TRENTON - Lawmakers on Monday passed legislation intended to spur sales of so-called smart guns and prevent Gov. Christie's administration from making it easier to get permits to carry guns.
A third gun-related vote - to override the Republican governor's veto of a bill that would require domestic violence offenders and subjects of domestic violence restraining orders to surrender firearms - was postponed until Thursday because a Democratic senator was absent.
Monday's gun votes were largely along party lines in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, with both houses approving a measure that would require gun retailers to sell at least one type of smart gun in stores.
That bill - a version of which Christie vetoed in January - would rescind part of a law that bans dealers from selling any other kinds of firearms once smart guns, which can only be fired by an authorized user, are on the market.
After New Jersey's law was passed in 2002, gun-rights advocates helped block the sale of smart guns elsewhere, which would have triggered New Jersey's ban.
Now, "we've taken away the ban part of the law to make it more palatable to everyone," said Stephen Teret, a professor and founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, who helped write both the new legislation and the 2002 law.
If Christie vetoes the new measure, "then he's leaving [intact] the law that the NRA hates so much," Teret said.
The National Rifle Association, in a statement on its website, called the new smart-gun measure "a backdoor attempt to force market acceptance of a product that has proven unreliable despite decades of research and development." It predicted that the measure would pave the way for the prior ban on traditional handgun sales to be reinstated.
Teret said there had been "enormous progress made in the technology over the last two decades," but that U.S. gun manufacturers, compared with European companies, lagged in research and development.
In the Assembly, lawmakers also passed a bill to codify the state's current regulations for issuing permits to carry guns, which Christie's administration recently moved to loosen.
Currently, applicants need to demonstrate "justifiable need" to obtain a permit to carry a gun.
The governor announced in April that his administration would make regulatory changes to change the way that standard is defined, including by adding "serious threats" to conditions that warrant issuance of a permit.
The changes - which were recommended by a commission Christie formed last year - would also allow permits to be issued if the applicant faced a special danger to his or her life that couldn't be avoided by other "reasonable" means, rather than "any" means.
Lawmakers previously passed a resolution that declared the Christie administration's changes inconsistent with legislative intent. That measure was passed two weeks ago; the administration has 30 days to respond before lawmakers could then take a second vote seeking to invalidate the rules.
Democrats held off a scheduled vote Monday on an effort to override Christie's veto of a bill that would require domestic violence offenders to surrender firearms - a measure Christie has dismissed as redundant.
The current law requires officers to seize a person's guns when there is probable cause to believe he or she has committed domestic violence, according to Christie.
Advocates say the bill would increase the authority of courts to hold domestic violence offenders accountable and strengthen protections for victims, among other provisions.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) said the vote was pushed back because Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D., Camden) was absent due to a family emergency.
"When you're going for an override, you don't give up any of your yes votes," Sweeney said. He said he would hold a vote Thursday.
Since the bill originated in the Senate, lawmakers there need to vote before the Assembly can. Override votes require a two-thirds majority. Democrats control the Senate 24-16, and the Assembly 52-28, both short of such majorities.