California's Ammo Background Checks Reinstated For Now

California’s background checks on ammunition purchases are back in place, at least for now after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday granted an emergency request by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The background checks had been put on hold by U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez on Thursday, when he issued an injunction preventing the laws from being enforced while the Rhode vs. Becerra case continues to be litigated.

Becerra fired back on Friday, first filing for a stay with Judge Benitez on Friday morning, and then appealing to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Friday afternoon. While Becerra didn’t get Benitez to back off his injunction, the attorney general was more successful at the 9th Circuit.

In his appeal to Judge Benitez, Becerra had argued that public safety would be jeopardized by preventing ammunition background checks.

Immediate action on this motion is necessary because the Attorney General is informed and believes that ammunition vendors have already started selling ammunition without background checks, creating the near certainty that prohibited persons—convicted felons, violent misdemeanants, and others prohibited by law from possessing firearms and ammunition—will have easy access to ammunition.

As Judge Benitez noted in his opinion granting the injunction, the state’s background checks on ammunition purchases had led to far more denials of law-abiding citizens than denials of prohibited persons since the checks began in July of 2019. In his filing, Becerra claims that hundreds of convicted felons and others prohibited by law from possessing ammunition have been thwarted by the background check requirement.

The preliminarily enjoined background check provisions.. have been in effect for almost 10 months, and have resulted in over 750 prohibited people from purchasing ammunition from licensed ammunition vendors. The preliminarily enjoined restrictions on direct shipping and importation of ammunition.. have been in effect over two years. In addition, the order will almost certainly result in prohibited persons purchasing ammunition. By contrast, no plaintiff has said he or she is unable to purchase ammunition. The Court had plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction under consideration for eight months. Temporarily staying the order for a short time longer will cause no significant harm to plaintiffs, who have been living with the status quo for 10 months (or over two years in the case of the restrictions on importation and direct shipping). And a stay will promote public safety by preventing prohibited persons from easily purchasing ammunition over the internet or from their local vendor.

By contrast, in his order granting the injunction Judge Benitez said tens of thousands of law-abiding Californians have been denied their ability to purchase ammunition thanks to the flawed database used by the state.

In August, the Attorney General touted the system as a success because out of 62,000 would-be purchasers in the first month, 103 were denied because they were listed on California’s prohibited-persons list (the APPS list). Based on all types of background checks through January 2020, a total of 770 out of 635,856 have been denied as prohibited (0.12%). Of 590 re-examined by the State so far, 16 were erroneously categorized. Success to date measures 754 persons with felony convictions, mental health holds, certain misdemeanor convictions, or illegally present in the United States, prevented from buying new ammunition. Considering the heavy burdens of proving citizenship saddled onto American ammunition purchasers, it is noteworthy that the State’s data are silent on the number prohibited because of unlawful alien status.

Beyond the 101,047 residents who are not prohibited persons but who still failed a background check, an untold additional number of ammunition purchasers were turned away or deterred and did not even start a background check. To use the metaphor, they did not have a Real ID or a U.S. Passport or certified birth certificate to go through the main gate and simply gave up. How many gave up? If it is any indication, early on at two California stores, approximately one-half of the potential ammunition customers were turned away without a background check.

I’m disappointed that the 9th Circuit has, temporarily at least, restored California’s ammunition background check laws and prohibitions on online and out-of-state ammo purchases. Contrary to Becerra’s claims, there’s every reason to believe that law-abiding Californians are far more likely to be denied their ability to purchase ammunition than criminals will be, but for now the idiotic and unconstitutional laws are once again being enforced.