Assemblywoman Elizabeth Maher Muoio, on Wednesday, unveiled a new bill package containing reforms to crack down on gun violence by better regulating the sale of ammunitions, a move supported by law enforcement personnel in a recent report issued by the State Commission of Investigation (SCI).
Muoio noted that the latest statistics from the New Jersey State Police underscore the need for new approaches to smart gun policies, given that murder by gunfire increased 12 percent statewide in 2016, with far higher numbers in areas where gangs and drug distribution activities are prevalent.
“There is no singular solution to stop the tragic deaths we see every day at the hands of gun violence,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “But common sense approaches, like tracking ammunition sales, will help us distinguish between law abiding gun owners and those who might attempt to illegally purchase ammunition to further their violent agendas. The statistics, and more importantly, the real life tragedies that touch our communities, beg for innovative new approaches to the gun violence epidemic.”
The two-bill package was prompted by recommendations in the SCI’s follow-up report, issued in November, entitled “Armed and Dangerous – Ten Years Later.” The report noted that SCI investigators tested a law that was enacted in 2008 after their initial report, which allows handgun ammunition to be purchased only by a person who holds a valid firearms purchaser identification card, a valid copy of a permit to purchase a handgun, or a valid permit to carry a handgun.
Investigators found that while the law does make it more difficult for non-gun owners to legally obtain bullets, it does not go nearly far enough to ensure that ammunition sales are free from abuse. According to the report, Muoio’s bills are necessary to prevent “straw” purchases by individuals using another person’s firearms identification card or permit.
To that end, Muoio’s first bill (A-4736) would require that a person purchasing handgun ammunition exhibit a driver’s license, non-driver identification card, or other government-issued form of photo identification at the time of purchase. Anyone who sells, transfers, purchases or possesses ammunition in violation of the law would be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree, which is punishable by imprisonment for up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Muoio’s second bill (A-4739) would require electronic reporting of handgun ammunition sales. Under the provisions of the bill, every retail dealer of handgun ammunition would be required to electronically report all handgun ammunition sales and transfers and information about each sale or transfer to the Superintendent of State Police.
The bill further requires the superintendent to develop a program for retail dealers of handgun ammunition to electronically report this information on a real-time basis. The reported information is to include the date of the transaction; the name of the manufacturer, the caliber or gauge, and the quantity of ammunition sold or transferred; the name, address, and date of birth of the purchaser; the identification used to establish the identity of the purchaser; and any other information that the superintendent requires.
The superintendent would also be required to establish an electronic database containing the reported information, which would be available to law enforcement officers on a real-time basis.
“While we recognize that a single state can’t solve the problem alone, law enforcement personnel have indicated that they would like to do more to track and investigate improper ammunition sales. We have to start somewhere and New Jersey has long been a leader in responsible gun safety measures so it’s incumbent upon us to continue carrying that mantle,” added Muoio.
The bills were officially introduced on Monday and referred to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.