Newspaper article International New York Times

Seeing Threat from 'Smart' Firearm Technology, Gun Lobby Closes Ranks

Newspaper article International New York Times

Seeing Threat from 'Smart' Firearm Technology, Gun Lobby Closes Ranks

Article excerpt

A handgun that can identify its user so no one else can fire it has met with the same uproar that has stopped many seeking tougher weapons laws.

Belinda Padilla does not pick up unknown calls anymore, not since someone posted her cellphone number on an online forum for gun enthusiasts. A few fuming-mad voice mail messages and heavy breathers were all it took.

Then someone snapped pictures of the address where she has a P.O. box and put those online, too. In a crude, cartoonish scrawl, this person drew an arrow to the blurred image of a woman passing through the photo frame. "Belinda?" the person wrote. "Is that you?"

Her offense? Trying to market and sell a new .22-caliber handgun that uses a radio frequency-enabled watch to identify the authorized user so no one else can fire it. Ms. Padilla and the manufacturer she works for, Armatix, intended to make the weapon the first "smart gun" for sale in the United States.

But shortly after Armatix went public with its plans to start selling in Southern California, Ms. Padilla, who leads the company's fledgling American division, encountered the same uproar that has stopped gun control advocates, Congress, President Obama and lawmakers across the country as they seek to pass tougher laws and promote new technologies they contend will lead to fewer firearms deaths.

Lately, there has been little standing in the way of the muscle of the gun lobby, whose advocates recently derailed Mr. Obama's nominee for surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, a Boston doctor who has expressed alarm about the frequency of shooting deaths.

And despite support from the Obama administration, guns with owner-recognition technology remain shut out of the market today.

"Right now, unfortunately, these organizations that are scaring everybody have the power," Ms. Padilla said. "All we're doing is providing extra levels of safety to your individual right to bear arms. And if you don't want our gun, don't buy it. It's not for everyone."

In Georgia on Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law a bill that allows people to carry guns in bars, government buildings and even some churches. The National Rifle Association called the measure historic.

In West Virginia, one of several states like Georgia that in the past year have loosened restrictions on where weapons can be carried, the mayor of Charleston, Danny Jones, has gone to court to challenge a new law that allows guns in public recreation centers. Mr. Jones, a Republican, said he believed this endangered children and could eventually lead to allowing guns in schools. But his is an uphill battle.

"It's a very lonely fight," he said. "Sometimes I think I'm going to wake up from this, that it's just a bad dream."

Second Amendment defenders argue that once guns with high-tech safety features go on sale, government mandates will follow. …

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