NJ State Legislature Approves Smart Gun Bill

Morris County NJ Handgun Possession AttorneysA new handgun possession law could have major ramifications for individuals caught carrying weapons in New Jersey going forward.

On January 12, 2016, the New Jersey Senate introduced S816, a bill that would establish a commission to approve personalized handguns, also known as “smart guns,” and that would also require firearm retailers to sell personalized handguns. On June 27, 2016, after being referred to the Senate’s and Assembly’s respective Law and Public Safety Committees, the bill was passed in the NJ Assembly by a vote of 44 to 32 and in the NJ Senate by a vote of 23 to 14.

Now the bill will head to the desk of NJ Governor Chris Christie, who will have to decide whether to sign the legislation into law or veto it. A good indication of what Christie might do is his decision in the past to veto a similar bill.

If the latest bill does ultimately become the law of the land in New Jersey, it would empower the State to create a commission to research and implement the sales of smart guns in New Jersey. Specifically, the bill states: “There is established in the Department of Law and Public Safety, a commission which shall be known as the Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission. The commission shall be responsible for establishing performance standards for personalized handguns and maintaining a roster of personalized handguns authorized for sale to the public pursuant to this act.”

Furthermore, the personalized handgun performance standards will include, but not be limited to, the following:

  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.A. 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 personalized handgun shall meet any other reliability standards generally used in the industry for other commercially available handguns.

In addition to establishing the commission, the bill would amend the current definition of “handgun” under N.J.S.2C:39-1(k) to include “personalized handgun.” Under current NJ law, a handgun is defined as any pistol, revolver, or other firearm originally designed or manufactured to be fired by the use of a single hand. The proposed legislation further defines “personalized handgun” as a handgun which incorporates within its design, and as part of its original manufacture, technology which automatically limits its operational use and which cannot be readily deactivated, so that it may only be fired by an authorized or recognized user. The technology limiting the handgun’s operational use may include, but is not limited to: radio frequency tagging, touch memory, remote control, fingerprint, magnetic encoding and other automatic user identification systems utilizing biometric, mechanical or electronic systems with a permanent programmable feature as part of its manufacture that cannot be deactivated and renders the personalized handgun reasonably resistant to being fired except when activated by the lawful owner or other user authorized by the lawful owner.

Smart gun technology could be advancing in the coming years. The New Jersey Institute of Technology was reportedly deep into the process of developing a handgun that sensed the owner’s grip, with researchers spending more than 10 years focused on engineering technology that would utilize 16 different sensors to recognize the unique pressure exerted by a handgun owner’s hand to ensure that only authorized users could fire the smart gun. However, funding for the project ran out about two years before a prototype was ready for testing.

Regardless of the potential research into smart guns, New Jersey has very strict gun laws with very strict penalties. If you are convicted of a weapons offense in New Jersey, you could end up spending a very long time behind bars. That’s why it is imperative that you have a qualified criminal defense attorney on your side. To learn more about New Jersey’s gun laws, click here.