The Oak Tree Gun Club in Southern California prides itself as one of the largest in the state. In addition to the usual amenities such as shotgun, rifle, archery, and pistol ranges, Oak Tree also offers two pro shops that sell a wide selection of firearms and ammunition. According to The Washington Post, a new item showed up for sale earlier this year. It was the Armatix iP1 “smart gun,” and Oak Tree was the first retailer to have it. Oak Tree’s owners did not expect the backlash they received from local gun owners—some of whom are longtime customers—when word spread that the club would be selling the smart gun.
Armatix is a German company spun off from SimonVoss Technologies, a firm that specializes in radio-controlled, wireless locking technology. According to the product description page on Armatix’s website, the iP1 is a small semiautomatic pistol chambered in .22 LR with a 10-round magazine. What makes it unique is that it can only be fired when in range of special watch sold along with the firearm. The watch communicates with the pistol via radio up to a range of 10 inches. When the watch comes into range of the pistol, it “arms” the gun and allows it to be fired by the user. When it goes out of range, the gun is locked again.
Oak Tree owner James Mitchel told The Washington Post that “it could revolutionize the gun industry.” That is also what US Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) thought when he introduced a bill in February that would require all firearms to be fitted with smart gun technology by as early as 2016. Markey and his supporters believe that personalized smart guns, or guns that can only be used by their owners, will cut down on the number of stolen guns used in crimes. Many gun owners, however, are opposed to any bill requiring the use of smart gun technology. Pro-gun organizations such as the NRA and National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) say they are not opposed to smart gun development itself, but see any law mandating their use as a violation of the Second Amendment.
Mitchel, who describes himself as a pro-gun conservative, said he saw the merits in the technology and its potential as a compromise between gun rights and gun control advocates. But these days the Armatix iP1 is missing from his store and Oak Tree employees are denying ever having stocked it. According to Fox News, Oak Tree now says that the entire incident was a misunderstanding.
The gun club’s drastic response came after a furious backlash against the sale of the Armatix iP1 on internet forums and social media.
“You have betrayed the shooting community on a national level. Hope you enjoy the 30 pieces of silver you got from Armatix,” wrote one commenter on Oak Tree’s Facebook page.
“Consider me one of the many that will never give business to Oaktree [sic] again due to their stance on ‘smart gun’ tech. Your actions speak much louder than your words and those actions are anti-gun and anti-gun owner,” wrote another.
Oak Tree management also cancelled a television interview with press after protest from gun owners. Armatix’s head of US operations, Belinda Padilla, who was working with Oak Tree to promote their new pistol, said that she is disappointed by the club’s reaction, but added that she understood Mitchel’s situation.
In the aftermath of the backlash, Oak Tree retail sales chief Betsy Mitchel stated on the facility’s Facebook page that there was never any agreement to purchase Armatix products and that the iP1 was never for sale. In a subsequent interview with the Examiner, Betsy Mitchel stated that the interview with The Washington Post was taken out of context.
OutdoorHub contacted Oak Tree and was told that the club has decided not to comment on the issue at this time.
You can see a demonstration of how the iP1 handgun works below. The video is in German.