None of us would think twice about seeing a stranger pull out a smartphone in a classroom, on a crowded bus, or at a sporting event. Smartphones are now ubiquitous in our society; everyone has one. But what if instead of a phone, they were pulling out a loaded gun?
Ideal Conceal is the manufacturer of a new handgun that is “cunningly designed to look like a smartphone” for the purpose of “stylish” and “more comfortable” concealed carry. It will cost just $395, making it less expensive than many smartphones currently on the market. And because the federal government has no authority to require design safety standards for firearms, it could have enormous implications for the safety of police officers, children, and the general public.
Despite a marketing campaign centered around fashion and comfort, the real idea behind Ideal Conceal is secrecy. America’s radical gun culture is a lightning rod for controversy in an era of daily mass shootings, and many gun-toters are growing increasingly paranoid—and facing some tough questions from members of their community. Ideal Conceal developer Kirk Kjellberg admitted as much in an interview with KFOR in his home state of Minnesota:
When a little child, a boy about 7, saw me, and said, “Mommy, Mommy, that guy’s got a gun,” and the whole restaurant, of course, turns and stares at you … I thought, “There’s just got to be something better to do than this.” It’s more so for people that want to be able to carry a gun when they need to and not have to engage other people about why they’re carrying that gun.
Kjellberg wants to avoid the accountability that comes with handling a dangerous weapon in public; to play vigilante as he sees fit, but without answering to those who might be endangered by his behavior. And what better way to do that than to disguise your handgun as a device that is popular and non-controversial?
Given America’s loose gun laws, and the fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult to discern a “Good Guy with a Gun” from a “Bad Guy with a Gun” in many states, do we really want to be kept in the dark about who is packing around our families in public spaces? And what about those seeking to hide their weapons for more nefarious reasons than Kjellberg—i.e., a history of violence that prohibits them from owning firearms?
Consider the position that Ideal Conceal will put our law enforcement officers in. Officers often need to make critical split-second decisions, even during situations like routine traffic stops; decisions like determining whether the individual they are dealing with is armed. If an officer is unable to make that determination, because they mistake a firearm for a smartphone, that puts them in a vulnerable position and detracts from their ability to ensure the public’s safety. [We might also consider the potential long-term ramifications of a society in which law enforcement has to assume that anyone carrying a smartphone might be armed.]
Ideal Conceal would also put children at serious risk. Adults know that children constantly grab for their smartphones: to play games, watch movies, or just to push buttons. Does anyone think that a toddler is going to be able to distinguish between an Ideal Conceal handgun and a smartphone? It’s not hard to predict the results here. We can hardly go a day in this country without a tragedy involving a young child shooting themselves, a sibling, or a parent with a gun that they shouldn’t have had access to. And these are incidents where children can tell they are dealing with a firearm; a weapon they have been told is dangerous and not to be touched. What happens when guns suddenly look like smartphones?
Kjellberg predictably dismisses any responsibility he might have to prevent such tragedies, stating:
In America, we have lots of children in contact with pistols already. There’s been quite a few incidents long before my product came along. For me, it’s not the gun. It’s the people. So if you have a pistol and you have children anywhere near you, it’s your responsibility to l ck that stuff up and keep it away from children.
Thankfully, there are responsible adults looking into this matter. On April 4, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) asked the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to investigate whether a firearm disguised as a household item violates any existing federal regulations. “Just like toys that too much look like handguns should not be sold, handguns that look too much like toys should not be sold,” he said during a press conference.
Ultimately, that little boy that identified Kjellberg in a Minnesota restaurant had it right. In a state that’s been known to issue concealed handgun permit to violent individuals, he identified a potential threat and alerted those around him.* That’s Self-Preservation 101. Let’s just hope the next kid can still tell he’s looking at a gun.
* See also the Revocation Explanation Report and 5a) Reporting Requirement table in the 2014 Permit to Carry Report by Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Minnesota section of the Violence Policy Center’s “Concealed Carry Killers” website.