Ammunition sales surge ahead of new California law
SACRAMENTO — California ammo buyers are making a run on gun shops ahead of a new state law, which on July 1 will require buyers of bullets to show identification and undergo a background check to screen out felons and people with illegal firearms.
In a state with the toughest gun laws in the nation, Gov. Gavin Newsom and some other leaders see restricting ammunition sales as a necessary next step in reducing gun tragedies.
Newsom included restrictions on bullets in Proposition 63, his statewide initiative that was approved by voters in 2016 and that helped raise his profile for his run for governor.
“From San Bernardino to Ventura to Poway, too many Californians have already died from gun violence,” Newsom said last week. “I championed Prop. 63 because it is beyond time that we take common sense actions such as these to keep deadly ammo out of the wrong hands and protect our communities.”
The new law closes a loophole in existing rules aimed at reducing illegal weapons, supporters say, while some gun owners say it goes too far in infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens.
Kim Rhode, an Olympic gold medalist shooter from El Monte, said she uses thousands of rounds each week to keep up her skill with daily practice. The law approved in 2016 not only creates more red tape for purchasers but also requires them to buy ammo face-to-face from a licensed dealer, hampering orders by the internet.
“These regulations essentially prevent me from being able to stay qualified and not only hurt my skill, but jeopardize the United States’ representation at the Olympic Games,” she said.
Rhode is a plaintiff in a lawsuit backed by the National Rifle Association that is pressing the courts to block the requirement on grounds it is unconstitutional, although the next court hearing is months away.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Justice is scrambling to develop its procedures for the screening process, with the possibility that the new system will not be finalized before the start of the month.
Even with a possible delay, gun owners have been stockpiling ammunition.
OC Guns store owner Scott Bodkin said sales of ammunition have doubled at his Lake Forest store in recent weeks.
“People are gearing up for it,” he said of the new law. “They are buying a lot. They don’t like it. It’s just another typical California deterrent to make things tougher for gun owners.”
The Sacramento-area firm Ammo Depot has leased a freeway billboard warning of the new law and urging “Get your ammo now!”
Mike Hein of Ade’s Gun Shop in Orange said ammunition sales in recent months have jumped by more than 10%, including an increase of customers making bulk buys of as many as 1,000 rounds.
“People are starting to stock up. We stocked up on ammunition,” he said. “Most people know about the deadline. They are running scared. They are pissed off.”
He said there is also confusion about what the new law will require and added that the Justice Department has not provided clarity. An agency representative declined to comment on the new law and say when it will be enforced.
The ammo law was one of a half-dozen bills approved in 2016 amid public outrage over a raft of mass shootings, including the 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino that left 14 people dead at a holiday party and an attack months earlier that killed 49 people at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub.