New York's Ammo Background Checks a Boon to Pennsylvania Gun Shops, But Danger Lurks in D.C.

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File

We’ve seen plenty of anecdotal evidence in New York that the state’s recent imposition of background checks on all ammunition purchases isn’t going well, from reports of lengthy delays and false denials to Empire State gun store owners complaining about a decline in business as customers choose to travel outside the state to stock up.


While many gun shops near the borders of Pennsylvania and Vermont are suffering, New York’s latest crackdown on lawful gun owners is proving to be a boon to FFLs in neighboring states.

Valley Gun Shop is just across the state line in North East Township. and owner Kory Edwards says business has been booming. “Probably half of my clientele are from Chautauqua County at any given day. But that number has increased to maybe 75%,” says Edwards.

But he has what he describes as a good problem: his inventory is dwindling. “New York State residents have been carrying it out here in bottles, and armloads and bagfuls. The ammunition has outsold firearms in the past couple of weeks, which is pretty unusual,” says Edwards. He says he wasn’t surprised the influx would happen, only at how much more New York customers have bought.

He says keeping that inventory up is challenging. “Distributors are limiting what I can buy. For instance, I bought some nine millimeter ammo to sell and I was limited to one case, which is 20 boxes, and that’ll go in one or two days,” explains Edwards. But he says some NYS gun shop owners are offering to sell Edwards their inventory of ammo because of the governor’s new laws.


Selling off their inventory to out-of-state FFLs may be the only way some New York gun shops can keep the lights on, especially if their location is anywhere near the state line.

With many gun owners doing an end-run around the state’s broken background check system, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Democrats in Albany borrow a page from their anti-gun counterparts in California and make it illegal for New Yorkers (or anyone else) to bring ammunition in from out-of-state. Sure, effective enforcement would be next to impossible, but when has that ever stopped the anti-gunners?

Of course, if the gun control lobby gets its way then the “out-of-state loophole” will soon be closed because background checks on ammo sales will be mandated by the federal government instead of the piecemeal approach that we’ve seen to date.

U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Representatives Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) introduced the Ammunition Modernization and Monitoring Oversight (AMMO) Act, legislation that would restrict bulk sales of ammunition, require businesses who sell ammunition to obtain the same federal license as firearm dealers, and require businesses to conduct a background check on ammunition buyers.

The AMMO Act would additionally extend the same prohibition on straw purchases of firearms to ammunition, restricting individuals from purchasing ammunition to then sell illegally to others and requiring data sharing on ammunition sales. Currently, there is essentially no federal regulation governing the sales of ammunition. Businesses are not required to possess licenses in order to sell ammunition and can sell to any buyer, in any quantity, without a background check, and with no recordkeeping or data sharing.


Under the newly introduced federal legislation, any purchase of more than 100 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition or more than 1,000 rounds of any other caliber of ammunition in any period of 5 consecutive days would be considered a “bulk sale”. Federal Ammunition Licensees who sell engage in a “bulk sale” could be subject to tens of thousands of dollars in fines, while anyone who lies about the amount of ammo they’ve purchased in a five-day period would be subject to a potential five years in federal prison.

There’s nothing in the AMMO Act that would update or expand the NICS system to account for a massive increase in background checks, so the delays and false denials that have plagued California and New York would be replicated on a nationwide scale if it ever became law. To the anti-2A zealots behind the AMMO Act that’s undoubtedly a feature, not a bug, but for gun owners the relatively simple process of purchasing ammunition would soon become a Kafkaesque nightmare of epic proportions.

Thankfully this monstrosity isn’t going anywhere at the moment, but if Democrats manage to seize control of Congress and keep the White House next year bills like the AMMO Act will be just the tip of a spear aimed at the heart of our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. There’ll be no escape for gun owners, and crossing state lines won’t make a difference, as it has for New York gun owners and Pennsylvania ammo sellers over the past two months.


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