The United States military is soliciting bids for a new firearm technology that will integrate the basic functions of a gun with various digital applications.

This might enable weapons to assist their handlers with targeting, communications and monitoring soldiers’ movements.

The US army has chosen three firms – General Dynamics, Sig Sauer and Textron – to compete to provide the weapon capable of using such technology, its Next Generation Squad Weapon.

Meanwhile, it is looking for firms able to produce the information technology systems. These would include a fire control system to help the weapon keep trained on targets. Variants of this already exist in larger weapons, such as artillery.

The idea of matching smart technology with firearms is not new, although previous attempts to market it have not thus far been successful. Its applications include pairing a firearm to a specific handler, tracking the weapon’s movements, and recording how it is used. The ability to deactivate a firearm that is lost or stolen has been hailed in some quarters as an innovative step in combating gun violence.

However, others – including some in law enforcement and the gun rights movement – have expressed concerns that this technology could prove unreliable (failing at critical moments) or that it could be used by governments as a means of firearm control.

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