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California’s Ammunition Buying Law is Facing Litigation

— August 6, 2019

California’s new restrictions on ammunition buying receive significant pushback.

The California Rifle & Pistol Association, an affiliate of the National Rifle Association, has asked United States District Judge Roger Benitez to block a new law that would require background checks for anyone buying ammunition.  Voters approved the measure in 2016 and the restrictions took effect July 1.  The California Rifle & Pistol Association filed a lawsuit in 2018 over the matter and has now asked for an injunction, alleging it violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Attorney Sean Brady said, “The scheme purports to funnel everyone seeking to exercise their Second Amendment right to acquire ammunition into a single, controlled source, an in-state licensed vendor, for the purpose of confirming purchasers’ legal eligibility to possess ammunition and to keep track of all purchases.  While making sure dangerous people do not obtain weapons is a laudable goal for government, California’s scheme goes too far and must be enjoined.”

The motion cited “high rates of denials among ammunition buyers undergoing the new background checks…Moreover, the system blocks out-of-state ammunition vendors from the California market.”

California's Ammunition Buying Law is Facing Litigation
Photo by Ryan on Unsplash

“Plaintiffs seek to vindicate their fundamental Second Amendment rights,” plaintiffs’ attorney Sean Brady said in the 34-page motion. “Not only plaintiffs’ rights are at stake, but so are the rights of any law-abiding Californian who is unduly burdened by the state’s ammunition scheme.”

Kim Rhode, an Olympic gold medalist shooter who has backed the challenge, said she has been buying thousands of rounds each week and the new law is far too restrictive.  As the lead plaintiff in the original April filing, she stated, “These regulations essentially prevent me from being able to stay qualified and not only hurt my skill but jeopardize the United States’ representation at the Olympic Games.”  The July injunction is part of the case Rhode v. Becerra.

Benitez is expected to make a decision in August.  He previously rejected the state’s attempt to throw it out, allowing it to move forward when he agreed “the restrictions impede interstate commerce and are pre-empted by federal law.”  Benitez wrote the law “criminalizes all of those (ammunition) transactions with merchants conducting business in other states” and “significantly burdens interstate commerce.”  He added it “criminalizes bringing ammunition into the state that was purchased or obtained outside the state.”

Gun owners who already are in the state’s background check system would pay a $1 fee when buying ammunition.  Attorneys with San Francisco’s Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence said Benitez is likely to block the ammunition restrictions, but the law would be upheld on appeal.  “Unfortunately, this may be the one judge in the country” willing to rule that “people should be able to buy unlimited quantities of ammunition without background checks,” staff attorney Ari Freilich stated.

Governor Gavin Newsom see restricting ammunition sales as a necessary next step and said in support of the measure, “From San Bernardino to Ventura to Poway, too many Californians have already died from gun violence.  I championed Proposal 63 because it is beyond time that we take common sense actions such as these to keep deadly ammo out of the wrong hands and protect our communities.”


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