Commission establishes key benchmarks for personalized ‘smart’ handguns
For Immediate Release: July 12, 2023
Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General
TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced today that the Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission (PHAC) has taken a major step forward by defining the features of smart guns to be made available for sale in New Jersey.
PHAC’s members have now established that manufacturers seeking to be added to the State’s personalized handgun roster must demonstrate the handguns have reliable personalization technology, features to avoid accidental discharge or damage, and comply with state and federal law.
The establishment of these performance standards and qualifying criteria is a milestone in New Jersey’s first-in-the-nation efforts to improve public safety by encouraging the development and rollout of safer firearms that prevent unauthorized users from being able to discharge a firearm. PHAC will next design protocols for testing proposed personalized handguns, create a formal application process, and prepare to review applications.
“Too many times gun violence is the result of an individual gaining access to someone else’s gun. These can be criminals, or people in crisis, or young children who do not understand that they are not playing with a toy. We know the effects of these repeated tragedies far too painfully in New Jersey and they must end,” said Attorney General Platkin. “The actions that we announce today are the result of extensive conversations among the commissioners and are another important step in New Jersey’s comprehensive efforts to make New Jersey a leader in gun safety. I applaud the work of the Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission for developing and uniting behind a thoughtful set of standards that moves our important work forward and that will save lives.”
In a study released in June, Injury Epidemiology, a scientific journal, found most children who die in accidental shootings were playing with the weapons and in more than 90% of those incidents the guns were left unlocked and loaded.
About 64% of the accidental gun deaths, the study found, happened at the victim’s home and, in most cases, the gun belonged to a relative.
“Parents often believe that their child knows not to pick up a firearm if they find one or mistakenly believe their child can differentiate between real firearms and toy firearms,” the study noted, but data suggests “that children continue to die from injuries sustained while playing with firearms or mistaking real firearms for toys.”
“The Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission has established specific and clear standards and qualifying criteria that are worthy of its mandate,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeremy Ershow, who serves as Chair of the PHAC as the Attorney General’s designee. “This was a team effort that benefitted from the diverse expertise and input of the commission members and will allow us to take the next steps to implement the laws that have been passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor.”
PHAC was established by P.L. 19-164, which requires New Jersey gun dealers to make available for sale at least one gun from the State’s personalized handgun roster. PHAC is responsible for developing a roster of available smart guns. Under the new standards, PHAC will evaluate applications to be placed on the roster. To be included on the roster, a handgun must meet the performance standards and qualifying criteria established by PHAC, based on testing methods PHAC formulates. PHAC will next design the application process for manufacturers to seek inclusion on the personalized handgun roster.
PHAC is composed of the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Health, and the Superintendent of the State Police or their designees, as well as public members appointed by the Governor. By statute, they include a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a representative of a New Jersey chapter of an organization that advocates for Second Amendment rights, and a representative of an organization that advocates against handgun violence.