(TRENTON) - Legislation Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Tim Eustace and Carmelo Garcia sponsored to update state law to encourage more childproof handguns was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee.
The bill (A-4717) requires retailers to sell personalized handguns, also known as "smart guns, " in the same manner as other handguns. A personalized handgun is designed so that it may only be fired by an authorized or recognized user.
"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). "With this change, we will spark the development and availability of childproof handguns in New Jersey and set a tone for the rest of the nation."
Under current law, three years after personalized handguns are available for retail purposes, it will be illegal for a firearms manufacturer or dealer to sell or transfer a handgun unless that handgun is a personalized handgun. Personalized handguns are deemed available for retail purposes within 30 months of the date when at least one manufacturer has commercially delivered at least one personalized handgun production model to a wholesale or retail dealer in New Jersey or any other state.
But as the technology began to make its way to the market, opponents of New Jersey's law increased pressure on retail stores not to sell the safety-equipped smart guns. The opposition has blocked the technology from entering the market and made it difficult for developers to obtain funding for smart gun development projects.
"Protecting children is paramount, and with this bill, there will be no excuse not to develop and sell childproof handgun technology," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic).
"This bill is the right thing to do in this day and age," said Garcia (D-Hudson).
This bill repeals sections of law prohibiting the sale of all handguns after personalized handguns are available for retail purposes.
However, the bill preserves the provision requiring the Attorney General to report to the Governor and Legislature on the availability of personalized handguns and direct the Superintendent of State Police to establish and update a list of personalized handguns that may be sold. Upon issuance of the list, the bill requires each firearms wholesale or retail dealer to maintain an inventory of one or more types of personalized handguns to be displayed in the dealer's salesroom and offered for sale to the general public.
The bill was advanced by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.