Judge Enjoins California’s Unconstitutional Ammunition Background Check Law, Again

Gun Rights

For a second time, a federal judge has issued an injunction preventing California from enforcing its ammunition background check law, holding that it infringes on the right to keep and bear arms, the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, and is preempted by the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act.

California has a very complicated process for buying ammunition. The voters passed Proposition 63 in 2016. Proposition 63 required individuals who wished to obtain ammunition to first get a license to do so and to present that license when purchasing. But the California legislature had other ideas. It “preemptively amended” Proposition 63 with a much more complicated process.

Now individuals who want to purchase ammunition must do it in a face-to-face transaction in the state—online sales are prohibited. And they must pass a background check every time. But there are four different types of ammunition background checks, costing between one and nineteen dollars per background check. This “ungainly” system denied 16% of the people falsely when back in 2019, when the court first enjoined it. And California has struggled to get that rate down. It sits at 11% today. That “is still too high,” the court said.

Even worse for California were its attempt to show that the law was consistent with the historical tradition of firearms regulation that establishes the limitations on the Second Amendment. It cited 50 laws restricting or prohibiting the transfer of a firearm or ammunition to slaves, blacks, Native Americans, mixed-race, and other minorities as justification for the law. The court had nothing to do with it: “These fifty laws identified by the Attorney General constitute a long, embarrassing, disgusting, insidious, reprehensible list of examples of government tyranny towards our own people.”

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The court also found that the case violated the commerce clause because the in-state transaction requirement was designed to benefit California vendors at the detriment of out-of-state vendors. And it finally found that the requirement that individuals buy the ammo in-state was preempted by the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, which allows individuals to transport firearms and ammunition across state lines under certain conditions.

The case is captioned Rhode v. Bonta. It is an NRA-supported case.

Please stay tuned to www.nraila.org for future updates on NRA-ILA’s ongoing efforts to defend your constitutional rights.

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