AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File
For years, the state of New Jersey has had a law on the books that would make so-called smart guns the only firearms available to consumers once they become viable. The idea was to ban all other firearms once the technology it knew was coming took hold.
Only that tech hasn’t come about. Many have argued that any serious research into smart gun technology ended with the passage of the law. Gun companies didn’t want to be the one that triggered the clock that would eventually restrict the offerings for New Jersey residents.
Now, the state has passed a new smart gun bill that makes a few changes. No, they’re not necessarily any better.
Introduced in January by state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg – who designed the state’s current divisive smart gun mandate – the proposal requires dealers to carry at least one model of smart gun when they become available rather than sell them exclusively. Filed as S101, the measure passed the Assembly 49-23 and the Senate 24-12 with Democrats, who control both chambers, leading the charge. It now heads to Gov. Phil Murphy.
The bill scraps most of the state’s 2002 smart gun law which has has been on the books for nearly two decades and replaces it with a requirement that the state Attorney General continue to report to the governor and legislature every six months on the commercial availability of the devices in the country. Once the AG approves a production model, every firearms wholesaler and retailer in the state would be obligated to carry at least one example for sale in their inventory within 60 days and have it on display in their salesroom, with visible signage referencing its features.
Similar legislation, developed in collaboration with national gun control groups like Giffords, was vetoed in 2016 by Republican Gov. Chris Christie who said it, “would have also replaced one unnecessary mandate with another unjustified restriction on firearms sales, this time targeting firearms retailers.”
Of course, Christie wasn’t exactly wrong. It would have passed restrictions onto retailers.
However, I’m going to tell you precisely how this will play out. Gun retailers will purchase a single smart gun for their display case. It’ll sit there with a price tag well beyond what pretty much anyone will pay. It’ll collect dust and little else.
The reason is that gun owners aren’t interested in buying smart guns, even if the technology was affordable. That means that retailers are going to be required to stock an item that no one is going to buy.
Now, understand, this is an improvement over the previous law in that it doesn’t make that gun the only firearm people can buy. They’ll still be free to purchase standard firearms. That’s a much better option for most gun buyers.
It’s not ideal, though. These firearms aren’t going to be cheap, and requiring every store to stock such a gun will hurt smaller, independent retailers the most. They’ll be required to purchase inventory they know damn good and well won’t sell, all so some legislators can pat themselves on the back about the progressive steps they’re taking in their state.
They won’t do anything. What’s worse is that I think they know it.
There won’t be any push for smart guns anytime soon for the reason that no one except anti-gun lawmakers wants the stupid things. Not that New Jersey lawmakers seem to get that.