Gun Seller Backs Down on Smart Gun Plans After Threats

Saturday, 03 May 2014 01:14 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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A Maryland gun dealer has changed his mind about selling the nation's first smart gun, saying he, his business, and even his dog were threatened by gun rights supporters who say the technology curtails their Second Amendment rights.

Andy Raymond, who co-owns Engage Armament in Rockville, said he wanted to sell the Armatix iP1 smart gun because he's opposed to banning gun sales, and believed the weapons could entice buyers concerned about safety, reports The Washington Post, which also posted an excerpt from his Facebook video about the decision.

Smart guns are equipped with electronic chips that communicate with a separately purchased watch. The gun can't be fired without the watch, according to the Armatix iP1's manufacturer.

After word spread that Raymond's store was selling the gun, he started getting threats he says were fueled by gun rights blogs from people who called him a traitor and a communist, among other names.

The controversy over smart guns has been fueled by a New Jersey law passed in 2002 that that says only smart guns will legal for sale in the state three years after they go on the market anywhere in the country, which gun rights advocates said meant Raymond's plans could have triggered the controversial New Jersey mandate.

New Jersey Democratic state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, said Friday she would ask the legislature to drop the three-year mandate if the National Rifle Association, which opposes smart gun technology, promises not to block development and sale of the weapons.

But Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said the powerful group is "interested in a full repeal of New Jersey’s misguided law."

The NRA recently said in a blog post that the guns have the potential "to mesh with the anti-gunner's agenda, opening the door to a ban on all guns that do not possess the government-required technology,"

Stephen Teret, a public health expert at Johns Hopkins University who helped develop the New Jersey law, said bullying gun store owners like Raymond is "reprehensible," but also agreed it would be smart for New Jersey to drop its mandate and let the buyers' market determine smart guns' future.

"At the time, the New Jersey law made a great deal of sense,” he said. “But a number of things of have changed. Most importantly, the technology has improved. And number two, there’s a market demand for these kinds of guns. Given those changes, if New Jersey wants to rely on market forces instead of legislation, that’s certainly a reasonable approach."

The protests against Raymond were similar to protests against a California gun shop that had considered selling smart guns, and it may take a market change to get the guns into buyers' hands if sellers fear threats over offering the weapons.

Raymond, though, said he took the threats seriously. One caller threatened over the phone to burn down his store, and by Thursday night, he recorded a Facebook video, which he has since taken down, to explain his decision to back away from smart guns, speaking to the people of New Jersey who would have had to live the the 2002 law if he started selling the guns.

"I did not know I would be screwing you over," Raymond said. “I’m terribly sorry  . . . You don’t have anything to worry about from me.”

But he was angry about the death threats, telling viewers "that's a great thing for gun rights, when you threaten to shoot somebody."

Instead, Raymond said, people should shoot politicians who restrict gun rights, The Post reports.

At the the same time, he said, "I thought what I was doing was right,” he said. “I didn’t want my shop burned down.”

But Raymond said he won't change his mind even if New Jersey drops its mandate, reports The Post.

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