Let’s get the politics out of the way first. Predictably, inaccurately, the Washington Post article on “smart gun” gun designer Ernst Mauch asserts that “Second Amendment advocates” and the NRA (‘natch) are blocking the U.S. Armatix iP1 “fearing the technology will be mandated.” To be clear, New Jersey has a law that does just that. Three years after any gun store in the U.S. offers the first “smart gun” for sale, all new guns for sale in NJ must be equipped with user-recognition technology. So it’s not paranoia that prevents Mauch’s handiwork from gaining acceptance among gun owners. It’s the fact that anti-gun politicians want to ram these unreliable, remote controllable firearms down owners’ throats. OK, so, here’s what inspired Mauch to develop the iP1 . . .
Mauch is not a gun designer without a conscience. Early in his career, working on a new sniper rifle, he lay awake one night thinking, “What are you doing? Is it right to develop these kinds of products?” His life, he knew, was being defined by killing, a career at odds with his deep faith in God.
He found a justification in his head: This rifle will one day be used by a sniper trying to kill a kidnapper holding a child in his arms. “This weapon must do its job,” Mauch said. He has found comfort in that rationale throughout his career. He thinks God is on his side.
Just like Michael Bloomberg! Lest we forget, America’s foremost anti-gunner famously proclaimed that he’d already “earned his place in Heaven.” So, the road to hell starts here . . .
Mauch came home to that family one day in the 1990s following four hours of questioning by authorities after a boy accidentally killed a friend with one of Heckler & Koch’s handguns. “Why did the boy not know the gun was loaded?” Mauch was asked. “Why did the boy not know there was a round in the chamber?”
He told his wife, “My dear, I will never forget these last four hours.”
The questions, Mauch said, were good ones. “It was a good gun,” he said. “A good gun, but a dumb gun.” The idea of making guns smarter took hold.
I’d like to interrupt here to counter what is – admittedly – a very effective, emotional argument for “smart guns” – one that the antis will no doubt use to thunder that all guns should be smart guns “if it saves one child’s life.” Assuming Mauch had nothing to do with the fatal negligent discharge cited, why were German authorities questioning him about the tragedy? To ascertain what was and wasn’t possible logistically speaking? Probably.
But the important, indeed critical issue here is risk analysis. Yes, a “smart gun” may save children from tragic negligent discharges, or a gun owner from being shot with his or her own gun. But what are the risks? The iP1 requires its user to wear a watch-like device to activate the gun. How many people could face death or grievous bodily harm because they weren’t wearing the bracelet during a life-threatening attack, or when the technology failed?
That’s the thought in the minds of millions of American gun owners who reject Mauch’s meisterwerk. But more than that, “Second Amendment” advocates are worried that they won’t have a choice. That the government will force them to surrender their “dumb guns” in favor of “smart guns.” And then the aggressor in question could be . . . the government. Or anyone else with a basic knowledge of electronics who could switch off the guns remotely.
Right wing anti-government gun nut paranoia? Not at all. First, New Jersey. Second, Armatix has already patented the remote disabling feature. Facts that the Washington Post singularly fails to mention in its desire to canonize Mauch.
Several years later, while running Heckler & Koch, Mauch awarded a research and development contract to a German electrical lock company interested in smart-gun technology. But in 2005, Mauch left Heckler & Koch in a dispute with the investment firms behind the company, a painful moment in his life.
Mauch said he received lucrative job offers from many of his competitors, but he wanted to pursue smart guns. His wife told him: “Now you have to do this other mission. This is why you aren’t at H&K anymore. You have to make guns safer.”
In 2006, Mauch joined Armatix, a spin out from the lock firm, investing his own money and leading the development of the .22-caliber iP1, targeted specifically for the U.S. market, where interest in the technology has increased in recent years. He recruited electrical engineers, gunsmiths and a few old contacts in the industry who didn’t think he was certifiable.
And so the iP1 was born. Again, opposition to the gun isn’t a question of mental health. Nor anti-religious fervor. It’s a matter of economics, personal safety and civilian disarmament. The Post fails to mention that most American gun owners welcome the technology; they just don’t want it made mandatory. Which has already happened.
As far as reliability, commentators on this site put it this way: let cops try it first. A suggestion that the Post acknowledges at the end of their hagiography (of a gun designer no less): “Law enforcement officials have been quietly saying that if [Mauch] comes over, they’d be willing to meet with him.” I call BS. “Quietly saying” means “don’t ask me for my sources because they won’t talk to you because they don’t exist.”
But hey, why not? Them first. After that, speaking personally, no thanks. But thanks for asking – rather than telling. Oh wait . . .