We’ve been covering the roll-out of Biofire’s new “smart gun” here at Bearing Arms for several years now, but the Colorado-based company has been getting the attention of the mainstream media over the past few months since it announced it was taking pre-orders for its $1,500 9mm. Biofire’s done a decent job of reaching out to the 2A community during that time, though the company did raise some eyebrows when it announced that it wouldn’t be sending out any of its products for field reviews.
Now Biofire founder Kai Koepler is doing something truly smart with his “smart gun”; keeping it away from the anti-gun politicians in New Jersey. I hate to approvingly cite The Trace, but Champe Barton has done some good reporting on Koepler’s decision to not submit Biofire’s wares to the state’s Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission for review, which if accepted, could trigger New Jersey’s latest “smart gun” mandate.
“There is not a world where Biofire will be applying for inclusion,” Kloepfer said. “We do not support mandates of any kind. We’re looking to build positive long-term relationships with gun stores and forcing these additional administrative burdens doesn’t incentivize them to support our technology; it does the opposite.”
Since its inception, New Jersey’s law has been criticized by gunmakers and smart-gun advocates alike for stifling innovation and deterring would-be entrants to the smart-gun market. The bill originally forced firearms retailers to switch to entirely smart inventories within 30 months of a smart model being offered for sale anywhere in the United States — a measure that threatened to raze the firearms industry in New Jersey. The state Legislature dramatically softened this requirement in 2019, allowing retailers to carry their regular stock so long as they also offer at least one smart gun.
The revised statute now says that a “manufacturer or other entity” may apply for inclusion on the state’s roster of approved smart guns, but does not address whether the commission would be able to add firearms in the absence of an application. When asked about this possibility, a spokesperson for the New Jersey attorney general only repeated the language from the statute: “We cannot otherwise comment on the work PHAC is doing, or will do, to carry out its mandated mission.” Multiple requests for comment from members of the commission went unanswered.
If Koepler is hoping that gun owners see Biofire as a potential ally and not an enemy, staying out of New Jersey is the right thing to do. But this also makes sense from a practical perspective, given that Biofire isn’t exactly mass producing their “smart guns” at the moment. They’re taking orders, but the first guns aren’t expected to ship until next April. Since the New Jersey smart gun law requires stores to carry firearms that have been approved by the Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission, it doesn’t make sense for Koepler to submit his “smart gun” for review even if he did support the state’s mandate.
As it turns out, Koepler isn’t the only “smart gun” supporter who has issues with New Jersey’s law, and as Barton reports, the commission set up by the state to review “smart gun” products so far seems to be an exercise in wasteful government bureaucracy.
But nearly four years later, the PHAC has yet to formalize criteria for guns to qualify for inclusion on the state’s roster. Members — including a pediatric emergency care doctor, the inventor of a biometric gun lock, and a lieutenant with the New Jersey State Police — began meeting only in 2022, minutes published to the attorney general’s website show. Meanwhile, questions abound about how the law’s stocking requirement might actually be enforced.
Margot Hirsch, president of the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports technological innovations to help reduce gun violence, said that her organization does not support the New Jersey mandate, and believes that even in its current form, the law has presented obstacles to the development of smart-gun technology. “This bill was well-intentioned, but it didn’t work, and they didn’t learn their lesson,” she said. “And now this commission is setting technological standards for smart guns without the input of any true subject matter experts. To me, that borders on irresponsible.”
New Jersey Democrats acting irresponsibly in passing gun control laws is par for the course. Just look at the state’s carry killer legislation restricting the right to bear arms that was rushed into law following the Supreme Court’s decision in Bruen last year, most of which was recently put on ice by U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb. Their ridiculous “smart gun” mandate is just another example of lawmakers’ innate hostility towards the right to keep and bear arms, and it won’t be the last.
I’ve always maintained that I don’t have a problem with “smart guns” being developed, though I have no interest in owning one. My concern has always been about the mandates like New Jersey’s, and Koepler’s at least saying the right thing when it comes to the New Jersey law in question. Of course, his objections might not matter if the state decides to certify Biofire by having another “entity” like the Attorney General’s office submit the firearm for review, and based on the non-answer from acting AG Matthew Platkin’s office, I’d say that option is still very much on the table for the anti-gun zealots in the Garden State.