statement I’ve ever heard from any gun manufacturer, ever. And it doesn’t exactly jibe with the reassuring message Norton gave us back in early August, promising that the RFID chips would be conspicuous and easily removable by the retailer or end-user. So what gives?
We contacted Mr. Norton for comment. Here’s his reply:
Based on the date of August 23 and that the fact that it is an article from “Gun Trade World” that required time to go to press, this is information is most likely based on the original Press Release that Cinzia Pinzoni released in July…
As for the US market, I can assure you that we will not have a permanent RFID chip, but it will be along the guidelines that I provided you with the release in August. (See attached) Which post-dates the release that this article was based on.
The release Norton is referring to is an effort to ‘walk back’ the disastrous RFID comments made in July by Ms. Pinzoni and by Chiappa’s American PR firm, MKS Distributing. The August damage-control press release concludes with the following two paragraphs, carefully crafted to soothe the souls of alarmed American gun owners:
Since our project is still in a phase of development – our goal was to implement the RFID system in spring 2012 – we still have plenty of time to develop a similar system, but employing a removable label instead of a chip inlet inside the receiver. This label made of plastic material can be applied to the trigger guard of the weapon, follow throughout the production cycle and be removed prior to marketing or by the customer.
The US consumer can rest assured that Chiappa Firearms is placing the customer’s interest first and foremost, while developing the most efficient method of firearm manufacturing possible.
To sum it all up in the immortal words of a White House Press Secretary, Norton would have us believe that the previous information is “no longer operative,“ and that any American RFID tags will be conspicuous and easily removed. I sure hope so.
But if Chiappa is building all their Eurozone guns with permanently installed RFID chips, not a single one of those guns or chips had better make its way here.
The first time a hacker or blogger finds a hidden chip in an American gun, it’s going to set off a real firestorm of suspicion and anger (making these recent kerfuffles look pretty mild by comparison). Whoever made that tagged gun will find themselves vilified and ostracized by the world’s largest civilian firearms market for decades to come.
Norton seems to get this; let’s hope the boys upstairs at the Italian headquarters get it too. [Click here to download the full Chiappa August press release.]