$50/Year Fee (+ Up to 30-Day Waiting Period) for Buying Ammunition?

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Eugene Volokh @ The Volokh Conspiracy:

That’s what California Senator Kevin De Leon, chair of the California Senate Democratic Caucus, is proposing in California (bill text). To buy ammunition, you’d need to submit an application with a fee (which will be up to $50), and wait up to 30 days while the state conducts a background check. And the permit would need to be renewed each year; as I read it, each renewal would require a new fee.

So say that you want to make sure that you keep up your target-shooting practice. (Recall that gun control proponents often stress the need for gun owners to be properly trained — a need that I certainly don’t deny.) You’d want to go to a shooting range, and unless you thoughtfully stocked up on ammunition beforehand, you’d need to buy some ammunition. That means you have to plan your shooting range trip up to 30 days in advance, and spend up to an extra $50 on the trip. Next year, you’d have to do the same (again, unless you thoughtfully just buy ammunition in bulk). Fifty bucks isn’t a big deal for me, of course, and it might not be for you. But for lots of people, $50 is a lot of money.

OK, now let’s say that I take to the range several friends who haven’t shot before — something I’ve often done, and I suspect something that is many people’s first introduction to guns. Fortunately, the law wouldn’t require each of them to pay up to $50 for a permit, or to go through a background check that would take up to 30 days. I could just buy the ammunition (which could easily run more than $100 for a night of target-shooting for several people).

But could they reimburse me, either by paying a share of the ammunition costs or by, for instance, paying for my range fees or my gun rental costs while I pay for their ammunition? Or would such reimbursement make me a regulated ammunition vendor, who has to in turn insist that they have ammunition licenses, on the theory that I’d be “any person, firm, corporation, dealer, or any other business enterprise that is engaged in the retail sale of any ammunition, or that holds itself out as engaged in the business of selling any ammunition”? (“Retail sale” is defined in various other California statutes as referring to sales other than wholesale sales, so nonprofessional sales would likely qualify.)

1. Let’s say that the answer is that such chipping in for ammunition or for range fees would be legal, and wouldn’t require that the other guests have ammunition licenses. Then anyone who wants to get ammunition could just show up at a range, work out an arrangement with someone by which he’ll take advantage of the other person’s ammunition permit while paying for the range fees, and then pocket however much ammunition he needs. Such arrangements would become normal (especially if they offer a financial advantage to the ammunition license holder), and wouldn’t even be that indicative of criminal design, since many law-abiding people would like to use them to save on the license fees or to avoid the license delay. This will be called the “gun range loophole,” and people will clamor to “close” it. But so long as it’s open people will be able to get their ammunition without even going to the black market.

2. Alternatively, let’s say that getting ammunition this way is prohibited. This means that people who want to take their friends to the range would have to pay for all the ammunition themselves — fine for me, but probably a significant burden to many poorer people. This in turn will make it harder for people to learn about shooting, and will on balance reduce law-abiding gun users’ experience and accuracy with guns.

And what would be the crime control payoff? Obviously not keeping ammunition out of the hands of gang members and other serious criminals; they could easily have someone buy the ammunition for them, and they would ignore any criminal penalties for redistribution of the ammunition just as they ignore all sorts of other laws.

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Curt served in the Marine Corps for four years and has been a law enforcement officer in Los Angeles for the last 24 years.

15 Responses to “$50/Year Fee (+ Up to 30-Day Waiting Period) for Buying Ammunition?”

  1. 1

    Nan G

    Another new reason to leave CA.
    The writer is correct that this law, if passed, will not prevent one criminal from getting what he needs to kill someone.
    In the East coast guns and ammo cross state lines illegally and often.

  2. 3


    The State would probably consider you a “straw buyer”.
    What is their definition of “ammunition”? Does it include reloading components?
    How many criminals reload?
    I foresee a great increase in the hobby of reloading in California.
    Message my broker to buy stock in Olin, etc.
    Too bad Lee is privately held.

  3. 5


    do they take the gun owners for fools?
    the gun owners have been buying stocks all year to get ready for this coming,

  4. 6

    Dave Brickner

    I love all the do-gooders who want someone ELSE’S son or daughter to enforce their stupid laws. I think they should come confiscate our guns themselves……………but they should probably watch out the last 300 yards….

  5. 8


    I have no sympathy for California, and would like to cut them off entirely from the Federal Teat so they can live their utopia without my Federal Tax dollars propping them up. But we all know that Liberals in California are not content to crap in their own back yards, they have to try and spread it around to every other state in the union. $50 is a lot for me in these times. I am lucky if I can afford to go shooting more than two or three times a year. Ammo has already doubled in price from 2008 to present and it seems that it may be going even higher with greedy state governors seeing this as a chance to tack on another fee to something they think most people will not oppose.

  6. 9

    MOS 8541

    In January, Senator Feinstein will introduce a bill to stop the sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition feeding devices. Ok, this guy was a jackass fool and did cocaine while working on SNL. Now the clown is a senator? Right. Now he is an expert on gun control. Wrong. HE was a poor comedian on SNL and a worse comedian as a sitting senator. What a joke….. as everyone knows-feces always floats to the surface, only to sink again, always leaving a stench.

  7. 12


    @ilovebeeswarzone: #5
    It’s not the gun owners in the area who have to worry. Showing the ones who own guns, also shows the ones who DON’T. The paper showed the ones who the crooks SHOULD target. That was one of the first things I thought of when I read the story. The paper only helps the crooks decide which houses to break into. It wouldn’t surprise me if there is a sharp rise in gun sales for the area. If I lived there, and didn’t own a gun, I would be getting one or more.

  8. 13


    yes, I did not see it that way, but your right it might bring the other kind of thief
    I was concentrating only on gun thief
    now that is funny, for me to not think of it,
    and you must have had a good laugh on me
    and anyone reading it too. y’all have a good laugh on me
    it’s okay, it’s part of the hollydays laughter right?
    I’M LAUGHING SO MUCH I cannot see my keys now.
    it’s even more funny by the serious answer you gave me.

  9. 14


    they will have the two breed of thiefs in there like the old wild west
    one different breed of thieft on each side of the street,
    too funny,
    they will laugh so much , they will get shot laughing

  10. 15


    @Aleric: #8
    Evidently, your governor hasn’t figured out that the increase in ammo sales means an automatic increase in sales tax revenue. Some politicians just aren’t happy with MORE revenue, they want a LOT MORE REVENUE. You’re welcome in Idaho any time. We LOVE gun owners.

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