NJ Takes Major Step Towards Smart Guns Sales In State

By: Savannah Scarborough, Follow South Jersey Intern

SOUTH JERSEY – New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced recently the Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission (PHAC) moved forward in defining features of smart guns to soon be available for sale in New Jersey. 

Smart guns are handguns that demonstrate reliable personalization technology, features to avoid accidental discharge or damage, and comply with state and federal law. The PHAC has established that all manufacturers must abide by these requirements if they seek to be added to New Jersey’s personalized handgun roster. 

These requirements for gun safety is a first-in-the-nation effort to improve public safety which encourages development and sales of safer firearms to prevent them falling into the wrong hands.  

“Too many times gun violence is the result of an individual gaining access to someone else’s gun,” said Attorney General Platkin.  “These can be criminals, or people in crisis, or young children who do not understand that they are not playing with a toy. We know the effects of these repeated tragedies far too painfully in New Jersey and they must end.” 

The establishment of these performance standards and qualifying criteria due to unsettling data. The scientific journal, Injury Epidemiology, found most children who die in accidental shootings were playing with the weapon and in more than 90 percent of those incidents the guns were left unlocked and loaded. Additionally, about 64 percent of these accidental incidents happened at the victim’s home and, in most cases, the gun belonged to a relative. 

Injury Epidemiology noted, “Parents often believe that their child knows not to pick up a firearm if they find one or mistakenly believe their child can differentiate between real firearms and toy firearms.” However, data suggests “that children continue to die from injuries sustained while playing with firearms or mistaking real firearms for toys.”

New Jersey is currently ranked with the fourth-strongest gun laws in the country, with the lowest rate of firearm deaths in the country and lowest rate of firearm ownership. To obtain a gun in the state requires a background check or purchase permit, concealed carry permit, and secure storage which requires all firearms to be locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition. 

PHAC is composed of the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Health, the Superintendent of the State Police, and public members appointed by the governor who are now responsible for developing a roster of available smart guns, among many other things. 

With PHAC new smart gun policies, they will evaluate applications to be placed on the roster which must meet PHAC performance standards and qualifying criteria. The application process for manufacturers will work to seek inclusion on the personalized handgun roster. 

Assistant Attorney General Jeremy Ershow, who serves as Chair of the PHAC as the Attorney General’s designee said. “The Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission has established specific and clear standards and qualifying criteria that are worthy of its mandate..”

In the future, PHAC plans to design protocols for testing proposed personalized handguns, create a formal application process, and prepare to review applications.

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