“Smart guns (also known as personalized guns),” are firearms that contain safety measures so that only the registered owner may fire the weapon. These smart guns employ various technologies such as fingerprint/palm readers that prevent others from using their personalized firearm. As of August 17, 2016, smart guns are not available to civilians in the United States. Even so this didn’t stop New Jersey from passing legislature for smart guns at a time when they didn’t even exist.
In 2002, New Jersey passed the Childproof Handgun Bill which stated that 3 years after “personalized gun technology” was available for retail purchase that any handgun sold in New Jersey must be a personalized handgun. This was met with widespread opposition due to the fact that all handguns sold would be smart guns, effectively making the sale of all other handguns in New Jersey illegal. Since no “viable” smart gun was developed for some time, this bill that was drafted for the purpose of fostering smart gun technology development had the exact opposite effect.
Fast forward to January 2016, a New Jersey bill to reform the Childproof Handgun Act stipulates that gun dealers would only be required to carry one smart handgun model alongside other handguns, instead of replacing their entire handgun inventory with smart handguns. However, Governor Chris Christie vetoed this bill, and it did not become law. This veto did not stop New Jersey lawmakers from drafting another bill, approved by the State Assembly and Senate in February, and Governor Christie will again have the decision to either ratify or veto the bill.
Proponents of smart gun technology say that personalized fire arms will prevent children fatalities from accidental shootings. Since the child is not the registered user of the gun they will have no way of firing the weapon. It could also prevent police officers from having their weapon used against them in a confrontation. Opponents of smart guns argue that while smart guns may have a practical use, legislators should not need to pass laws mandating what gun dealers should and should not sell. They also argue that in your moment of need there should not be another impediment to actually firing your weapon, or another mechanism that could possibly malfunction during dire straits. However, since no large scale testing has been done publicly or privately, claims from both sides have yet to be proven beyond speculation.
Smart gun technology is not a new idea. 14 years after New Jersey passed the Childproof Handgun Act there has yet to be a single smart handgun available to the public, and it is unclear if even in the next few years we will see them hit the market. The important idea to take away from this is that accidental child shooting fatalities happen in the United States and are mostly preventable through proper gun storage. While fewer states than most have laws about proper gun storage (keep out of children’s reach), every state has penalties for allowing a minor to have control of a firearm without supervision.