By Erin Delmore
Sen. Loretta Weinberg thought her 2002 “smart gun” law would start an arms race among manufacturers. Now she says, “it didn’t succeed.”
The law aims to phase out old models and replace them all with smart guns. Gun sellers would have three years to do it. But the catch is, the clock starts ticking only after the first smart gun is sold in the U.S.
Now dealers are refusing to carry smart guns out of fear of starting the clock on the law. So reform is in Weinberg’s sights. She plans to introduce an amendment this fall.
Weinberg said “Gun store owners would be required to offer it for sale but we’re not requiring anybody to buy it. And they would offer it for sale along with the rest of whatever they sell in their retail operations.”
Lawmakers say the key to getting the technology market-ready is appealing to law enforcement and the Department of Defense.
“Government and military should, by specification measures, when they go out to bid, to the manufacturers, or when they’re supporting testing, no different than we do for pharmaceutical companies,” said Paterson Mayor Joey Torres. “We should be supporting it in its creation, in its incubation and in its procurement in contracting out.”
Torres said that New Jersey mayors can use their purchasing power to spur smart gun development.
“No different than when we buy, then when we ask Ford or Chevy to create a cruiser for us,” he said.
Jerry Speziale commands more than 400 police officers in New Jersey’s third-largest city. While he doesn’t think the technology is quite ready for police, he thinks there’s a benefit to the public.
“I don’t know how it fits with law enforcement, because I’m a little worried about the cycling time and you know officers having to share guns in a gun fight, you know, that’s something we have to be concerned with. But for the general public to get safe guns out in the community, and remove the old guns, I think it’s a brilliant plan by the senator,” Speziale said.
The question is whether consumers will buy in.
“I’m not trusting anything with a battery or electricity in it. I want pure mechanical,” said Anthony Colandro, owner of Gun for Hire gun range in Woodland Park.
And whether smart guns can make people smarter about gun safety.
“You can’t legislate stupidity out of the equation. If you’re going to leave a loaded gun accessible to a minor, then it’s negligence on your part,” Colandro said.
Weinberg said by introducing the amendment, she hopes opponents will stop equating smart guns with “gun control.”
“I need to see some sign from the gun industry themselves that if we take our time and make sure it’s a product that people can embrace, that they’ll be along with us,” Weinberg said.
While she waits for that, the NRA says they’re focused on other issues in New Jersey — like permit and background check timing. And while smart guns are on their radar, they’re not talking to the press about it.