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Watchdog Agency Calls For Changes To Ammo Sale Policies in New Jersey

November 18, 2016

A report was released on Wednesday by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation stating that the state’s tracking of ammunition sales is “antiquated and ineffective” and needs revamping. New Jersey’s independent watchdog agency, the SCI, examined how ammo was sold in the state in 2006. They give acknowledgment to legislation that passed in 2008 criminalizing the transfer of handgun ammunition to anyone who does not have valid firearms purchaser identification card (FPIC), handgun carry or purchase permit.

A decade later, they feel the laws need to be updated. Noted in the nine page report that was sent to Gov. Chris Christie and legislative leaders, it read, “Commission investigators recently tested that law, however, and found that while it does make it more difficult for anyone not a gun owner to legally obtain bullets, the measure does not nearly go far enough to ensure that ammunition sales are free from abuse.”

Test buys were conducted across the state and while purchasers were asked for their firearms card, many were able to purchase ammo using someone else’s card because sellers don’t always check the card against a second form of ID, which they are supposed to do to verify the buyer’s identity. The SCI is requesting that all New Jersey firearms cards either be issued with a digital photograph in the future, or that the firearms permit information simply be embedded in a New Jersey driver’s license.

The problem even escalates more when vendors fail to keep accurate track of records and log books. The name, address, date of transaction, and the amount, type and caliber of ammunition sold should be recorded for each sale. Law enforcement agencies say the logs are sometimes illegible and often inconsistent, going so far as to classify following up on the vendor logs as”a non-productive use of police resources.”

The suggestion for this problem is to update the registry is to put it online so that interested agencies could do searches in near real time, comparing it to the digital records kept by pharmacists in the state for the sale of prescription drugs. The report says, “The creation of this type of central database in the realm of ammunition sales would allow law enforcement agencies to coordinate and share criminal intelligence data related to suspicious sales or firearms-related investigations. By plugging into a searchable database, police could determine if there were links between criminal activity and recent ammunition purchases. Further, the database could be used to ‘red flag’ excessive ammunition purchases.”

These changes will increase the fees. SCI recommended the current $5 fee and $57.50 for a fingerprint background check — for the paper FPIC card is upped to $30 plus the fingerprint fee. While the current cards do not expire, SCI advised this could also be changed to generate revenue to continue to fund the database. Currently, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois and Massachusetts are the only states that require proof of a firearms license for ammunition purchases.

Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation said, “The SCI proposal will do nothing to enhance public safety in New Jersey because criminals are not going to obtain photo ID ammunition purchase cards. They’ll get their ammo the same way they get their guns – illegally. What’s so hard to understand about that?  The proposal proposes another wasteful exercise that would be carried out at the expense of law-abiding citizens.”