Murphy signs ‘smart gun’ bill, calls for more gun control

Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a smart gun bill requiring every New Jersey gun dealer to offer a personalized handgun model which can only be fired by its designated owner. There’s currently no commercially viable option on the United States market, but Murphy told gun control advocates crowding a hot high school library that the law aims to change that.

“Our action today will help speed the development and marketability of these personalized — and the word folks use now, personalized — firearms. Guns that can be only fired by their rightful and licensed owner, everybody get that? That’s a really important point. Our law will require firearms dealers to offer at least one smart gun for sale once that gun has been approved for sale by a newly-created commission,” Murphy said.

The smart gun law replaces a 2002 version that proved unworkable. A recent Johns Hopkins poll of gun owners reported 79 percent agreed that licensed dealers should sell both traditional and smart guns. But almost the same number, 70 percent, are concerned the technology wouldn’t work when needed. Opponents of the new law feel the state shouldn’t interfere.

“It forces every gun dealer in the state to carry it, and what the Legislature really should do if they want to see this technology developed, is they should keep their hands off and let market forces work,” said Scott Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs.

Murphy signed three other anti-gun violence laws Tuesday. One adds convictions like carjacking to the list of crimes that ban people from buying firearms in New Jersey. Another makes it a third degree crime for people banned from owning guns to try and obtain one. The last encourages firearms dealers and gun range owners to attend suicide prevention classes.

“This bill is one step forward — one step forward — to making sure that we’re keeping our society free from the tyranny that is gun violence,” said Assemblywoman Joann Downey.

Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal took other questions — one on the ICE raids of unauthorized immigrants and the president’s racially motivated tweets about four congresswomen of color.

“As far as what happened with these threatened raids, it’s just part and parcel of this strategy to invoke fear and mistrust and drive people into the shadows. And if that’s what they wanted to do, they succeeded,” Grewal said.

“And these horrific tweets that the president has put out to continue to try to divide us and turn one part of us against the other part. I was going to ask you the rhetorical question, how many times have you been asked to go back to where you came from,” Murphy asked, turning to Grewal. “A guy who grew up in Bergen County. So enough already, Mr. President. This is not American. It’s not consistent with our values. It’s not consistent with who we are.’

Trump has insisted his comments were not racist.

Finally, the governor also pushed Senate President Steve Sweeney to post four other gun control bills for a vote — particularly one that would make dealers account for the ammunition they sell and to raise fees on gun licenses.

“The bill has already passed the Assembly. There’s absolutely no reason for it not to be put for a vote in the Senate where we know it will pass. And we must bring New Jersey’s gun licensing fees into the 21st century,” Murphy said.

Sweeney’s resisted raising any fees or taxes. He had no comment Tuesday.

The governor scores high political marks for the gun bills, but Murphy and the Sweeney continue their ongoing battle over gun control, the budget and the political narrative.