Ernst Mauch is a legend in the firearms industry.
In his 30 years at the legendary German gunmaker Heckler & Koch, Mauch became a sort of folk hero in the gun world, designing some of the most deadly firearms in the world, including the one which reportedly killed Osama bin Laden.
But Muach’s new gun has turned him from hero to villain overnight in the eyes of many gun rights activists. But how could a famous gunsmith make gun-lovers mad by designing a new weapon?
Well, Mauch’s new gun, the iP1, is a “smart” gun. The gun is programmable, and can only be fired when its rightful owner is wearing a special watch that is wirelessly connected to the gun.
Mauch began working on designing smarter guns following an unfortunate tragedy in the 1990s: after a child accidentally killed one of his friends using a gun that Mauch had designed, the German gunmaker was called in for questioning by the authorities.
The officers asked him a number of questions, including why the boy didn’t know that the gun was loaded or that there was a live round in the chamber.
He was questioned for four hours. Afterwards, he told his wife,
“My dear, I will never forget these last four hours.”
The tragedy weighed on Mauch heavily, as did all of the innocent lives lost due to weapons he had designed. He was a deeply religious man who knew that his career making instruments of death was somewhat at odds with his faith in God:
“It hurts my heart… It’s life. It’s the lives of people who never thought they’d get killed by a gun. You have a nice family at home, and then you get killed. It’s crazy.”
The more Mauch thought about all of the gun-related tragedies, the more he realized that the problem wasn’t with guns being bad- the problem was with guns being “dumb”.
So, while running Heckler & Koch in the early 2000s, Mauch awarded research funding to a small company working on smart gun technology designed specifically to address this problem.
In 2005, disputes with H&K over their investors prompted Mauch to leave the company. Shortly afterwards, he joined a spin off of the smart gun firm he had awarded the funding to a few years earlier. The company was called Armatix.
By 2006, Mauch and Armatix had designed the first round of .22-caliber iP1 smart guns, and set about targeting the biggest gun market in the world: the United States.
To Mauch’s surprise, however, his smart gun has terrified many gun activists in America. Their biggest worry is that once the iP1 starts becoming popular, the government will begin mandating that all guns come with these “smart” computer systems built into them.
Jim Schatz is a gun industry consultant who worked for Mauch at Heckler & Koch. He had this to say:
“I love Ernst, and his contributions to firearms are incredible…But he doesn’t understand that the anti-gunners will use this to infringe on a constitutional right. They don’t have a Second Amendment in Germany.”
The NRA and other gun rights groups are pointing to a new law in New Jersey to substantiate their worries. The law mandates that all guns sold in the state must be smart guns within three years of smart guns becoming available there.
But despite all of the negative feedback from gun rights activists in the United States, Mauch is still pushing to popularize smart guns like his iP1:
“When it comes to the end, you are responsible for what you did. There will be one question asked of you: What did you do to help others? I cannot sit still. There are tragedies that could be eliminated. Bingo. End of story.”
Read the full story from the Washington Post here.