Legislation Strengthens NJ Gun Statutes, Continues the Fight to End Gun Violence and Gun Trafficking
Firearm sales and background check records are critical tools law enforcement use to solve crimes involving illegal guns and identify gun sellers and purchasers who evade the law.
Legislation to require more detailed tracking of gun ammunition sales and the keeping of records, sponsored by Assembly members Louis Greenwald, Gordon Johnson, and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, was approved Monday by the Assembly Judiciary Committee and the Assembly Appropriations Committee
The State Commission of Investigation (SCI) issued a report in 2016 finding that straw purchases of ammunition were unchecked due to the lack of photo identification on firearm IDs. Straw purchasing—a purchaser buying a gun or ammunition for someone else who does not qualify for a firearm license—is the most common channel identified in trafficking investigations. The SCI also found that sales records were often hand-written into logbooks. This is a problem for law enforcement, who should be able to consult an electronic database when investigating questionable ammunition purchases.
“It is time to end the longtime practice many gun sellers have used to keep records of sales of ammunition—handwritten logs that often do not specify important information about the purchaser,” Greenwald (D-Gloucester, Camden). “Illegal trafficking of weapons has become a highly sophisticated business with a web of trails that cross state and country borders. Straw purchasing is driving this market, making it easy to get ammunition into the wrong hands. We must be better at tracking ammunition sales. This begins with detail-specific electronic recordings of every ammunition purchase.”
Under current law, to buy handgun ammunition a purchaser must only establish his or her eligibility by exhibiting a firearms purchaser identification card, a permit to purchase a handgun, or a permit to carry a handgun, and that he or she is 21 years of age or older. The bill (A-1292) would require an ammunition purchaser to also provide a driver’s license, non-driver identification card, or other government-issued forms of photo identification at the time of purchase.
“This is the 21st century. Handwritten logbooks tracking the sales of firearms and ammunition makes it too easy for people to buy and sell these dangerous items illegally,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “Holding sellers accountable for each bullet sold and to whom will greatly support the work of law enforcement in the fight to stop gun-related trafficking.”
The bill also would require a manufacturer or dealer of handgun ammunition to keep a detailed, electronic record of handgun ammunition sales. The electronic record, maintained by the manufacturer or wholesale dealer, would be required to contain the date of the transaction; the type, caliber, or gauge of the ammunition; the quantity of ammunition sold; the name and address of the purchaser; and any other information deemed necessary by the Superintendent of State Police.
“Illegal trafficking of ammunition begins with straw purchasing- someone buying for someone else or to sell to someone else,” said Reynolds-Jackson (D- Mercer, Hunterdon). “Large transactions should raise red flags for a seller. For that to happen, there must be a more efficient recording system in place which allows for law enforcement to search and recover information quickly. These requirements are long overdue.”
In addition, the bill would require electronic reporting of handgun, firearm, and handgun ammunition sales.
The measure is a part of the third legislative package introduced by the Legislature aiming to stem gun violence in all New Jersey communities. It will now go to the Speaker for further consideration.