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“Smart Guns,” Dumb Policy


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In 2002, Democrat lawmakers in New Jersey passed a first-of-its-kind bill to restrict the handguns that could be sold at retail in that state to “smart guns” (called “personalized guns” in the bill). The law would take effect once the state’s attorney general determined that “at least one manufacturer had delivered at least one production model of a personalized handgun to a registered or licensed wholesale or retail dealer” anywhere in the country. Among other things, the attorney general was required to set standards, determine whether a handgun met the statutory definition of “personalized handgun,” and compile a list of qualifying guns which could be sold in the state. (Manufacturers seeking to have a gun approved would have to provide a handgun for testing, pay an application fee, and pay the costs associated with testing the gun to ensure it was a “personalized handgun.”) Wholesale and retail gun dealers would be prohibited from importing into and offering for sale any handgun that wasn’t a “personalized handgun,” but this did not apply to handguns sold or transferred to law enforcement officials in New Jersey.

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