PHOENIX — Saying the technology is unproven and potentially dangerous, state senators voted Thursday to prevent any future state or local laws that would restrict gun sales to “smart” firearms.
The proposal, HB 2216, also would preclude any mandatory tracking technology on guns, such as GPS to locate firearms, and guns that can send out an electronic message when fired.
But most of the debate Thursday was about development of guns that “know” who is supposed to be able to fire them and who is not. HB 2216 says what’s offered for sale in Arizona can’t be limited to those guns.
That stance bothered Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson.
“This technology holds the promise of potentially — particularly with fingerprint recognition before it’s able to be triggered — of stopping the horrible tragedy of children finding a gun, playing with it, and then killing themselves or others,” he said.
Farley said it also could stop a teen who is depressed from taking his or her own life. Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the flaw in those arguments is that the technology is not yet perfected. Someone who is rightly entitled to use the gun may find it does not work when needed, he said.
The legislation would not preclude Arizonans from buying such a gun. “It simply prevents any government entity from mandating that’s the only type of weapon you can buy,” Kavanagh said.
Farley countered, in essence, that guns without this technology are essentially defective products because of how dangerous they are. That should make the sale of anything other than smart guns illegal, he said.
“You can’t buy certain car seats that have proven defective,” Farley said, adding that the Consumer Product Safety Commission bans the sale of items that cause death and injury. “Sometimes, when there’s the possibility of saving innocent lives, you have to mandate something in order to make it happen.”
Several companies are looking at the technology, designed to ensure that only those authorized to use a gun can get it to fire.
One example involves a sort of radio-frequency fob or ring. The gun will only work in the proximity of that device. Another is similar to existing technology that allows a computer user to sign in and unlock the device with a fingerprint.
Kavanagh argued none of that is ready for prime time. “The finger might be dirty,” he said. “When the person needs the gun for self-defense it won’t work.”
There are situations where the gun owner has been incapacitated, he added. “You might want a friend or a relative nearby to be able to use the weapon. They would not be able to use it if they were not part of the system.”
But Farley said the federal government mandated installation of seat belts in vehicles in the 1960s, long before they were as effective as they are now. “And it saved lives even before it was perfected.”
Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, told colleagues they don’t need to look far for situations where smart-gun technology would have saved a life. Last week in Phoenix, a 9-year-old was killed by his 2-year-old brother. The younger boy found a gun that parents had left “laying around” the house, Quezada said.
The House has given preliminary approval to similar language.