NJ senator looking to restart ‘smart gun’ efforts in New Jersey
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg heads to Washington for the day Thursday, waiting to kick-start a 15-year quest to require personalized "smart guns" on the shelves of New Jersey gun retailers.
Such guns would have technology keeping them from being fired by anyone other than the registered owner or, as envisioned in the case of police officers, the officers and their partners. Current New Jersey law requires them to be exclusively sold in New Jersey once they’re viable – which may be unintentionally undercutting their path to the marketplace.
Weinberg was invited by the head of CeaseFire Washington state to attend Thursday’s event in the nation’s capital, featuring a former United States drug czar and the results of a survey on the safety concerns of 400 law enforcement professionals.
“They’re wanting to move toward the child-proof handgun technology, so we’ll hear the results of that survey. We have a panel. Some people who are involved in the research and development will also be there,” Weinberg said.
Weinberg said she doesn’t yet know the results of the survey.
“From what I’ve heard, there is a very positive feeling, once the technology is developed and tested. But it can’t be if the NRA is so fearful of moving ahead with this,” Weinberg said.
Officially, the National Rifle Association doesn’t oppose the development of personalized firearms, though it's often skeptical of such efforts. It also opposes laws that prohibit people from buying or possessing guns that don’t possess such technology.
That’s currently the law in New Jersey, adopted in 2002. Weinberg supports loosening the law to require that retailers sell such guns, once the technology is viable, alongside traditional guns – but not exclusively.
Gov. Chris Christie has twice vetoed bills that would have incorporated that change.
He said in a 2016 veto the proposal would have “replaced one unnecessary mandate with another unjustified restriction on firearms sales” as part of “the relentless campaign by the Democratic legislature to make New Jersey as inhospitable as possible to lawful gun ownership and sales.”
Over the course of nearly eight years as governor, Christie has kept at least nine gun-related bills from becoming law through vetoes.
Weinberg hopes they become law next year, if Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy is elected governor. He has pledged to sign all the gun bills Christie has rejected. Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno doesn’t support additional gun laws in a state with among the strictest laws already.
“I’ve already told Ambassador Murphy — hopefully he will be the governor — I have at least 20 bills ready the day he walks in that have all been vetoed by Gov. Christie,” Weinberg said.
Organizers of Thursday’s conference say an average of five police officers a year nationally are killed when their guns are grabbed by suspects. They say the personalization technology could keep guns from firing unless they’re handled by officers or their partners.