Groups Say NJ Violates Its Own Gun Law
TRENTON, N.J. (CN) - New Jersey violates its own 12-year-old law requiring guns to be equipped with a technology allowing them to be fired only by their owners, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence claims in court.
The Brady Campaign and the Mercer County chapter of the Million Mom March sued New Jersey's Acting Attorney General John Jay Hoffman, in Mercer County Court.
They claim the state has ignored its own Personalized Handgun Law, which mandates that three years after the so-called "smart guns" become available, all handguns sold in New Jersey must use the technology.
The law also requires the attorney general to submit a report to the governor and the Legislature every six months on the availability of such firearms.
"Despite the clear language of the statute, the attorney general has failed to comply with his reporting obligation," the plaintiffs say in the lawsuit. "This failure, which continues today, is arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable, and risks delaying the commencement of the three-year period prescribed by the Personalized Handgun Law."
The Brady Campaign claims the state has been violating its own law for at least a decade, and that they discovered this through public records request seeking all reports made to the governor and Legislature under the mandate of the law since 2002.
"On March 28, 2013, Bruce J. Solomon, Deputy Attorney General/Custodian of Records, responded to the request saying it had been reviewed and was partially closed," the plaintiffs say. "Mr. Solomon informed (the plaintiffs) that the attorney General filed a report with the Governor and Legislature in 2003 that he had not been able to find. Mr. Solomon also informed (the plaintiffs) that no reports were issued from 2004-2012."
They add: "According to Mr. Solomon, the 2013 report was in the process of being prepared and was not yet available."
At least one woman has claimed that she received death threats merely for trying to sell personalized handguns.
The Million Mom March filed a second public records request in February 2014 that proved equally unsuccessful in unearthing documents.
So the plaintiffs sent a letter to Acting Attorney General Hoffman, pointing out his failure to comply with the requirements of the statute and requested a response within 30 days. Hoffman's office never responded, the plaintiffs say.
"Based on these responses (and non-responses), plaintiffs believe that the Acting Attorney General and his predecessors have not filed a single report pursuant to the statute since at least 2003. In other words, they have ignored their reporting requirements for over a decade," the plaintiffs say.
"The ramifications of the Acting Attorney General's failure to discharge his obligations under the statute are more than theoretical. A firearms dealer in California recently offered a personalized handgun for sale, at least until it was pressured to stop selling it, according to various media reports. A firearms deal in Maryland announced that he had received a personalized handgun from a manufacturer and intended to offer it for sale, until he received death threats and other pressure, at which point he stated that he would not sell the gun."
The New Jersey Attorney General's office did not return a call seeking comment about the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs seek writ of mandamus to compel the attorney general to comply with the law.
They are represented by Bruce Clark of Clark Michie in Princeton.