The new California ammo background check bill is now effective which makes California the first U.S. State to impose a more stringent process at point of sale. Whether this prompts other States to follow suit remains to be seen. In 2016 California voters voted overwhelmingly to approve the measures and requirements that those suffering from mental illness, a history of domestic violence, felons and/or have a warrant or conviction for a violent misdemeanor should not have access to ammunition. Under The new bill vendors may only conduct ammo sales in face to face transactions and subject to ID verification and a background check by the office of the California Department of Justice. Prior to the California ammo background check bill any one (over 18 years) could purchase ammo online, by post or at retail stores. The cost of background checks vary from $1 upwards to around $20 and can either take a couple of minutes or a few days, this also applies to online sales. However sales are now shipped to a licensed reseller where customers must collect in person, this also applies to out of state sales.
The new law seeks to stem gun violence which took over 3,000 lives within California in 2017 (Centers for Disease Control). However gun advocates (NRA) claim this is unconstitutional and is affecting law abiding citizens who wish to buy ammo along with second amendment rights. The California ammo background check bill is underpinned by THE SAFETY FOR ALL ACT OF 2016 ( Prop 63-Safety for all details ) which was introduced following the murders of 14 people at a San Benardino social services center in December 2015 while also injuring several others. Gun owners in San Diego have also filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in an attempt to overturn the bill citing it as an ‘intrusion’ along with a law banning gun sales to under 21’s. Should the new law survive the initial legal onslaught the California ammo background check bill may well be seen as a turning point in reducing gun violence irrespective of these robust measures in 2017 3,184 people died in California (gun-related) at a rate of 7.9 this was below the U.S. average of 12.
California has effectively reduced it’s gun mortality rate by 60% over the last twenty years. However the stats remain sobering in that on an average day in 2014 314 Americans were seriously injured or killed by guns, almost 115,000 children, men and women were shot in the same year with more than 8,800 prior to reaching 18 years of age. Over a million Americans were shot in the decade preceding. Some vendors claim this kills business and that the new restrictions blights tourism and that hunters from out of state buy a non-residential hunting license but then can’t go hunting. In the majority of cases ammo cannot be brought in from out of State and non residents now require a certificate of eligibility. The bill also eliminates several exemptions in respect of a large-capacity magazines ban (pending litigation/State appeal) and has increased penalties for possession. The exemption previously allowed owners (high capacity magazines) prior to 2000 (ownership) to retain this accessory.
Is California’s bill unique? There are 4 other States (Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts) requiring an individual to obtain a license or a permit following a background check allowing the purchase of ammunition but for a certain period of time. California is now the first State requiring a background check on each and every purchase. A similar law had been adopted in New York but as yet it hadn’t been enacted.
In a separate initiative following a revised background check measure in New Mexico Walmart will stop selling firearms in it’s stores there. The new background check measure will require firearms sellers (Federal registered) to facilitate private party gun sales. Walmart though decided to drop its New Mexico federal licenses entirely. Walmart will no longer sell firearms within state lines. The law was effective March largely due to Democrat sway i.e. increased scrutiny not required by federal law. While Walmart already conduct background checks via NICS they would also be required to conduct background checks on behalf of private sellers.
The move has been defended by the Democratic Governor as an effective tool to advance public safety. While there will be a regulatory burden the effectiveness of more robust checks has been called in to question. A recent study by the John Hopkins Center in June concluded background checks do not, in themselves, decrease lethal gun violence. The report concluded that the only effective way to screen prospective gun owners was to establish a licensing program, which could be implemented in conjunction with expanded background checks. The study also referred to gun owner requirements in the State of Connecticut since 1995 to obtain a license. Notably there was a 40% reduction in gun homicides along with a 15% drop in gun related suicides.
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