So… I have received a ton of questions over the last few weeks regarding ammunition sales, and if we are going to even have ammunition available to us in California in 2019. I guess it is high time to address this:
A couple of years ago, the people of the Collective of California passed Proposition 63. There was also companion legislation called SB 1235… So, no worries, even if you had been successful in striking down Prop 63, our benevolent overlords would have put you in your place with 1235. Regardless, we have now decided that, in addition to weapons being regulated, our ammunition needs to be regulated as well.
The first concern was the fact that people could buy ammunition from an online vendor and have the ammunition shipped directly to their doors.
Well, we smacked that down right away! Starting in 2018, if you wanted to buy ammo online you would first have to ship it to an ammo vendor licensee. Then, he would hand it over to you. The irony is that the California Department of Justice gave us very few guidelines on how we were to actually do that.
Do we make purchasers sign forms? Do we take copies of their IDs? With literally no statutory language, and DOJ seeming to have better things to do than inform us, we came up with our own system.
The language of Prop 63 and SB 1235 does require something new and exciting which will take place this coming July, and that has many people concerned: electronic background checks at the time of transfer.
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There are times in our lives when we can see a train wreck in the making. Typically, when the government gets involved in something, the chances of this happening go up exponentially. What appears to be happening right now is a cosmic aligning of forces that will result in a disastrous purchasing process. This, of course, presupposes that the DOJ will be able to cobble together the necessary website interface before July. Based on its history with SB 880, there is no guarantee it will be successful. We will leave that for another blog though.
Two weeks ago, DOJ announced its proposed regulations, essentially, “This is how we think it should be done.” It envision three types of purchasers: regular purchasers, one-time purchasers, and exempt purchasers.
Let’s see how this plays out for all three:
If you are a regular aficionado of ammunition, you will want to get an ammunition purchaser’s card. At least I think it will be a card… but, basically, it will be the functional equivalent to a TSA pre-screening pass. Once you have this document… Oh, and by the way, we have no clue how long it will take to get one. Is this a one-day process? A one-month process? A one-year process? Hell… we still have clients who are waiting to get their assault weapons registration from DOJ!!! Anyhow, each time you purchase ammunition you will present your credentials. The guy behind the counter (sorry… the gender-neutral customer service agent behind the counter)… will input your information into a website. We think… and we stress “think”… that since you have gone through the hassle of getting the background check done first, you should get an instant “approved ammunition purchase” through the, as yet non-existent, website and off you go with your state-approved ammunition.
On the other hand…
Let’s say that you are not a regular connoisseur of ammunition. You are completely unaware of this new upcoming procedure, and yet you want to buy some ammunition for the big pumpkin shooting event in the desert next weekend. Off you go to the store, where you are promptly told by the clerk that you have been designated by the State as a one-time purchaser of ammunition. Without a clearance check you are only allowed to buy ammunition once every 30 days? Or can you buy multiple times in 30 days on the same background check done for the initial purchase? The proposed regulations are a little ambiguous. Worse, it is entirely possible that the meaning of the regulations could suggest that a check on an individual is good for only 30 days… but there is no time requirement for approval of the sale! Meaning, they could get back to you in 35 days that you are approved, but by then the time has expired on the initial check, and you have to start all over again… potentially ad infinitum.
How cute… Kafka wants some ammo.
As an ammo vendor, there is an additional problem. The way that the regulations state, it would appear that we are going to have a website very similar to our DROS system (we call it a DES platform). See, the thing is with the DROS / DES is when you buy a gun, you have a statutorily-mandated, ten-day waiting period. At the end of ten days, the “pending” button on the website literally changes to “approved,” “delayed,” or “denied”. The thing is, there is a predictability to it. You can DROS a gun on January 1st at 1200, and plan on coming in on January 10th at 1200 to pick up your gun.
With this ammo check system, there is no statutorily-mandated, ten-day period. The gender-neutral customer service agent puts in the information, and now must inform customers they should come back at some vague future time when the Collective has decided to bless (or not bless) the transaction.
The last group is the exempt individuals.
This one is frankly weird. There are a number of individuals who are exempt from this recording requirement, and the list of exemptions is not duplicative of the other exemptions of other areas of the ammo law. For instance, as an FFL holder… any type of FFL holder…. you are exempt from having to go through this. However, the same FFL holder is not exempt from the restrictions on transporting ammunition into the State of California. Why it went from restrictive on one side to expansive on the other is beyond me. Additionally, there are others who enjoy exemptions, but they have to prove their exemption. This is my favorite… being a LEO (law enforcement officer) is not enough anymore. You have to show your badge, but then you have to have a written letter from your mother, sorry… supervisor… stating that you should be exempt. We, as ammo vendors, need to make copies of said documents, and do something with them. I’m not joking when I say “something.” Since the officer, or FFL holder, is exempt, there is no need to go on the (as yet to be built) website. That means there is literally no record of the transaction with anyone. If we keep copies of the documents, who will know to look for them? If we destroy them, who will know that we did?
Federal officers… This one takes absurdity to the next level. It is a federal offense to photocopy a federal law enforcement officer’s ID. Why this is the case is beyond me… but it is. That means if we exempt a federal law enforcement officer out of this scheme, DOJ wants us to photocopy… wait for it… his business card!
Yep, so a business card generated by some guy on his computer might defeat this whole scheme.
There is actually a kind of elegance in that.