Unicorn dreams: New Jersey attempts to wish smart guns into viability

God love ’em. It’s so cute to watch anti-gun journalists attempt to wish guns away:

For years, they’ve existed only in science fiction and the archives of the New Jersey Legislature: handguns that fire only in the grip of an authorized user.

And yet these so-called smart guns soon could be the only kind sold legally in New Jersey under a state law that has languished on the books for a decade.

The law, which requires the state’s gun dealers to exclusively sell smart guns within three years after the first one hits the market, has been largely forgotten since the Legislature adopted it in 2002. But it could be dusted off as early as this year as technology finally catches up to the vision of lawmakers at a time when the debate over gun control is more combative and divisive than at any time in recent history.

After years of stalled and inconclusive research — hampered in part by political resistance from groups like the National Rifle Association — a German company called Armatix says it will introduce the first gun equipped with a user-recognition system within 45 days.

It is unclear whether that model, which will fire only within range of a sensor embedded in a wristwatch, will trigger the New Jersey regulations. But advocates predict that the first sale is likely to create a domino effect as other companies and publicly funded groups — including one at the New Jersey Institute of Technology — are spurred to bring their own prototypes to the market.

The Armatix pistol is a warmed-over attempt of previous non-viable “smart gun” concept dating back to the 1970s.

The design limitations they admit include the fact that the gun could not be fired by the authorized user if he or she isn’t wearing the bulky “control watch,” if the control watch is disabled or damaged, or if the user needs to switch to the other hand.

Further, the design would allow an unauthorized aggressor fighting with the authorized user to fire the gun at the authorized user if he gained control of the weapon in close proximity:  precisely the situation that was the driving reason behind the creation of “smart gun” technology.

Worse, the Armatix design is perhaps the most viable design out there, as fatally flawed as it is.

It doesn’t take any sort of precognitive skills to know that future technology will one day become widespread for personal defense weapons, but the simply fact of the matter is that existing technology is too fragile, too idiosyncratic, and too immature to be taken seriously, and it will not trigger New Jersey’s 2002 “smart gun” law.

Dec 02, 2021 7:30 PM ET