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Weinberg Session

Bill Marks New Effort to Advance to the Market Personalized Handgun Technology, Also Known As ‘Smart Guns’

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Richard J. Codey that is designed to spur the development and availability of childproof handguns in New Jersey and across the nation was approved today by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.

“My intent in advancing childproof handgun legislation more than a decade ago was to help spawn the development of the technology. We have made significant progress in doing that, but we are now at a critical point. We have to continue to advance policies that will move safer firearms to the market and give consumers the option to purchase guns that cannot be accidentally fired by children or stolen and used to perpetrate crimes in our communities,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “This legislation will do that, and in the process it will save lives.”

“New Jersey was the first state in the nation to pass a Childproof Handgun Law that sought to reduce preventable gun deaths in our state. With this new bill, we will continue to lead the way in advancing smart gun policies that will help protect the public,” said Senator Codey. “Childproofing guns is a way to stop the tragedies that claim the lives of young children, but it will also prevent other shootings carried out with stolen firearms. I am proud to be part of this effort and look forward to moving this measure ahead.”

Senators Weinberg and Codey were the sponsors of the 2002 Childproof Handgun Law that required all handguns sold in the state to be “personalized handguns” within three years of the technology becoming available for retail purposes anywhere in the country, and determined by the state Attorney General as meeting established reliability standards. The law was intended to encourage the development of personalized handgun technology, also known as “smart guns.” However, as prototypes were developed and the technology began to make its way to the market in the last year, opponents of New Jersey’s law increased pressure on retail stores not to sell the safety-equipped smart guns. The vehement opposition, which included threats to store owners, has blocked the technology from entering the market and made it difficult for developers to obtain funding for smart gun development projects.

The new legislation (S3249) is the result of nearly a year of discussions Senator Weinberg had with the gun safety community. The bill would amend the current mandate to require each firearms wholesaler or retailer in New Jersey to offer for sale a personalized handgun, within three years of its availability for sale in New Jersey or elsewhere in the country. Specifically, the bill would require each firearms wholesale or retail dealer operating in the state to maintain an inventory of one or more types of approved personalized handguns on the dealer’s premises. The handgun would have to be displayed in the dealer’s salesroom and offered for sale to the general public. Personalized handguns are designed so that they may only be fired by an authorized or recognized user. Technology has been developed that recognizes a user’s handprint, or connects to a signal from a wrist watch or other device worn by the user.

“If we can limit the use of guns by those who are not the rightful owner, and prevent the loss of more lives to gun violence, it is our responsibility to do so. New Jersey’s Childproof Handgun Law was revolutionary and has been successful in facilitating the development of ‘smart guns.’ The advancement of technology has not moved as fast as we would have liked, but we cannot give up on common sense reforms that will support this effort,” said Senator Weinberg. “Personalized handgun technology is the future of firearms in this country, and statistics show it is desperately needed. It will help to protect against preventable tragedies that continue to take the lives of people in this state and across the country every single day.”

“We know we can’t stop all gun violence, but we also can’t sit with our hands tied and wait for the next tragic episode to happen before we move commonsense legislation,” said Senator Codey. “Too many people have died at the hands of firearms, many in preventable tragedies that could have been avoided with smart gun technology. Allowing firearms purchasers the option of a personalized handgun is the right thing to do to reduce firearms deaths, and to make our homes and communities safer.”

On an average day, 88 Americans are killed with guns, according to the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety, including seven children and teens age 19 and under. According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2014, about a third of all Americans with children under 18 at home have a gun in their household, including 34% of families with children younger than 12. In 2013, there were 21,175 suicides, 11,208 homicides and 505 unintentional deaths by guns in the United States, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of firearm deaths in the US are suicides. According to Everytown, there have been at least 222 child shootings in 2015 where a person age 17 or under unintentionally fired a gun and harmed someone.

The committee approved the bill by a vote of 3-2. It next heads to the full Senate for consideration.