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State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, sponsor of both this week and last year's smart gun reform bills

Gun Policy

New Jersey Legislators Reintroduce Smart Gun Reform, Putting Chris Christie Back on the Spot

State senators hope the governor and Republican presidential candidate will make time to read the new bill after he said he was too busy to consider their last effort.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie might get another chance to read the smart gun reform bill that he pocket vetoed last week. On Thursday, an identical proposal was approved by the state Senate’s Law and Public Safety committee after a hearing. Following testimony, it moves to the Senate floor for a vote.

The new bill is Democratic Senator Loretta Weinberg’s second attempt to repeal a controversial 2002 law that would only allow smart guns — firearms with features like RFID chips or fingerprint readers that prevent unauthorized use — to be sold in New Jersey, as soon as the technology becomes available anywhere in the country. That mandate backfired: Stores in Maryland and California that considered selling one early smart gun model received death threats. The reform bill would instead require New Jersey gun stores to stock at least one smart gun alongside conventional firearms, a change that proponents hope will make the technology more marketable.

The previous version of Weinberg’s smart gun reform passed through the legislature last December, before dying on the governor’s desk last week. Christie’s office did not comment on the substance of the measure he declined to act on, noting only that it was passed near the very end of last year’s legislative session and its sponsors should not have expected him to give it the necessary attention.

“I hope that this time he will have the time,” Weinberg said at the hearing.

The committee first heard notably restrained testimony from Robert Nixon, a lobbyist representing the Association of Rifle and Pistol Clubs and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). Nixon voiced support for repeal of the original mandate, though he contended that the new measure would still place a burden on gun dealers. He told Weinberg and the rest of the committee that the NSSF supports smart guns, but hopes the technology will find success on the market without interference from the state.

Weinberg said in the past that she had considered an outright repeal of the original law — but only if the NSSF, the National Rifle Association (NRA), and other pro-gun groups would condemn the threats against gun dealers that resulted from the 2002 mandate, and agree to not stand in the way of smart gun development and purchasing. Nixon said his clients had nothing to do with the threats against sellers of earlier smart guns, and that he did not represent the NRA.

The bill was approved by all of Weinberg’s colleagues on the committee, save one, Republican Christopher Bateman.

Governor Christie’s office declined to comment on whether he would support the legislation in this go-round.

[Photo: Chris Pedota/The Record of Bergen County via AP]