Smart guns are weapons that only the owner can fire. They do exist, but they’re not sold commercially in America — and a New Jersey law could be part of the reason.

(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images News)

A Garden State statute makes it illegal to sell any other guns once smart guns are available for purchase. Worried about triggering the New Jersey law, gun dealers have held off on selling the smart guns in any state for years.

Democratic State Senate leaders and gun safety activists held a press conference at the State House Thursday to announce a push to repeal the law, which was enacted in 2002.

“What gun owner wouldn’t want a gun that only they could shoot, a gun that if it somehow got into the hands of a child, it would be rendered inoperable?” asked State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck). “Our residents and people across the country should be able to purchase a gun that cannot be used by their children or anyone else but the owner.”

Thursday, Weinberg said she, State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Thorofare) and State Senator Dick Codey (D-Livingston) were introducing a bill to eliminate and replace the 13-year-old law. She hoped that would spur the development and availability of smart guns in New Jersey and the U.S.

One of the gun safety proponents who spoke at the press event was Jacob Locicero whose daughter was killed in the mass shooting on the Long Island Rail Road in 1993.

“If somebody needs a gun it’s a no-brainer,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you buy a particular gun that is only useful to you and not to your children and not to anyone else?”

The new law would only require that smart guns were made available — and nobody would be required to buy them, Sweeney said. Codey said people are killed and crimes are committed with stolen guns every day. He defied anyone to say that that the new law wouldn’t do anything to stop that.

The legislation would require every firearms wholesale or retail dealers to maintain an inventory of at least one smart gun that would have to be displayed in the salesroom and offered for purchase.

There was opposition to the bill from one of New Jersey’s leading gun rights advocates who said that the lawmakers were grandstanding while doing nothing to curb violence.

“The technology is way too expensive,” said Alexander Roubian, NJ Second Amendment Society president. “You’re looking at over $2,000 for a small .22 caliber pistol and it is very unreliable. It’s a terrible bill.”

If firearms dealers believed that smart guns were a good option they wouldn’t have to be forced by the government of New Jersey to display the firearms and offer them for sale he said. Roubian asked, if the firearm was such a great product why aren’t the police required to use it?

“Eventually it (smart gun technology) will come around, but right now is not the time and if it is the time then it should be dictated by what the free market wants, not forced by legislators with failed policies and ideas,” Roubian said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, in 2013, the last year for which mortality data was available, the total number of firearm deaths in the United States was 33,636.

By age group, the number of deaths resulting from the accidental discharge of a firearm was as follows:

  • Under 1 year: 3
  • 1-3 years: 27
  • 5-14 years: 39
  • 15-24 years: 107
  • 25-34 years: 82
  • 35-44 years: 48
  • 45-54 years: 80
  • 55-64 years: 59
  • 65-74 years: 35
  • 75-84 years: 18
  • 85+ years: 7

Also according to the CDC, in New Jersey, the number of firearm deaths in 2013 was 506 out of a total population of 8,899,339.

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at kevin.mcardle@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.