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Punishing 'smart gun' Quislings already yielding potential policy rewards

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In February, the Oak Tree Gun Club in Santa Clarita, California, appeared set to become the first to market so-called "smart guns" in the U.S., thereby facilitating attempts to mandate technology designed to make guns less likely to function when the trigger is pulled. Fierce backlash against Oak Tree prompted the store to not only decide against offering the Armatix iP1 pistol (and the "magic wristwatch" necessary to fire it), but to clumsily deny ever having planned to offer it in the first place.

One might think that an unmistakable object lesson had been imparted here, but such a conclusion would have been overly optimistic, as became clear when Engage Armament, in Rockville, Maryland, announced that the iP1 would be sold there, despite the owner knowing precisely how badly that had worked out for Oak Tree. To the utter astonishment of perhaps no one but Engage Armament co-owner Andy Raymond himself, backlash against that decision was at least as strong as that against the Oak Tree Gun Club.

Strong enough, indeed, that Raymond soon beat his own hasty retreat, ending his "smart gun" sales plan before it had begun--but not without posting a rage-filled, whiskey-fueled, obscenity-laden rant on video (see sidebar video if extensive use of very strong language does not offend you) condemning gun rights advocates who had expressed their objections to his plan.

In both cases, one of the strongest motivating factors behind the gun owner outrage was the fact that New Jersey's "smart gun" law is triggered (no pun intended) by entry onto the market of the first such gun. Indeed, the chief sponsor of New Jersey's 2002 law, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-naturally), wasted no time in reminding the NJ Attorney General John Jay Hoffman that her law would require him to mandate that the Armatix iP1 become the only legally available handgun in New Jersey.

So now, the first two attempts to market "smart guns" in the U.S. have been abject, utter failures, and have indeed called into question how long the stores involved would have stayed in business had they proceeded with their plans. This happened in California and Maryland--the two states generally considered "gun control" strongholds. Imagine how much more intense the reaction would be if someone were to try this in Idaho or Arizona.

And the result? Even "smart gun" mandates' biggest boosters are starting to realize that threats to require "smart guns" are the biggest obstacle to the guns ever making it to gun dealers' shelves, and now, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Senator Weinberg may soon ask the New Jersey legislature to repeal her law:

Democratic state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who sponsored the landmark 2002 law, said she would ask the legislature to drop the mandate if the National Rifle Association, a fierce critic of smart-gun technology, pledged not to stand in the way of the weapons' development and sale. "'I'm willing to do this because, eventually, these are the kinds of guns people will want to buy," she said.

"But," some will no doubt object, "even such a positive outcome hardly justifies death threats against those who try to market the ridiculous guns." Well, let's talk about these notional "death threats." From the same Post-Gazette article:

Mr. Raymond answered one phone call: "Hi, this is Andy. How can I help you?" The caller said, "You're the guys selling the smart gun?" Mr. Raymond tried to reason with him, but the caller said, "You're gonna get what's coming to you, [expletive]."

Mr. Raymond took that as a death threat. He was clearly shaken.

Hmm--sounds a bit thin as the basis of a claim of "death threats," let alone threats to shoot him, his girlfriend, and his dog, as implied in his unhinged video rant.

Absent the threat of a legal requirement that guns be "smart," gun rights advocates have no reason to fear further development of the technology (although removing that threat would presumably not neutralize some anti-gunners' rather odd objections to it). If some slow-learning gun shop owners have to be forced out of business to remove that threat, that's an acceptable price.

Update: National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea has much more, in "Offer to rescind N.J. ‘smart gun’ mandate reeks of deception."

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