[This is the final post in a 5 part series] – This week I’ve talked about microstamping and a new gun theft bill and how neither of these two pieces of legislation will do anything to make people safer. I’ve also talked about security problems with the CCW licenses that are issued here in California, and an easy solution to this issue. Today’s post is going to focus on AB 362, Assemblyman Kevin de Le√≥n’s proposal to restrict sales of ammunition and how he’s targeting the wrong people if he wants to actually make an impact. This will probably be the most controversial post I’ll make all week as I’m going to explain how if Assemblyman de Le√≥n wants to “keep bullets out of the hands of criminals and Gang-Bangers” he should not be focusing his attention on who is allowed to sell ammo, but rather who is allowed to buy it.
In the News Release Assemblyman de Le√≥n’s office released there is a quote from him asking “Why is it much harder to buy a pack of cigarettes than a case of handgun ammunition?” which is a little misleading and should be addressed before we go much further. In the state of California you must be 21 years of age to buy handgun ammo, but like alcohol (which you also need to be 21 yo to buy) it can be shelved in a store and picked up by a customer. Cigarettes, which you only need to be 18 yo to buy, are required to be shelved behind a counter where only a store employee can pick them up and give them to the customer after they are purchased. Something that should not be over looked is that 100% of cigarettes that are sold contribute to killing people. They contribute to killing the people who bought them, as well as they people nearby when they are used. Ammo on the other hand is statistically very safe. More than 99% of handgun ammo that is sold does not contribute to killing anyone, but rather ends up safely spent at gun ranges around the state or locked up in personal safes.
Not to mention that on it’s own, ammo is completely harmless – it needs to be combined with a gun AND someone with criminal intent before it becomes dangerous. The point is that it’s a very small percentage of people who purchase ammo who do anything illegal with it, and restricting the vast majority of legal buyers and sellers in hopes of catching a few of these criminals makes much less sense than focusing on those people with criminal intent to begin with. I think we can all agree that age is a pretty poor measure of judgment and just because someone is 21 does not mean they are responsible.
First of all, let’s look at what AB 362 wants to do. It proposes 5 things:
1) Only licensed dealers can sell ammo
2) All employees of licensed dealers must pass background checks.
3) Ammo must be stored behind the counter rather than on shelves in stores
4) Anyone buying ammo would have to present ID to prove they are over 21 years old
5) No internet sales of ammo.
Points 1 and 2 will do nothing except cause some stores to stop selling ammo. Do you think WalMart or big chain sporting goods stores are going to provide background checks of all employees? Not a chance. Point 3 is neither here nor there for me, but I can imagine for smaller, independently owned stores (the kind that would actually jump through the hoops of having all employees get background checks) this would be quite an imposition as relocating ammo, which takes up a great deal of store square footage, would probably require stores to be totally redesigned in many cases, at the expense of the business owner. Point 4 is redundant, as it’s already required that you be 21 to buy ammo, the addition of ID to the clause only verifies you are who you say you are – it says nothing about your skill, responsibility, or intent. Point 5 is potentially the most disruptive to legal gun owners because with literally hundreds of available calibers, internet stores are sometimes the only option for getting ammo for antique, rare, and collectible firearms as no stores keep these rarely purchased calibers in stock.
Let’s jump back to my point about age as the sole factor for someone to buy ammo. As I’ve already mentioned it’s already illegal to sell handgun ammo to someone under the age of 21, yet the majority of the gang related shootings Assemblyman de Le√≥n is trying to cut down on are committed by people under 21. We already know criminals are buying handguns illegally, but it’s probably safe to assume that some of the ammo used in crimes was bought legally and then given to someone who used it illegally. This is why the intent and responsibility of the person purchasing the ammo is far more important than who is selling it. A more reasonable solution would be to require someone purchasing ammo to meet some set requirements showing that they do not have any criminal history and understand the laws and safety issues relating to handguns. Setting up a new system for this would be a nightmare, luckily we already have a system in place that does just that.
To purchase a gun in CA you have to pass a background check, and obtain a Handgun Safety Certificate showing that you know the basics of handgun safety. However you do not need a background check to get a HSC, so that alone does not cover the bases. A license to carry a concealed weapon, or a CCW, does cover those bases. To get one you need to pass a detailed background check, pass several hours of classroom training, and pass several hours of range training showing you know how to safely and accurately use a handgun. I propose that in order to purchase ammo in the state of California a buyer must hold a valid CCW license. A requirement like this would be the strictest in the country, but would also take some very large steps to ensuring ammo would stay out of the wrong hands. As you know I’m a supporter of gun rights and CCW, but I’m also a proponent of training and education and think the more trained and trustworthy the people with weapons are the safer everyone else is. Assemblyman de Le√≥n should rewrite this bill dropping the restrictions on who can sell handgun ammo and instead focus on who can buy it.
Part 1: Guns, Gangs, and Making Crime Illegal
Part 2: Feuer’s Microstamping Bill Is Pointless
Part 3: California’s CCW Licenses Are Too Easy To Fake
Part 4: The Art of Turning Victims Into Criminals