Legislation Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Tim Eustace sponsored to update state law to help boost the proliferation of more childproof handguns was approved 44-30 by the full Assembly on Monday.
The bill (S-816/A-1426), which was substituted in committee, would create a roster of personalized handguns available for sale to the public and require most New Jersey gun retailers to carry them in their stores.
"Current law is intended to encourage the development of smart gun technology, but the prohibition on other handguns has, in effect, restricted consumer access to personalized handguns," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "This bill modernizes our law and is a reasonable approach to improving gun safety in our state, especially for children."
U.S. children and teens are 32 times more likely to die from a gun homicide and 10 times more likely to die from a gun suicide or a gun accident than all their peers in the other high-income countries combined.
"The status quo is unacceptable," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This change will help spark the development and availability of childproof handguns in New Jersey and set a tone for the rest of the nation."
"We've seen far too many senseless deaths because of handguns accidentally getting in the hands of children," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "The technology exists to make that an impossibility. This bill will help boost the proliferation of childproof handguns in New Jersey."
Specifically, the bill would establish the "Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission" in the Department of Law and Public Safety to be responsible for establishing performance standards for personalized handguns and for maintaining a roster of personalized handguns authorized for sale to the public.
The Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission would consist of the following, as ex-officio members: the Attorney General or a designee; the Superintendent of State Police or a designee; the Commissioner of Health or a designee, as well as four public members appointed by the Governor with varied, relevant experience.
The commission would be required to maintain a roster of all personalized handguns approved for retail sales to the public, which would be published on a website maintained by the State Police and updated every six months.
Within one year of organizing, the commission would be required to develop personalized handgun performance standards, which a handgun would be required to meet in order to be placed on the roster. The performance standards would include, but not be limited to:
- the handgun must be reasonably resistant to being fired by anyone other than the handgun's authorized user;
- the personalized technology must be incorporated into the design of the personalized handgun and must be a permanent, irremovable part of the handgun and any device or object necessary for the authorized user to fire the handgun;
- the personalized handgun must not be manufactured so as to permit the personalized characteristics of the handgun to be readily deactivated; and
- the personalized handgun must meet any other reliability standards generally used in the industry for other commercially available handguns.
Within 60 days of the first personalized handgun being included on the roster, each licensed firearms retail dealer would be required to have the following on the retail premises:
- at least one personalized handgun approved by the commission and listed on the roster as eligible for sale;
- an original exemption certificate, which would be granted by the commission to licensed retail dealers who demonstrate that offering a personalized handgun for sale would impose an undue financial hardship and to licensed retail dealers who demonstrate that their firearm inventory consists solely of firearms other than handguns; or
- a notarized copy of a pending application for an exemption certificate.
The Superintendent of State Police would be required to designate officers to inspect the personalized handgun inventory and records of licensed firearms retailers. The inspections would be conducted at least once every two years at any time during the normal business hours of the firearm retailer's business.
Licensed retail dealers not in compliance with the law would be subject to the following penalties: a fine of up to $500 for a first offense; a fine of up to $1,000 for a second offense; and for a third or subsequent offense, a six month license suspension following notice to the licensed retail dealer and the opportunity to be heard.
In addition, any person found tampering or attempting to tamper with a personalized handgun by intentionally interfering with the user-authorized functionality of the gun would be guilty of a disorderly persons offense.
The commission would also be required to identify and approve a list of independent laboratories which would be used to determine whether handguns comply with the personalized handgun performance standards. An independent laboratory would be required to test a handgun within a reasonable amount of time following a request made by the commission and then issue a final report to the commission at the conclusion of the test.
The commission would then be required to issue, within 45 days of receiving the report, a final decision by majority vote as to whether the handgun should be included on the roster. Upon making a final determination, the commission would be required to notify the manufacturer, in writing, as to whether the handgun has been approved or denied for inclusion in the roster.
The bill would also repeal sections of current law that prohibit the sale of all handguns after personalized handguns are available for retail purposes.
The measure now awaits final approval from the Senate.