New Jersey looks at throwing in the towel on "smart gun" law

Some possible good news on the Second Amendment front is emerging from New Jersey. One of the most intrusive (and frankly, unworkable) gun control laws in the country may be heading for the scrapyard as legislators in the Garden State slowly come to the realization that they just can’t force everyone to have “smart guns” instead of conventional firearms.

Leading Democratic state lawmakers are seriously considering scrapping New Jersey’s longstanding but never-implemented law requiring all handguns sold in the state feature “smart gun” technology that allows only the weapon’s owners to fire them, NJ Advance Media has learned.

The lawmakers say they want to replace or change the Childproof Gun Law with a measure that encourages rather than requires gun shops to sell “smart guns” — and provides economic incentives for Garden State consumers to buy them.

The entire history of this law is just baffling. First of all, it dates back to 2002, and it set a sort of trap for gun owners which was supposed to be triggered by the advent of technology which did not exist in any practical sense at the time of its passage. It was based on developing technology which would allow a gun to “recognize” its owner and prevent it from being fired by anyone else. As the law was drafted, once the technology was brought to market for three years, only guns with that feature would be legal to sell in New Jersey.

There are a couple of problems with this ambitious theory. The “smart guns” barely exist in reality, and for the few that do they are ludicrously expensive. Most every article on this subject references the Armatix iP1. It’s a clever sounding idea, but even when it manages to work reliably it requires the user to be wearing a special biometric watch. If you lose the watch (or if it simply breaks) then your gun is useless. Oh… and the .22 caliber handgun costs nearly $1400 retail and the watch is another $400. That’s almost two grand for a not terribly precise weapon which will surely intimidate any tin cans resting on a nearby fence.

There are other smart gun technologies in various stages of development which rely on a number of concepts including embedding RFID chips under your skin in your shooting arm. That sounds lovely. There is also Dynamic Grip Recognition which comes straight out of Robocop. This relies on your weapon being smart enough to recognize your hand as you grip it based on a variety of factors. Unfortunately, even if the genius handgun does learn who you are, it can be thwarted if you spill coffee on your hand at Starbucks. More to the point, if you find yourself in a tight situation requiring quick action and your “smart gun” fails to acknowledge your ownership, well… I suppose you could try hitting the bad guy over the head with it.

All in all, it may signal a small indication of sanity in New Jersey if the legislature just gives up on this. If they want to modify the law to “encourage” gun shops to sell smart guns I suppose that’s an improvement, but any government “encouragement” always comes in the form of a price tag that the taxpayers will have to cover. Suffice it to say that I’m not holding my breath for a happy outcome here yet.