New 'smart gun' technology
The Armatix iPi gun will only fire if it detects a compatible electronic chip in a watch worn by the gun's registered owner Armatix

A James Bond-style "smart" gun that can be fired only if the user is wearing a special watch has gone on sale in the US, with pro-gun campaigners claiming it will transform the industry and make guns safer.

The German-made Armatix iP1 gun and watch have electronic chips that communicate with each other.

The watch is activated by a PIN number and if it is close to the weapon, a light on the grip turns green and the gun can be fired. It will not work if the gun falls into the hands of someone who is not wearing a watch with a compatible chip.

The technology uses RFID chips, the same type found on anti-theft tags attached to expensive clothing. The .22-caliber pistol has gone on sale in California at $1,399 (£840) - plus $399 (£240) for the watch. This compares to a .40-caliber Glock handgun, which can be bought for about $600 (£360).

The gun is similar to one used in the recent James Bond film Skyfall, where 007's gun was equipped with palm print technology that recognised him as the owner and wouldn't fire if held by anyone else.

The pro-gun lobby says the gun going on the market is a landmark move that will reduce gun violence in the US, wehere there are 32,000 gun-related deaths a year.

Democrat Senator Ed Markey said he is planning to introduce a bill to make sure guns can only be sold to approved, authorised owners with licences. The bill will require new handguns to be fitted with personalisation technology within two years, and for most older guns to be retrofitted within three years.

He said: "No one wants children to get access to a handgun and hurt themselves or others. This is the type of gun safety legislation that everyone - regardless of political party or affiliation - should be able to support."

But Josh Sugarmann, the executive director of the US-based Violence Policy Center told The Washington Post: "We are very sceptical of what this technology can accomplish. You're really affecting a very small portion of the gun-buying public."