Garden State gun owners gained a small victory when the state attorney general determined that a new handgun technology did not qualify as a “smart gun” under 2002 state law that would ban conventional handguns and mandate exclusive use of smart guns once they are found to exist.

“Gun owners are not opposed to new technology – they are opposed to laws that mandate the exclusive use of one technology and ban everything else,” said Scott L. Bach, executive director and official spokesperson of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, an official National Rifle Association state affiliate. “If smart gun technology is so great, put it out there without the mandates and let the market decide.”

The ostensible purpose of smart gun technology is to render a firearm usable by only a specific authorized user, he said. “It is supposed to be a personalized firearm; if you are not authorized to use it, you cannot use it – at least in theory.”

New Jersey gun owners oppose the 2002 Personalized Handgun Law because he said it limits gun buyers to purchasing only handguns made with smart gun technology, as long as the smart gun is available for sale for three years and is certified by the state’s attorney general.

“What New Jersey law does, and what the goal of those who are trying to pass smart gun laws elsewhere, is to create a back-door gun ban,” he said. “It is a way to look like they are pressing for safety, but what they are really doing is banning all conventional handguns and limiting the honest citizens’ choice when it comes to defending their life.” The product is new and unproven, yet we are supposed to trust the product is safe and more effective than any other handgun, said Bach.

“If smart gun technology is so great, why does the statute exempt law enforcement from the requirement,” he questioned. “There are many instances where a law enforcement officer’s firearm is used against them – one would think law enforcement would be clamoring for this technology.”

Instead legislators have absolved themselves from liability when the technology malfunctions, he said. “New Jersey law basically says if you are forced to use a smart gun and you need it to defend your life and it goes click instead of bang – when it needs to go bang – you cannot sue the state.”

After 12 years and three governors ignored the law’s mandate to annually report on the availability of smart guns, New Jersey Attorney General John Jay Hoffman issued a report to the governor and the legislature last month finding that theArmatix iP1 handgun does not qualify as a “smart gun” under the 2002 Personalized Handgun Law, he said.

“The report was likely issued in connection with pending litigation in which the Brady Center has tried to force the attorney general to issue a report that would trigger N.J.’s smart gun law by finding that the Armatix gun satisfied the law.”

President and founder of New Jersey Second Amendment Society Frank Jack Fiamingo said the Brady Center lawsuit was a failed attempt to make the attorney general enforce a narrowly-defined smart gun regulation. “When the law was passed, driven by anti-gunners like Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, they thought that as soon as smart guns became readily available, every gun owner in New Jersey that wants to purchase a gun would be required to purchase a smart gun.”

The German-made Armatix handgun-set, which includes a wristwatch that broadcasts an RFID signal to the firearm rendering it inoperable if the wristwatch is 10 inches away from the firearm, did not meet the state’s criteria because the smart gun, by definition, is for use by an authorized person, said Bach. “Since there are easily foreseeable situations that the technology can be used by an unauthorized person, the attorney general found that it does not qualify.” The report said in part:

After careful consideration of the iP1’s design, we have determined that it does not satisfy the statutory definition because, as a matter of design, the pistol may be fired by a person who is not an authorized or recognized user. That is, as long as the pistol is situated within 10 inches of the enabling wristwatch, it may be fired by anyone – the authorized user or any other person who is able to pull the trigger. While the system does incorporate a PIN code or a timer to disable the handgun, when the weapon is enabled, there is nothing in the technology which automatically limits its operational use so that it may only be fired by an authorized or recognized user (so long as the pistol is within a 10-inch proximity to the wristwatch component).

 Situations may readily be envisioned in which an unauthorized individual gains access to the pistol in close enough proximity to the wristwatch component (by either maintaining possession of the pistol within 10 inches of the authorized user’s wrist on which he or she is wearing the watch, or by forcibly taking possession of the wristwatch), and therefore would be able to fire the weapon, despite the limiting technology. Accordingly, we are unable to conclude that the iP1 design meets all the elements of New Jersey’s statutory definition of a personalized handgun under N.J.S.2C:39-1(dd), and therefore its availability for retail sales purposes will not trigger the operation of N.J.S.2C:58-2.4 (requiring the promulgation of a list of personalized handguns) and N.J.S.2C:58-2.5 (prohibiting the sale of non-personalized handguns).

Bach, who is an attorney and former law enforcement, said ANJRPC welcomes the attorney general’s decision. “Had the attorney general found otherwise, that would have triggered the start of a sweeping and most likely unconstitutional handgun ban.”

The Brady Center and other anti-gunners have an agenda, said Fiamingo. “The agenda is disarmament; other people’s safety is more important than your right to own a firearm for self defense and other legal purposes.” No one cares about the kind of guns people manufacture, he said.

“Some people might prefer to purchase a smart gun – no one is against that,” he added. “All we are against is the requirement to force people to buy a certain, particular type of gun.”

There is an organic groundswell in opposition to smart gun regulations that is not stimulated by anybody or any group; it grows naturally when people are suspicious that their rights are being violated, said Bach.

“Gun owners understand that the New Jersey smart gun law is a threat to private ownership of conventional handguns,” he said. “They understand that this is just a game to ban as many handguns as possible – using smart gun technology as a cover.”

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