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California Tried To Force Background Checks For Ammo. A Judge Sided With The Second Amendment.
Many bullets or ammunition standing in straight line with blurred background. 9mm
Sonia Tapia via Getty Images

A federal judge has blocked a California law that required law-abiding residents to go through a background check every time they purchased ammunition.

The Associated Press reported that U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez ruled against the state of California on Thursday, taking the state to task for its “onerous and convoluted” regulations that violated residents’ Second Amendment rights.

“The experiment has been tried. The casualties have been counted. California’s new ammunition background check law misfires and the Second Amendment rights of California citizens have been gravely injured,” Benitez wrote in his 120-page opinion.

“Criminals, tyrants, and terrorists don’t do background checks,” he added. “The background check experiment defies common sense while unduly and severely burdening the Second Amendment rights of every responsible, gun-owning citizen desiring to lawfully buy ammunition.”

Benitez explained that even though the law was supposed to stop criminals from buying ammunition, it denied ammo to law-abiding gun owners 16% of the time. Also, the judge wrote, the state ban on importing ammo from other states violated federal interstate commerce laws, the AP reported. The law, Benitez argued, kept out-of-state sellers from reaching California’s market, which violates federal law.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, argued in an earlier court filing that the background checks on ammo had successfully stopped more than 750 people from illegally purchasing ammunition between July 2019 and January 2020. The state also argued that the background checks took about five minutes to complete.

“There is no substantial impediment,” the state argued, according to the AP. “Ammunition purchasers must pass an eligibility check that, in the vast majority of cases, delays a purchase by a few minutes.”

Each time a person bought ammo, they were also required to pay a $1 fee, a nice little boost for state coffers. The law also allowed people to purchase more expensive long-term licenses for ammo if they met certain conditions, such as not having certain criminal convictions or mental health issues.

The law was challenged by the California Rifle & Pistol Association, which asked Benitez to halt the law that required background checks and other restriction on ammunition.

“The law’s red tape and state database errors made it impossible for hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Californians to purchase ammunition for sport or self-defense,” Chuck Michel, the association’s general counsel, told the AP. “The court found that the flimsy reasons offered by the government to justify these constitutional infringements were inadequate.”

Michel said he expects the state to appeal the ruling. The state attorney general’s office told the AP is was reviewing the decision and would not say at that time whether it definitely planned to appeal or try to stay the order.

The California Rifle & Pistol Association were not the only ones named as plaintiffs. Out-of-state ammunition sellers and California residents, such as Olympian Kim Rhode, who has six Olympic medals for shooting competitions, also joined the fight.

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