The state of New Jersey has a law on the books that ostensibly supports smart gun technology. In particular, the law permits only smart guns to be sold in the state shortly after the technology becomes viable. However, a news report speculates that the law is a big part of why development of that technology is lagging.
Donald Sebastian spent 12 years developing a “smart gun” that would only fire when in its owner’s hand.
But the gun created by Sebastian and his team at the New Jersey Institute of Technology isn’t likely to hit the market anytime soon.
In fact, smart gun technology may never take hold in the American market. And that has a lot to do with a law adopted by New Jersey lawmakers over a decade ago that backfired so spectacularly its effects have been felt across the entire country.
“It created all the necessary conditions to increase the polarization as opposed to create a common ground,” Sebastian said.
The rocky road for firearms usable only by one person has caused consternation within the gun industry for more than a decade. The technology is seen by some as a restriction on gun rights, which the National Rifle Association and others in the politically powerful pro-gun lobby have rejected in full for many years.
The current unwritten rule banning the sale of smart guns by American dealers has its roots in a North Jersey lawmaker’s intention 15 years ago to actually promote their use in the Garden State, which already has some of the strictest firearms sales restrictions.
State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, sponsored legislation in 2002 that would require guns purchased in New Jersey to use smart technology if any gun dealer in the United States began selling them.
The law’s effect, however, had a chilling effect on smart gun sales because the gun lobby saw the New Jersey law as a restriction on gun owners in the state.
The report is partially true. New Jersey’s law is considered a restriction on gun owners in the state, and for a very good reason.
However, the pushback on smart gun technology isn’t just because the state of New Jersey wants to mandate it. There are other far more practical, less political reasons for it.
To start with, guns are already fairly complex devices. As it stands now, any gun can malfunction at any time if even one of the myriad of parts within it fail to operate properly. Since semiautos have been around for almost a century, that tends to be fairly rare, but it still happens and that’s with technology over a hundred years old.
Now we’re talking about adding in computer systems that will recognize just who is holding the gun. The potential problems in that soup are many and varied. For example, will it work perfectly every time? Will it recognize me if I have to pick up the weapon left handed because I’ve been wounded in my right arm? Will it work if I’m incapacitated and my wife needs to use the weapon for self-defense? What about my 16-year-old son?
There are a ton of questions, and those are simply from a design standpoint. There’s also the fact that as you add complexity to technology, you add the potential for something going wrong. Here we’re talking about a lot of complexity technologically, which means a massive opportunity for things to go wrong.
I’m sorry, but if you’re talking about something I’m trusting my life to, I want to be confident that it’ll go bang every time it’s supposed to and that my family can use it if I’m unable.