MORE THAN a decade ago, New Jersey mandated that handgun merchants switch to selling personalized “smart” handguns once the technology became viable. The effort to make firearms safer for gun owners and their families now has provoked a nasty and dangerous crusade to keep the guns off the market.
The latest victim of this campaign of intimidation is Andy Raymond, co-owner of Engage Armament, a Rockville gun store specializing in custom assault rifles. No gun control advocate, Mr. Raymond decided to carry the Armatix iP1, a handgun that requires its handler to wear a matching watch for it to work, to provide his potential customers a wide choice of firearms. Instead of sales revenue, however, he got death threats from gun nuts who do not want to see the New Jersey law come into effect. If no one in the country sells the iP1, the law will remain dormant. As did the owner of a Los Angeles-area gun store who was also set to carry the smart gun, Mr. Raymond gave in, deciding not to sell the product. When The Post asked him if he would ever carry the iP1 under different circumstances, he replied, “I just can’t.”
Now New Jersey’s lawmakers are thinking about lifting the mandate , with the idea that doing so would blunt the opposition that has cohered around smart guns and ease their entry into the market. Once more consumers know about, experience and trust the technology, the thinking goes, more of them will choose products with simple electronic safeguards against unauthorized use. The number of suicides, accidents and other tragedies, which kill thousands every year, would drop.
The more smart guns that take the place of old, unsafe and outdated firearms the better. Because there is no technological reason that smart guns aren’t already available for sale, New Jersey lawmakers should try to deem the mandate already enforceable. Doing so would take the pressure off individual stores interested in carrying the smart-gun products, and it would promote the rapid introduction of the technology into a big state.
The government has a long record of mandating basic safety controls on dangerous products, as with seat belts and air bags in cars, often in the face of overblown warnings about their drawbacks. Applying this logic to guns does not insult the Second Amendment or gun owners; it minimizes the dangers associated with an armed populace. The gun lobby would like to treat those dangers and the deaths that result as inevitable or unworthy of serious response. They are neither.