By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
Through a chip in a wristwatch, or biometrics like a palm print, a personalized handgun — or smart gun — can only be fired by the person authorized to use it.
In 2002 New Jersey mandated that within three years of the first smart gun being sold in the U.S., gun dealers could sell only smart guns. That effort went nowhere, in part because the technology has never been certified by the state Attorney General.
The bill on the Senate floor today would soften the mandate, only requiring that gun dealers offer a smart gun within three years of the technology’s certification.
Senator Loretta Weinberg sponsored the original bill and this amended version.
“It will not require that anybody purchase one, that anybody use one who might not want to. It will just require that retailers offer it for sale. This is not new ground requiring retailers to do things. We require pharmacists to sell and stock certain drugs. We require insurance companies to sell certain policies,” she said.
The bill passed 22 to 15, largely along party lines. Republicans said when the technology works, the gun will sell itself.
“You don’t need to say to retailers you must carry it. Retailers want to carry something that is salable. They don’t need to be ordered to do that,” said Senator Gerald Cardinale.
“Originally I voted for it because I thought it made sense, but the technology is not there and we shouldn’t be mandating this on business,” said Senator Kip Bateman. “It really should be based on demand and when the market is ready for it, they will produce it.”
Opponents have always questioned the gun’s reliability.
“I’m always concerned when police say ‘I don’t want to carry it.’ And as a former prosecutor, I know a lot of time between dirt, and blood and whatnot, they don’t function,” said Senator James Holzapfel.
The NRA has actively discouraged the bill.
“There’s a minority segment of our country that says if a bill has the word ‘G-U-N’ in it, we’re against it. That’s wrong, we know that and in these grimes it’s just very, very sad,” said Senator Richard Codey.
“I think it’s a great idea. My father was the original sponsor in the Assembly. I think asking a dealer to stock a smart gun amid all the other weapons is very, very reasonable,” said Senator Peter Barnes.
“You know, I think that’s a very reasonable compromise. You’re not making anybody buy it. It just has to be available to purchase,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.
While the nation debates larger gun questions, the bill here goes next to an Assembly committee.