German-designed ‘smart’ guns rerouted after cultural backlash in U.S.

A little over a decade ago, he embarked on a different kind of project. Was it possible, he wondered, to design a safer gun? A gun that could only be used by its owner? In short, a gun that was a little less, well, dumb? “I’m allowed to make that comment,” he says with a smile.

Mr. Mauch succeeded in making a “smart” gun. But the story of why it’s not for sale in the U.S. is a long and strange one. It’s a tale of a cultural clash between Europe and the U.S. – and of an American gun debate so radioactive that even promising new technologies cannot find a way to market.

The controversy is mystifying to Mr. Mauch, a courtly, barrel-chested man from southern Germany. “I was hoping that people understand the potential,” he says. “The only intention [was] to stop and minimize killings of people who do not know how bad these kind of products can be.”