CRPA files injunction request against California Ammo Background Checks

July 25, 2019


Matthew Hoy

The California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA) filed for an injunction [PDF Format] late Monday against the state of California's new ammunition background check regime. The new law, which went into effect on July 1, requires all ammunition sales to be face-to-face and undergo a background check through the state's new system. According to reports from buyers and vendors, the system is so onerous, time-consuming and fickle that many would-be ammunition buyers are walking away empty-handed.

Among the problems with the background check regime as indicated in the court documents [PDF Format] filed are:

  • Either of the two $1 background check options are only valid for purchases in the next 18 hours.
  • The more time-consuming, possibly multi-day $19 background check option is valid for purchases up to 30 days.
  • If a person has moved or changed their name since they last purchased a firearm, they can petition to have their Automated Firearms System record updated, but they must supply the now-outdated information exactly as it was at the time the firearm was purchased. Any mistake or discrepancy (St. as opposed to Street in the address, for example) will result in the change being rejected.
  • A person can request their AFS records to make sure they have the old information on hand to accurately make any changes, but this requires a notary and can take up to four months.
  • A California Driver's license with the "Federal Limits Apply" wording is insufficient for buying ammunition, but OK for everything else in the state requiring ID, including buying a firearm.
  • Once OK'd to buy ammunition, vendors must then fill out a separate form for each caliber of ammunition purchased, print those forms, and have both the vendor and the purchaser sign them. They must then keep those forms on file for five years.
  • Prior to the background check system being implemented, it typically took less than a minute to complete the purchase of a box of ammunition. Now it takes 20 minutes or more just to enter the information for the background check into the state's database.
  • Vendors report ammo background rejection rates from 10 to 60 percent. The typical rejection rate for firearm purchases is approximately 1 percent.
  • Vendors have reported turning away up to half their customers who lack a proper ID, including members of the U.S. military and a Department of Defense firearms instructor.
  • Out-of-state vendors have also seen their sales drop in California mainly because while California residents can have ammunition shipped to a California-licensed ammunition seller, that seller can charge any amount they desire to actually process the ammunition sale.
  • Out-of-state residents are currently barred from buying ammunition in California. The only allowable method to acquire ammunition for out-of-state residents is to get a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the state DOJ, a process than can take months, requires fingerprinting and a $71 dollar fee and $22 to renew annually. There is no indication any out-of-state resident currently has a COE.

The CRPA lawsuit claims the California ammunition background check scheme is unconstitutional for a range of reasons, including: a violation of the Second Amendment, and a violation of the dormant commerce clause.

The hearing on the request for the injunction is scheduled for Aug. 19 in San Diego in the courtroom of Judge Roger T. Benitez, the jurist who gave California gun owners "Freedom Week." If that ruling was any indication on how he views Second Amendment infringements, then expect a stay to be issued rather quickly after the hearing.

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