California's new gun laws have unintended consequences, including stopping off-duty cops and hunters from buying ammo.
Sacramento, CA – The implementation of California’s new gun laws hasn’t gone smoothly and more than 62,000 residents have been denied the ability to legally purchase ammunition since July 1.
Under the new guns laws, Californian’s are required to pass an in-store background check, at the time of purchase, to buy ammunition, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Vendors must run the purchaser’s name through California Department of Justice database to confirm if they have legally registered a weapon with the state.
California has required handguns to be registered since the 1990s, and shotguns and rifles had to be registered starting in 2014, the Sacramento Bee reported.
In order to pass the background check to buy ammunition, a gun owner must have a registered weapon in the state’s database, identification that matches the address in the database, and pay $1 for the background check process.
However, if a legal gun owner has moved since they purchased their weapon, the background check will be kicked back and the transaction denied because the address on their current driver’s license doesn’t match the address from when their information was put into the gun registry, the Sacramento Bee reported.
People who don’t own guns or haven’t registered their weapons in the state registry can pay $19 under the new law, and go through a more extensive background check that takes multiple days to get approval to purchase ammunition.
Or they can register their weapon online in the database and get approved quickly once their information has been accepted into the system.
The California Department of Justice released the background check rejection numbers in a response to a lawsuit filed by the California Rifle & Pistol Association that seeks to overturn the new gun laws, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The court filing said that 18 percent of $1 background checks for ammunition purchases have been rejected since the laws went into effect in July.
It said that 19,000 rejected ammunition buyers weren’t in the database at all, mostly because the Department of Justice was behind in updating and maintaining the data, the Sacramento Bee reported.
The court filing also said that 22,000 rejected ammunition buyers had addresses that didn’t match what was listed for them in the gun registry, and that many of that number had moved since their data was entered.
The Department of Justice filing also said that almost 8,000 ammunition buyers were rejected because their names on their identification didn’t match what was in the registry, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Only 101 of the stopped ammunition purchases, out of 345,547 rejections, prevented “prohibited persons” who can’t legally buy or possess ammunition from making a transaction.
Sutter County Sheriff’s Deputy Zachary Berg was one of the 22,000 people whose address didn’t match what was in the state’s system, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Deputy Berg was shut down by the background check database when he tried to buy shotgun shells for a duck hunting trip in November.
“It’s a little ironic the fact I’m a deputy that I can’t buy ammunition,” the deputy said. “But at the same time, anybody else who’s legally allowed to, they shouldn’t be denied based on address [errors]. ... It’s just crazy.”
Retired California Highway Patrol officer and Vietnam veteran Dan Logan registered his shotgun online as the state required but was still rejected when he went to buy a box of shells in Folsom in October, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Logan said he was especially frustrated because the new gun-control laws also prohibited Californians from going out of state to buy ammunition.
“If I go to Nevada and buy ammunition there, I can go to jail,” he explained to the Sacramento Bee.
Gun-rights advocates have complained that the state is using the new background check database as a de facto gun registry.
Fans of the new gun control laws think that aspect of the database is a good thing.
Ari Freilich, an attorney with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told the Sacramento Bee that the database would help with the enforcement of “red flag” laws designed to remove weapons from the possession of citizens who might harm themselves or others.
“Because of this DOJ database, [it] allows law enforcement to know that that person has arms, to know what kind of arms they have and to know where they reside, so they can ensure that the people who have been subject to threats are safe and that guns are removed from that dangerous situation,” Freilich said.
Proponents of the legislation that caused the changes to the system have referred to the almost 350,000 faultily-rejected ammunition purchases as a “technical issue” and a minor inconvenience to gun owners, the Sacramento Bee reported.
“We can easily overcome this technical issue,” said Kevin de León, a former state senator who pushed for the new gun laws and is now running for Los Angeles City Council. “To the NRA and others who don’t believe that we should keep our communities safe from gunfire, I would say stop the hyperbole over a technical issue that’s easily solvable and be part of the solution to reduce dramatically the numbers of needless killings that happen in our communities every single day.”
The implementation of the new background checks for ammunition also coincided with state’s new ban on lead hunting ammunition, and ruined hunting season for many of the state’s enthusiasts, the Sacramento Bee reported.
First, hunters struggled to find stores that had a stock of non-toxic shotgun shells and rifle rounds.
But then, after they found it, many of them were rejected by the state’s new faulty background check process, the Sacramento Bee reported.
The unintended consequence was that almost 30,000 fewer people bought hunting licenses in California in 2019 at the same time the state is running a campaign to boost hunting license sales.
That’s a huge problem because the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife’s budget is funded by hunting and fishing license sales, as well as taxes on their firearms and gear, the Sacramento Bee reported.