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In the days following a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and some of his fellow Democrats called for strengthening the nation’s gun control laws.
At a July 24 news conference in Washington, D.C., Menendez pointed out how, under federal law, "we do not have any limitation on the number of guns and bullets we can buy."
PolitiFact New Jersey is not weighing in on whether there should be such federal restrictions. We are only fact-checking Menendez’s claim that none exist.
We found that the senator's right that there is no federal law limiting the number of guns and bullets one can purchase at a given time. Three states, including New Jersey, have enacted their own restrictions on handgun sales.
A spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and gun policy experts confirmed that the senator’s claim is accurate.
"It is correct that there are no limits in federal law to the amount of guns or ammunition a person can buy if he/she is not a proscribed possessor of firearms," said Daniel Webster, co-director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Federal law prohibits certain individuals from getting a gun or ammunition, such as someone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. Also, there are certain reporting requirements under federal law for multiple gun sales.
For instance, licensed dealers must report to federal authorities if they sell more than one handgun to the same person within five consecutive business days. Also, licensed dealers in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas must report multiple sales of certain rifles during the same time period.
Referring to such federal reporting requirements, Jon Vernick, co-director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research, added in an e-mail: "However, this form simply acts as a record of, not a limitation on, multiple purchases."
The vast majority of states don’t limit the number of firearms that can be purchased, according to a state-by-state breakdown compiled by the California-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
New Jersey is one of three states that prohibit the sale of more than one handgun to an individual within a 30-day period, along with California and Maryland, according to the center. Each of those state laws allow for certain exemptions. Virginia repealed a similar law earlier this year.
"The Senator was (and will continue) to talk about the need for federal laws that limit the number of bullets and the number of firearms a person can purchase," Menendez spokeswoman Tricia Enright said in an e-mail. "He believes we need stronger laws nationally, not a patchwork of laws that vary in terms of strength state by state."
Following the mass shooting at a movie theater in Colorado, Menendez claimed at a news conference that "we do not have any limitation on the number of guns and bullets we can buy."
Three states, including New Jersey, limit the number of handguns one can purchase in a 30-day period, but there are no limits under federal law on the purchase of firearms and ammunition. Federal regulations only mandate reporting multiple gun sales in certain cases.
We rate the statement True.
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C-SPAN, Democratic Members on Gun Safety Reform, July 24, 2012
Interview with Christopher Bombardiere, public information officer for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Newark Field Division, July 25, 2012
U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Frequently Asked Questions: Conduct of Business — Licensees, accessed July 25, 2012
U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Q&As for the Report of Multiple Sale or Other Disposition of Certain Rifles, accessed July 25, 2012
E-mail interview with Daniel Webster and Jon Vernick, co-directors of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, July 25, 2012
Office of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, Menendez Calls for National Dialogue on Gun Violence & Gun Safety in America, July 24, 2012
Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Federal Law on Multiple Purchases & Sales of Firearms, accessed July 25, 2012
Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, State Multiple Gun Purchases & Sales, accessed July 25, 2012
Virginia law eliminating limitation on handgun purchases, approved Feb. 28, 2012
E-mail interview with Tricia Enright, spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, July 25, 2012
Journal of Urban Health, Factors Affecting a Recently Purchased Handgun's Risk for Use in Crime under Circumstances That Suggest Gun Trafficking, May 2010
Assembly Bill A-339, Prohibits individuals from purchasing more than one handgun in a calendar month, signed into law by Gov. Jon Corzine on Aug. 6, 2009
The Star-Ledger, Gov. Corzine signs new law limiting N.J. gun purchases, Aug. 6, 2009
Governor's Firearms Advisory Task Force, Initial Report, Nov. 12, 2009
California Penal Code, accessed July 31, 2012
Maryland Public Safety Code, accessed July 31, 2012
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