New Jersey has done more to stifle the development and potential sales of “smart guns” in this country than any other state. And no one in New Jersey has done more to keep things that way than state Senator Loretta Weinberg.
She’s one of the legislative geniuses behind the Garden State’s law that requires all guns sold in the state to be so-called smart guns once smart guns are for sale anywhere in the US. In 2002 they passed this language:
The amended bill specifies that three years after it is determined that personalized handguns are available for retail purposes, it will be illegal for any registered or licensed firearms manufacturer or dealer to transport, sell, expose for sale, possess for sale, assign or transfer any handgun unless that handgun is a personalized handgun.
In other words, once someone starts producing and selling a “smart gun” to the public somewhere, smart guns will be the ONLY guns legal to sell in the state.
So when attempts to actually sell the crappy Armatix pistol to the public were made in 2014, gun owners revolted against those retailers. No one wanted to see sales of the gun trigger New Jersey’s authoritarian law, thereby hanging the state’s gun owners out to dry.
The firestorm of criticism that rained down on the two retailers who attempted to sell the Armatix wasn’t lost on other potential sellers of the gun. And smart gun development has largely stagnated as a result.
Senator Weinberg, however, loves her law and remained blind/willfully ignorant of its unintended consequences. Her law had become a poison pill, killing off chances to bring a smart gun to market.
In the years since, she’s taken every opportunity to deflect blame for the fact that no one can buy a smart gun in the US by blaming…wait for it…the NRA, every gun-hater’s boogie man of choice.
But the fact is, despite anything you may read in the media, neither the NRA or any other responsible pro-gun organization — let alone most gun owners — is opposed to someone developing and selling a smart gun. What they do oppose is legal mandates.
I don’t want to buy a smart gun and you may not want one either. But if someone decides that a smart gun the firearm that fits his or her needs best, more power to them.
As time went on, though, all of Weinberg’s deflecting and blame shifting has lost all credibility. Even she had to admit the damage her law had done. NPR recognized the effects of the New Jersey law in keeping smart guns off the market.
Even the main sponsor of New Jersey’s smart gun law is now having second thoughts. Loretta Weinberg concedes that the law’s mandate has become an impediment to the development of smart guns.
“That’s the exact opposite of what we really intended to do,” Weinberg says. “If I’m willing to say, well, maybe we made a mistake here; we need to remove this — then I would expect that those who think we made a mistake will join in to say, hey, you’re right, and now let’s see the marketplace move ahead.”
That was back in 2014 and not a thing has changed in New Jersey since then. But as nj.com reports, the Garden State legislature is considering changing that.
Democrats say that law — which requires that only personalized handguns be offered for sale in New Jersey three years after they’re on the market in the U.S. — actually stifled the development and delayed the sale of so-called childproof handguns.
They want to repeal the law and replace it with one that would require every retailer offer at least one personalized handgun model for sale. This, they hope, will shake loose the research and development they say was stymied by gun rights advocates who didn’t want to start New Jersey’s three-year clock.
The Democratic-controlled state Legislature tried this twice while Republican Chris Christie was governor. He vetoed it both times, saying in 2016 that it “is reflective of the relentless campaign by the Democratic legislature to make New Jersey as inhospitable as possible to lawful gun ownership and sales.”
But with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy vowing to sign every gun control measure vetoed by his Republican predecessor, the Legislature is moving on the bill again.
Still a mandate, but one that leaves consumers a choice — buy a traditional firearm or a “smart gun” if they so choose. And the bill doesn’t say how many smart guns a retailer has to carry, only that they have to offer one.
If the Great New Jersey Wall finally falls and retailers no longer risk triggering a poison pill law, more R&D dollars will likely flow into smart gun development. If stores then choose to carry one that finally proves itself reliable enough to reach retailers, then the market can decide if it’s worthy of being bought by consumers.
But if you’re thinking that government has learned its lesson and will stay out of decisions regarding what guns Americans can’t and can’t buy, think again.