New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is seen Jan. 7, 2016, in New York City. Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

New Jersey state lawmakers on Monday approved a bill that would require gun retailers to sell "smart guns," designed to be fired only by an authorized user, and setting up a possible veto from Governor Chris Christie, a Republican candidate for president.

The bill would require so-called smart guns to be sold alongside traditional firearms no more than three years after the technology is developed and on the market.

The state General Assembly approved the bill by a vote of 43 to 30 with one abstention. The legislation has already been passed in the state Senate.

The bill's supporters have said it would help protect children from accidental deaths.

"The status quo is unacceptable," said Democratic Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle. "With this change, we will spark the development and availability of childproof handguns in New Jersey and set a tone for the rest of the nation."

Christie has declared his support for gun rights as he seeks the Republican nomination for president. A spokesman for the governor's office said the administration generally does not comment on pending legislation until it has had a chance to review the final bill.

The bill is intended to weaken earlier legislation, passed in 2002, that required retailers to sell only smart guns three years after they reached the market.

That bill generated criticism from gun advocates who said the technology was unreliable.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who was a driving force behind both bills, has said she hopes the legislation will help spur research.

President Barack Obama called for more research into smart gun technology as part of a series of executive actions he announced last week aimed at lessening gun violence.

Gun control supporters have accused the gun industry of blocking research into the technology.

The National Rifle Association, which lobbies on behalf of gun owners, does not oppose the development of "smart" guns or the ability for Americans to buy them, according to its website. But it opposes any law that would prohibit Americans from acquiring guns without the technology.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax, editing by G Crosse)