New Jersey Governor Signs New Gun Laws; Others Await Senate OK

July 16, 2019


Matthew Hoy

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a slate of new gun laws today, the most notable of which is a "fix" to a 17-year-old law that has had the effect of stifling the development of so-called smart guns.

The 2002 law required that once a "smart gun" was available for sale in New Jersey, then three years later only smart guns could be sold in New Jersey. The new law removes that draconian requirement, and replaces it with something more modest.

The most notable measure requires every gun retailer in the Garden State to sell “smart guns” — personalized firearms that can be fired only by their designated owners.

It also creates a commission that will approve and maintain a roster of smart guns that can be sold.

The law goes into effect immediately. But the requirement on retailers doesn’t kick in until the commission is formed and members vote on new rules for smart guns, according to the governor’s office. The commission will be formed within six months.

This new law will require New Jersey gun dealers to have specified smart guns on their shelves, but not actually need to sell any of them. Currently there is only one commercial smart gun on the market: the Armatix iP1 chambered in .22lr. The state's Attorney General determined in 2014 that the Armatix doesn't meet the law's definition of a "smart gun," and doesn't trigger the 2002 law.

The additional laws signed Tuesday include:

  • Add convictions of crimes such as carjacking or making terroristic threats to the list of crimes that ban people from buying firearms in the state.
  • Encourage firearm retail dealers and operators of firing ranges in the state to attend a suicide prevention course.
  • Make it a third-degree crime for people who aren’t allowed to have a gun who attempt to obtain one.

The latter law mirrors federal law, though from time to time prosecutors at the state and federal levels not bothered to make charging those crimes a priority.

Among the bills still pending in the New Jersey legislature is one that would prohibit the sale of handgun ammunition to people under the age of 21. A similar law passed several years ago in California was ruled unconstitutional because the definition of "handgun" ammo was vague.

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