Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, Connie Wagner and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to institute standardized photo identification card requirements for firearms purchases similar to drivers' licenses was advanced by an Assembly panel on Wednesday.
The legislation was approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee during a special hearing as part of the comprehensive Assembly Democratic anti-gun violence initiative, which is comprised of more than two dozen bills. The measure now heads for a vote before the full Assembly on Feb. 21.
"This is really a common sense measure," said Eustace. "Cars were not designed with the intention to be deadly, but yet we have similar requirements for them to make sure they are being registered and used legally. To require the same thing of deadly weapons is a smart approach to making sure those who purchase firearms are doing so legally."
Under current law, in order to purchase a rifle or shotgun, a person must have a valid firearm purchaser identification card (FPIC). However, a firearm purchaser identification card has no expiration date and does not display a picture of the card holder. Furthermore, handgun purchasers are not required to have an FPIC.
The bill (A-3772) approved would require that firearms purchaser identification cards display a digitalized color picture of the card holder and that the card be renewed every five years.
"This is not about infringing on anyone's second amendment rights," said Wagner of Paramus. "This is about keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people by ensuring that individuals meet the legal requirements to purchase a firearm."
In addition, the bill clarifies that any person who purchases a handgun is also required to obtain an FPIC in addition to a permit to purchase a firearm. Current law only requires handgun purchasers to have a valid permit to purchase a handgun. However, the PPH used to purchase handguns is valid for 90 days and may be used only once. This provision of the bill ensures that a person who chooses to purchase a handgun also be required to obtain a firearms purchaser identification card.
"This is a simple, logical procedure to ensure that anyone purchasing a firearm is lawfully allowed to do so," said Vainieri Huttle. "By requiring a periodic renewal of the purchaser identification card, we can help make sure that someone has not committed a recent crime that would disqualify them from owning a firearm."
As is the case with the initial issuance of FPICs under current law, the bill requires that a person who applies for an FPIC that displays a digitalized color picture is required to submit to a criminal history background check to determine if the applicant is disqualified from owning a firearm under the law. This criminal history background check also applies to any person who renews an FPIC under the bill.
Finally, the bill requires the superintendent of the State Police to establish a phase-in program for people who were issued an FPIC that does not display a digitalized color picture. Under the phase-in program, any firearms purchaser identification cards issued prior to the bill's effective date are to expire on a date fixed by the superintendent. Upon the expiration of the FPIC, the bill provides that each card holder is required to submit to a criminal history background check and obtain a firearms purchaser identification card that displays a digitalized color picture. The bill requires the superintendent to implement a procedure for notifying FPIC holders of the card's expiration and the manner and location at which the person may renew the card.
The bill requires that the phase-in program begin within six months of the bill's effective date and end no later than two years following the date that the bill takes effect.
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