Imagine this conversation at the restaurant table next to you:
"Honey, when we're out to dinner, is it really necessary to play with your smartphone?"
"I'm not. I'm checking to make sure my gun is loaded and the safety is on."
Fanciful? Not entirely. A Minnesota firm is developing the "Ideal Conceal," a .380-caliber, double-barreled, two-round handgun designed to look like a smart phone. When the owner feels the need, he or she can simply click the handle into place and voila! A gun!
The designer of the weapon, Kirk Kjellberg, told NBC News that he came up with the idea after a child in a restaurant pointed him out, loudly, as carrying a handgun. "And then pretty much the whole restaurant stared at me," Kjellberg said. His solution: A handgun that folds up into a smartphone-shaped rectangle and tucks into a pocket. It is slated to go on the market later this year for $395.
Clever, we guess, but frighteningly short-sighted. Police already have trouble with violent criminals carrying guns, and with innocent people brandishing real-looking toy guns. If police now have to sort out whether someone who whips out a cellphone is taking a picture or is on the verge of squeezing off a couple of rounds — well, that's when a smartphone stops being quite so smart.
The United States has a long history of disguising guns as common objects. Walking sticks, pens, flashlights and portable radios have all been converted into firearms over the years. Since the smartphone gun isn't in production yet, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives hasn't determined whether it would be subject to federal firearm restrictions. The manufacturers do say, though, that X-ray machines will be able to tell it's a gun.
Small consolation. Designing a gun to look like a smartphone so that the owner can carry it in public without arousing curiosity is dangerously silly. And unfortunately, our gun laws don't mandate common sense.