While most of America was busy preparing to celebrate the New Year, gun owners in California were scrambling to lawfully purchase ammunition while they still could. Beginning January 1, all ammunition sales were required go through a California licensed dealer or licensed ammunition vendor.
This new requirement is one of two new ammunition laws that were passed by the California legislature or adopted by California voters in 2016. The law that took effect on January 1 will generally prohibit gun owners from bringing ammunition into the Golden State or from purchasing their ammunition online.
California adopted these new laws in spite of significant evidence that they would only burden law-abiding gun owners and do nothing to promote public safety. Most notably, the reporting of ammunition sales has already been tried — and failed — at the federal level.
Throughout the 1980s, Congress considered repeal of a federal ammunition regulation package that required, among other things, reporting of ammunition sales. In 1986, the director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms supported eliminating the reporting requirement, stating: “The Bureau and the [Treasury] Department have recognized that current record keeping requirements for ammunition have no substantial law enforcement value.” As a result, the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 repealed the ammunition restrictions, with little opposition to the removal of that requirement.
California gun owners are now stuck with a similar law that will also have “no substantial law enforcement value,” yet will make it much more difficult for Californians to buy ammunition, especially harder to find cartridges.
Unfortunately, the new ammunition laws do not stop there. Beginning July 1, 2019, a background check will be required on every purchase of ammunition in California. It still remains unclear exactly how California intends to implement this law.