New Jersey's new "smart gun" reliability standards are missing something vitally important

Daylight! Hangover! #facepalm" by whatleydude is marked with CC BY 2.0 DEED.

New Jersey is one very small step closer to implementing it’s latest “smart gun” law, which requires gun stores to carry at least one such firearm for sale once its been approved by the state’s Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission.


This week acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced a “major milestone” had been reached, with the commission finally releasing the performance standards and qualifying criteria that all potential “smart guns” must meet before being sold in the state; an incredible four years after the commission was formed with the intent of hurrying the law into effect.

The committee didn’t even start meeting until 2022, but after months of deliberation the panel has at long last made its decision, and it’s clear why it took so many months to come to their conclusion.

Under the new criteria, manufacturers seeking to be added to the state’s personalized handgun roster must demonstrate the handguns have reliable personalization technology, features to avoid accidental discharge or damage and comply with state and federal law, the AG’s office said.

I wish I were kidding, but this is what apparently took months and multiple meetings to come up with: a smart gun must be reliable, safe, and compliant with state and federal law before it can be sold in New Jersey. What makes this even more laughable is the exuberant press release issued by Platkin’s office celebrating this nothingburger.

Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced today that the Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission (PHAC) has taken a major step forward by defining the features of smart guns to be made available for sale in New Jersey.

PHAC’s members have now established that manufacturers seeking to be added to the State’s personalized handgun roster must demonstrate the handguns have reliable personalization technology, features to avoid accidental discharge or damage, and comply with state and federal law.

The establishment of these performance standards and qualifying criteria is a milestone in New Jersey’s first-in-the-nation efforts to improve public safety by encouraging the development and rollout of safer firearms that prevent unauthorized users from being able to discharge a firearm. PHAC will next design protocols for testing proposed personalized handguns, create a formal application process, and prepare to review applications.

“Too many times gun violence is the result of an individual gaining access to someone else’s gun. These can be criminals, or people in crisis, or young children who do not understand that they are not playing with a toy. We know the effects of these repeated tragedies far too painfully in New Jersey and they must end,” said Attorney General Platkin. “The actions that we announce today are the result of extensive conversations among the commissioners and are another important step in New Jersey’s comprehensive efforts to make New Jersey a leader in gun safety. I applaud the work of the Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission for developing and uniting behind a thoughtful set of standards that moves our important work forward and that will save lives.”

… “The Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission has established specific and clear standards and qualifying criteria that are worthy of its mandate,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeremy Ershow, who serves as Chair of the PHAC as the Attorney General’s designee. “This was a team effort that benefitted from the diverse expertise and input of the commission members and will allow us to take the next steps to implement the laws that have been passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor.”


A major milestone! Clear and specific standards like “it has to be reliable.” I wonder how many meetings it took before they figured that one out?

I can’t help but notice, however, that nowhere in his press release does Platkin actually detail the test that will be used to determine reliability, which seems like an awfully important thing to leave out. How many rounds will be fired in testing the reliability of any potential “smart gun” before it comes to market? What is an acceptable failure rate according to the Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission? To that end, what are the specific features to avoid accidental discharges that must be a part of any “smart gun” offered for sale?

Amazingly, the PHAC has approved a set of standards that examine only the reliability of the firearm in not discharging a round, completely neglecting to test for the reliability of the gun going bang when you need it to fire in self-defense.

Here’s the pertinent text of the resolution approved by the PHAC at its June 23rd meeting.

The Commission has reviewed American National Standard “SAAMI Z299.5 – 2016 – Voluntary Industry Performance Standards Criteria for Evaluation of New Firearms Designs Under Conditions of Abusive Mishandling for the Use of Commercial Manufacturers,” and at this time has identified no other apparent “reliability standards generally used in the industry for other commercially available handguns;” and,

The Commission held public meetings on May 12, 2023 and June 9, 2023 in which it discussed and deliberated on the below performance standards and qualifying criteria, The Commission hereby establishes the following performance standards and qualifying criteria which a personalized handgun shall meet in order to be placed on the personalized handgun roster:

1. The handgun shall be reasonably resistant to being fired by anyone other than the handgun’s authorized user as defined in N.J.S. 2C:39-1.

2. The personalized technology shall be incorporated into the design of the personalized handgun and shall be a permanent, irremovable part of the handgun and any device or object necessary for the authorized user to fire the handgun.

3. The personalized handgun shall not be manufactured so as to permit the personalized characteristics of the handgun to be readily deactivated.

4. The handgun shall not discharge in response to abuse or mishandling of the handgun.

5. The handgun shall not physically deform or deteriorate as a result of firing rounds.


Most of those enumerated recommendations are simply quotes from the smart gun legislation itself, and the commission decided to simply adopt the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufactures Institute’s “voluntary industry performance criteria” as its own; literally cribbing from the very gun industry that Platkin and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy demonize on a regular basis. And none of the criteria listed in the SAAMI report have anything to do with the major concern when it comes to “smart guns”; a lack of pew pew when the trigger is pulled.

I guess I understand now why Platkin’s press release was so short on details. The more you dig in to what the commission came up, the more laughable it is. It’d be pretty embarrassing to tout the fact that the new reliability standards for smart guns won’t even test how reliable these smart gun features are when seconds count and lives are on the line. Much better, at least from Platkin’s perspective, to keep quiet on the details since they show that after more than a year of meetings the Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission, of which Platkin is a member, has done nothing but beclown itself and the state’s “smart gun” law.

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