N.J.'s ammunition tracking law 'open to abuse'

New Jersey's practice of tracking ammunition purchases in handwritten logbooks is "antiquated and ineffective," a report issued Wednesday by the State Commission of Investigation found.

"Handwritten ammunition sales logs maintained by retailers are frequently illegible and contain inconsistent data," the report said.

The commission, an independent agency New Jersey uses to identify fraud and waste, recommends creating a statewide database in which gun shops enter basic information, including an ammunition buyer's name and address, the date of the sale, and the caliber purchased.

Authorities could access the database at any time, rather than having to review individual logbooks, the commission said.

It proposes increasing the fee to purchase a firearms identification card from $5 to $30 to cover the costs of creating a database.

The commission's findings are a follow-up to its report in 2007, which showed the state had few restrictions on buying bullets, despite having strict laws on purchasing guns. The findings led to a state law in 2008 that requires individuals purchasing ammunition to show a firearms identification card.

But a loophole still exists, according to Wednesday's report.

The cards do not have photographs, meaning an individual with no access to guns can use another person's card to purchase ammunition.

The commission's undercover agents, who sampled less than a dozen gun shops across the state, were able to do just that, the report said.

Kathy Hennessy Riley, the commission's spokeswoman, said not requiring a photo "makes the law open to manipulation and abuse."

Legislation is pending in the state Senate that would mandate photos on the cards.

Wayne Viden, co-owner of Bob's Little Sport Shop in Glassboro, said adding a photo to the necessary credentials would send his customers elsewhere.

"Most of our customers will just drive over to Pennsylvania or down to Delaware, and I will lose all those sales," he said. "It's absolutely stupid. That's the nicest way I can say that."

The commission acknowledges Viden's concerns in its report, saying that New Jersey is one of only four states that requires a firearms license to buy ammunition.

"Anyone seeking ammunition without the proper credentials required for purchases here need only travel next door, to neighboring Pennsylvania or Delaware," the report said, "where sales restrictions are more lax."

mboren@phillynews.com

856-779-3829 @borenmc