by JEFFREY A. VOLBERG, Director of Water Law and Policy
The last of the ammunition restrictions approved by California lawmakers and voters in 2016 go into effect this summer, spelling significant changes for hunters.
People who have purchased firearms recently should have no problem buying ammunition, but the transactions will take longer and cost more, all purchases will be recorded and the records will be available to law enforcement.
All ammunition purchases must be approved by the California Department of Justice starting July 1. A purchaser will pay a $1 fee for a background check – an amount that can be adjusted for inflation – and provide his or her name, date of birth, current address and driver’s license or other government identification number.
A purchase will be authorized if the purchaser’s information matches an entry in the department’s Automated Firearms System (AFS). A person who is approved by the department to purchase a firearm may also buy ammunition as part of the same transaction. The department was required to issue regulations regarding ammunition sales in 2017, but failed to do so. Draft regulations were issued in December, but these are incomplete and are not yet finalized.
Anyone who has purchased any firearm in California since 2014, when the state began saving information on long gun transactions, is probably in the AFS. A person who has not purchased a firearm since 2014 may voluntarily register a long gun in order to be included in the AFS. This may have some additional benefits because some penalties for misuse of a firearm are less for a registered firearm than for an unregistered firearm.
A person may also obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the department that will involve a background check. This process will allow a person to purchase ammunition without having a firearm registered in the AFS, but could take up to 10 days.
A person who has been denied because he or she is not in the AFS may still apply to make a one-time ammunition purchase. The fee will be $19 to pay for an instant background check through the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), similar to a background check for a firearm purchase.
Records of sales must include the date of sale; the purchaser’s name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, date of birth and signature; the brand, type and amount of ammunition; and the name of the salesperson. The records must be kept confidential and can only be accessed by law enforcement for investigations. The records must be kept for a minimum of five years.
PEOPLE EXEMPT FROM THE PROCESS INCLUDE:
- A federal firearms licensee.
- A person with a written authorization from the head of a law enforcement agency (sheriff or police chief).
- A sworn peace officer.
- A sworn federal law enforcement officer.
NEW AMMUNITION REGULATIONS ALREADY IN EFFECT REQUIRE:
- Commercial sellers of ammunition and non-commercial sellers who sell more than 500 rounds per year to have an ammunition vendor license.
- Ammunition vendors to store ammunition where customers may not access it without assistance from the ammunition vendor or an employee.
- Employees of an ammunition vendor to be approved by the Department of Justice and have a Certificate of Eligibility to handle ammunition.
- Private transfers of ammunition to be completed through a licensed ammunition vendor. If a transferee is prohibited from possessing ammunition, the ammunition vendor must return the ammunition to the transferor. However, hunters can still share ammunition in the field.
- All transactions involving ammunition to be conducted face to face. Ammunition purchased over the internet or by phone must be first delivered to an ammunition vendor, and the purchaser must pick it up in a face-to-face transaction.
- Ammunition purchased out of state to be delivered first to a licensed vendor in California. Records of sales must include the date of sale; the purchaser’s name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, date of birth and signature; the brand, type and amount of ammunition; and the name of the salesperson. The records must be kept confidential and can only be accessed by law enforcement for investigations. The records must be kept for a minimum of five years.