ST. GEORGE – Firearm tracking systems for law enforcement and military use were developed in the mid-2000s. However, Chris Cannon, founder of the St. George-based Armstarr, said he has developed the only product of its kind available to the general public.
The Armstarr system uses the WTM1, a patented GPS-based tracking device created by Cannon that is purchased and installed within a firearm by the gun owner.
The device doesn’t begin tracking until needed. If a firearm is lost or stolen, the owner can contact Armstarr online or by phone, and activate the system using a unique password. It will then relay a signal to the nearest law enforcement agency, facilitating recovery of the weapon.
By no means unique, tracking devices raise concerns over their vulnerability to misuse. Their application to guns is no exception, as opponents of gun control, among others, recognize that tracking devices facilitate oversight and could play a role in increased regulation. On its website, the NRA states that it opposes requiring guns to be made with electronic equipment that would allow the guns to be deactivated remotely, or with other features that gun owners do not want.
Federal law requires that any firearm purchased through a dealer be registered, and the buyer is subject to a background check via the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. However, many states, including Utah, do not require firearms to be registered if purchased from a private party. Firearms do not have to be registered to use Armstarr.
“We would like to keep it out of ‘regulation’ by the government and keep it in the hands of the citizens,” Cannon said.
In the future, Cannon and his partners are seeking integration of Armstarr in the U.S. military. The technology could virtually eliminate soldiers missing in action by tracking the exact location of their service weapons, he said.
“That could essentially work, until the soldiers are disarmed. The tradition is that the enemy disarms American soldiers, and then puts their weapons back into service for their own use,” said Bruce C. Solomon, a combat veteran and readjustment counselor with the St. George Vet Center.
They are involved with various veterans’ organizations and plan to donate a portion of the company’s proceeds to servicemembers.
Cannon said that both conservative and liberal citizens have been supportive of Armstarr. Opinions on the system from local gun owners varied from interest to strong opposition.
“Anyone who steals (a firearm) can presumably remove it, unless it becomes yet another required thing for every weapon and registered owner,” Ron Olroyd said. “Trust me when I say it will be misused. The government has never seen a technology it can resist abusing.”
“I haven’t heard of anything like this before. I think it’s a good way to locate your weapon if you lost it out hunting or someone stole it from your house,” Brad Pollmann said. “I would use it as long as it wasn’t linked to the government; I don’t really want them to know what I have or where I’m at. It would depend on the subscription cost as well.”
Armstarr and the WTM1 have been in development for the past year and a half. Currently, Cannon and his partners are in the process of trying to obtain licensing with manufacturers. They have approached multiple companies, including Garmin, Magellan GPS and COPsync.
Their hope is to secure a deal and begin producing the Armstarr system by the end of 2014. It will be available through firearms distributors for approximately $65 retail, plus a subscription cost of around $175 per year. Cannon said that several local businesses have expressed interest in carrying the product.
“The first issue I can think of is that the chip will only fit on 1/3 of all handguns; you’re going to have to have a pistol that has grips on it to hide the transmitter. But the chip has plenty of places to be hidden on a long gun of any type,” Dixie Gunworx CEO Chris Michel said. “The system sounds great. It’s not the first of its kind, but still a worthy goal.”
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