Passage Comes on the Heels of President Obama’s Executive Action to Advance Smart Gun Technology
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 gained final approval today in the Assembly. The action – sending the bill to the governor’s desk – comes on the heels of President Obama’s executive action last week to advance the use of smart gun technology.
“The President’s endorsement of this technology is an important step forward in the effort to get smart guns to the market. I am encouraged by his support and our progress in New Jersey. We have been a leader in working to advance smart gun technology and with this bill we remain ahead of the curve,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “Smart guns are built with technology that makes them inoperable in the hands of an unauthorized user and therefore cannot be accidentally discharged by children or stolen and used to perpetrate crimes in the community. With this bill, we will give consumers the option to purchase them when they become available and are certified as meeting certain standards. Ultimately, this 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 bill, we are continuing to lead the way in promoting smart gun policies that will help protect our residents,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex, Morris). “By making childproof handguns available, we will give gun buyers the ability to prevent shootings that claim the lives of young children. This technology also has the potential to prevent suicides as well as other shootings that are carried out with stolen firearms.”
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.
“It is time to bring this 21st century gun technology to the market and to our residents, and this bill will create that opportunity,” said Senator Weinberg. “Childproof handgun technology will help to limit the use of guns by those who are not the rightful owner, and prevent the loss of more lives to gun violence. 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. I urge the governor to sign this commonsense legislation.”
“We know we can’t stop all gun violence, but we also can’t just sit idly by waiting for the next tragic episode to happen. We’ve seen too many heartbreaking headlines. We cannot wait for another news story about a child shot with a relative’s gun, or another killing carried out with a stolen firearm,” said Senator Codey. “Too many people have died senselessly at the hands of a firearm that could have been averted with smart gun technology. The Assembly did the right thing today by approving this measure which, if enacted, will help 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 Senate approved the bill by a vote of 22-15. The Assembly approved it 43-30-1. It now goes to the governor’s desk.