A measure sponsored by New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) could affect how gun owners in the state are identified, but its passage has been stalled in the State Assembly’s Law and Public Safety Committee due to what many are calling political maneuvering.

The New Jersey State Senate voted late last month to pass 10 gun-related bills that included changes to the state’s current firearms ID system, the possession of .50 caliber firearms, and how background checks are conducted. The most controversial of these, Senate Bill 2723, proposes that the state’s FID cards be replaced with encoded driver’s licenses. According to the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC) Executive Director Scott Bach, these encoded licenses could be used by the state police to keep tabs on gun owners’ purchases.

“The capability that this new card is supposed to have is when you go to a gun dealer to purchase firearms and ammunition, you swipe the card,” Bach explained. “If you’re approved you walk away with the purchase. The information on what you purchased will be transmitted in real time to the state police. If you bought a case of ammo, 1,000 rounds let’s say, the information would be immediately given over to the police. Nobody knows what that means. The police could say that ‘oh, it’s ten times the amount we think is appropriate.’”

The bill’s supporters, including Sweeney, hope that the new licenses will set up a national model for other states to emulate. The encoded licenses will be visually indistinguishable from a regular license and are touted by supporters as a key step towards reducing crime.

According to NJ.com, the vote on the bill in the Assembly’s Law and Public Safety Committee went nearly along party lines with all Republicans opposing the bill and all Democrats but one voting in favor. The bill needed one more vote to advance, which fell upon Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D-Union). He decided to abstain.

“It didn’t have the votes,” Cryan said afterwards. “I abstained based on cost concerns…I along with many other thousands of New Jerseyans have lost a motor vehicle office in our district. We had some real cost concerns about the bill.”

The bill was then shelved and expected to reappear at another committee meeting later this month where it will be pushed for advancement again. The surprise move by Cryan have led some political experts to believe that his abstaining from the committee vote was due to a rivalry with Sweeney. The two legislators are currently locked in a battle over selecting New Jersey’s next Democratic chairman and Sweeney has reportedly been blocking Cryan’s efforts to pass a ammunition magazine reduction bill.

In New Jersey, residents are required to obtain a firearm purchaser card for handguns, shotguns, and rifles. Additional permits are required for handguns.

Image from Stephen Z on the flickr Creative Commons

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