Four new NJ gun laws, including revamped push for ‘smart guns’
BERKELEY HEIGHTS – New Jersey added another four gun laws to its books Tuesday, adding to what the Giffords Law Center already ranks as the second-strongest set of gun laws among the 50 states.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bills into law in the lightly air-conditioned library of Governor Livingston High School. They add to gun-trafficking laws, introduce suicide prevention efforts at gun dealers and attempt – again – to spur the development of personalized handguns that only the gun’s owner can fire.
“Even though we have more to work to, we must take great pride in what we are doing today,” Murphy said. “These new laws will continue to send the message that we take gun safety and the safety of our communities seriously in New Jersey.”
Seventeen years after New Jersey enacted a law that says smart guns that can be fired only by their owner will be the only ones sold in the state, once they’re viable, they’re still not on store shelves in America.
Many blame New Jersey’s law for the holdup – and now, that law has been changed. The new incarnation would eventually require smart guns to be offered for sale, though not exclusively, and switches the authority to require their sale to a state commission, rather than the marketplace.
“It closes a loophole in our prior law that led to threatened boycotts of any manufacturer working on smart-gun technology and had the unintended consequence of stifling development,” Murphy said. “Now we hope to jump-start smart-gun R&D and see these firearms finally hit the market.”
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the new smart-gun law has more guideposts than the original version, such as creating a commission that will oversee progress and putting laboratories and testing protocols in place.
“It’s a more detailed bill, and it allows that those unintended consequences don’t manifest,” Grewal said.
Two of the new laws touch on gun trafficking – expanding the types of crimes that disqualify a person from legally owning guns and making it a crime for such people to try to buy a gun.
“When we get a new tool in the fight against gun violence, we will use it,” Grewal said, “that we’re not afraid to use our authority against gun manufacturers, against gun distributors or traffickers.”
The other law requires the state to make available suicide prevention training courses and informational materials for gun retailers. State Sen. Joe Cryan, D-Union, said it won’t end gun-related suicides but can help.
“Doesn’t change the world. Doesn’t change, it won’t end, the 59 deaths (a day). It won’t end the 22,000 a year,” Cryan said, citing national gun-suicide statistics. “It will hopefully spur for someone the moment of clarity in those 10 to 15 minutes. It will hopefully help save, as we say, one. Because one’s enough.”
Murphy acknowledged that he hasn’t yet gotten everything he’s been pushing for since last fall, such as regulating ammunition sales, in the second batch of gun-related bills he has sought from the Legislature.
“Three parts of this step that we desperately need. It requires a photo ID to buy ammunition. The sales are digitized. And all of the sales are reported to the State Police,” Murphy said. “Feels like a fairly simple, straightforward series of steps.”
Murphy is also continuing to push to increase fees for gun licenses, which haven’t changed since 1966.