Access to firearms ammo still too easy, NJ report finds
Following up on a report it made 10 years ago, the State Commission of Investigation says the state's laws still don't go far enough to keep gun ammunition out of the wrong hands.
Since the Commission's 2007 report, "Armed and Dangerous: Guns, Gangs and Easy Access to Firearms Ammunition," legislation has been enacted in order to make it more difficult for non-gun owners to legally purchase bullets in New Jersey.
However, the process is still open to abuse and manipulation, the follow-up report finds.
The law, signed by Gov. Jon Corzine in 2008, required that only those with state-issued firearms credentials could purchase ammunition. Before the law, sellers only needed to ask for proof of age.
The law, though, did not take into account the Commission's recommendation that photo identification be incorporated into firearms purchaser credentials.
In recent "undercover test buys" from the Commission, investigators successfully purchased ammo by using another individual's credentials. Sellers do not have to request photo ID.
"If you are someone who is authorized by the state to own a weapon and you have the proper credentials, by all means you should be able to buy ammunition," said Kathy Hennessy Riley, SCI's director of communications. "By putting the photo on there, that ensures that those people are who they say they are and they're getting what they're legally entitled to receive."
According to Scott L. Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, the Commission's photo ID recommendation "is a solution in search of a problem."
"The recommendations are based on the false and naive premise that criminals use ID cards to purchase ammunition in the first place," Bach said.
Legislation in both houses of the Legislature would require that firearms permits and purchaser cards contain a color photograph of the card holder. Another proposed law would require the state to determine if purchaser credentials should be included in a New Jersey driver's license.
Alexander Roubian, president of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, says this type of legislation "will do nothing to prevent criminals from acquiring ammunition," and believes lawmakers know that as well.
"Another feel-good, do-nothing piece of legislation," Roubian said. "If they cannot keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, do they really expect more failed laws to do the same?"
New Jersey is one of just four states that require a firearms license for ammunition purchases.
The Commission's updated report also renews its call to upgrade the way ammunition purchases are tracked by sellers. The current system is completely reliant on handwritten logs, the report claims. The Commission recommends that vendors be equipped with computer technology that would permit them to enter all sales information into a central database accessible to law enforcement.
"The problem is there's no computerized system, but there's also no way for law enforcement to take a look at these things without physically going to the retailers and examining them," Riley said. "Law enforcement told us they would like to be more proactive in tracking these kinds of sales, but the way the current system is, it makes it very difficult for them."
Another piece of pending legislation in Trenton contains a provision establishing an electronic reporting program for ammunition transactions on a real-time basis.
This was SCI's first follow-up piece on past reports. Kelly said it "makes sense to take another look" at certain issues, and considering the state of gun violence today, the "Armed and Dangerous" report was revisited.
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