By Scott L. Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs and a former member of law enforcement.
New Jersey – -(Ammoland.com)- GOVERNOR Christie's pocket vetoes of two gun bills last week have received a rash of criticism, but upon closer examination of the issues, they make perfect sense.
The first vetoed gun bill, S3249, was state Sen. Loretta Weinberg's attempt to undo the damage inflicted on “smart gun” technology by her 2002 law banning the sale of every conventional handgun ever made once the attorney general deems “smart guns” available.
Touted as a gun safety panacea preventing the unauthorized use of firearms, the 2002 law exempted police from its mandate, and blocked lawsuits against the state should the technology fail, revealing lawmakers' lack of confidence in “smart guns.”
Putting delicate electronics on a device designed to contain a small explosion is a questionable idea at best, as is the notion that a fingerprint scanner, grip sensor or radio frequency activator can be perfectly deployed amidst the adrenaline rush and uncertainties of an emergency.
It is no mystery why neither police nor civilians want the unproven technology forced on them.
Second Amendment advocates saw the 2002 law as exploitation of emerging technology as an excuse to ban guns, and it sent a nationwide signal that there would eventually be calls for similar bans throughout the country. Consequently, the “smart gun” concept became tainted and wildly unpopular among gun owners, research funding evaporated and no viable market developed over the past 14 years.
Weinberg blamed the failure of “smart guns” on a conspiracy by gun rights groups to block the technology's development. But gun-owner opposition was actually spontaneous and organic, a grassroots backlash to the 2002 law. And neither the incessant calls for “smart guns” from national leaders and the national press, nor even a “smart gun” for 007 in a recent James Bond film, have helped the cause.
Under pressure from U.S. gun control advocates, Weinberg mused for several years about repealing the 2002 law, yet ignored longstanding nonpartisan legislation to implement a clean and simple repeal. Instead, she introduced her own solution late last year, S3249, the bill pocket-vetoed by Governor Christie last week.
In lieu of simple repeal, S3249 swapped one failed mandate for another, removing the ban but instead forcing every licensed gun dealer in the state to carry “smart guns” in their stores – no matter the reliability problems, no matter the cost, no matter the lack of interest.
Gun owners saw the new mandate as yet another heavy-handed government scheme, an attempt to force market acceptance of “smart guns” by coercing dealers to peddle them under threat of losing their license. Also, S3249 failed to remove the ban on lawsuits against the state if the technology fails, renewing concerns about the safety and reliability of “smart guns.”
Bullying dealers into carrying “smart guns” also telegraphed a new warning to gun owners: if the ban was really off the table, then why force market acceptance instead of just letting the technology develop without government interference and allowing the free market to determine viability?
Creating Artificial Market
Gun owners concluded that the ban was not really off the table – that S3249 was really just a ploy to temporarily remove the ban long enough to create an artificial market and then open the door to new, stronger gun bans in New Jersey, other states, and perhaps even nationally.
S3249 was delivered to Governor Christie's desk on Jan. 11 – the day before the two-year legislative session ended, too late for a conditional veto stripping out the new mandate. Given the choice between a veto, or forcing market acceptance of “smart guns” and potentially opening the door to new, stronger, more widespread gun bans, Christie did the right thing.
The second gun bill pocket-vetoed by Christie last week, A4182, claimed “to prohibit persons who have been convicted of carjacking, gang criminality, racketeering and terroristic threats from purchasing or owning a firearm.”
Yet persons convicted of those crimes are already prohibited from purchasing or owning firearms under both state and federal law, so the legislation did nothing new to keep guns out of the hands of violent offenders. That's why gun rights groups took no position on the bill – because its impact on gun ownership was neutral; whether it passed or failed, it did nothing to change existing law on who can own or purchase guns.
A4182 was essentially a redundant feel-good bill. Yet widespread histrionics and hand-wringing over the governor's veto have permeated the media.
Instead, we should be reminding lawmakers that they might actually get some bad guys if they stop passing redundant legislation and start enforcing the laws we already have, against violent offenders.
About Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs:The Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, Inc. is the official NRA State Association in New Jersey. Our mission is to implement all of the programs and activities at the state level that the NRA does at the national level. This mission includes the following: To support and defend the constitutional rights of the people to keep and bear arms. To take immediate action against any legislation at the local, state and federal level that would infringe upon these rights. Visit: www.anjrpc.org