Some good news about California ammo laws

In 2016, California voters passed Proposition 63. It, in conjunction with related legislation, requires that — among other things, like banning the mere possession of magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds — ammunition buyers undergo a background check prior to buying ammunition in California.

Until 2019, the background check information is conducted by the state, but the only records are kept by the local dealer. Starting in 2019, ammunition purchases from dealers are required to be registered with the state, just like gun purchases.

In addition, direct ship-to-home purchases are forbidden, though one can have ammo ordered and delivered to a local dealer who handles the background check and state registration, as well as the collection of relevant state sales tax. Importing ammo from other states is a misdemeanor, if caught.

As someone who values both my gun rights, my privacy, and the convenience of online ordering, this is a major issue.

Fortunately, the relevant section of law has several exceptions, which I discovered today (other, more informed people likely knew of this long ago but it’s new to me). Let’s look at the relevant section of the California Penal Code:

30312.

[Skipping over part (a).]

(b) Commencing January 1, 2018, the sale, delivery, or transfer of ownership of ammunition by any party may only occur in a face-to-face transaction with the seller, deliverer, or transferor, provided, however, that ammunition may be purchased or acquired over the Internet or through other means of remote ordering if a licensed ammunition vendor initially receives the ammunition and processes the transaction in compliance with this section and Article 3 (commencing with Section 30342) of Chapter 1 of Division 10 of Title 4 of this part.

In short: you can order ammo online, but it needs to go to a local dealer who needs to do the background check, state registration, etc. That’s a pain, but it still leaves the option open for those who are willing to jump through the hoops — they could have forbidden all online sales entirely.

(c) Subdivisions (a) and (b) shall not apply to the sale, delivery, or transfer of ammunition to any of the following:

Following is a long list of exceptions, such as exempting police departments, individual police officers (my non-lawyerly interpretation is that it exempts individual police officers, even if they buy ammo for personal use, so long as they are authorized to carry a firearm in the course and scope of their duties), federally-licensed ammo importers or manufacturers, FFL (including standard 01 FFL and C&R 03 FFL) holders residing outside the state (though why they’d need CA approval if they’re not in CA is beyond me), target ranges (so long as the ammo is kept on the range at all times), training facilities for police, etc.

Of particular interest is this section:

(6) A person who is licensed as a collector of firearms pursuant to Chapter 44 (commencing with Section 921) of Title 18 of the United States Code and the regulations issued pursuant thereto, whose licensed premises are within this state, and who has a current certificate of eligibility issued by the Department of Justice pursuant to Section 26710.

What’s this? Someone who has a C&R 03 FFL (which costs $30 for 3 years) and who has a $22/year (plus a ~$100 first-year fee) “Certificate of Eligibility” from the state of California is exempt from that law and can order ammo directly to one’s home without having to undergo an annoying background check at each sale, and with the state being none the wiser about what ammo one’s buying?

I asked several major ammo vendors who sell online, and they said their lawyers confirmed my interpretation of the law. Great!

But what is the “Certificate of Eligibility”? According to the state, it’s a document that “certifies the Department of Justice (DOJ) has checked its records and determined the recipient is not prohibited from acquiring or possessing firearms at the time the firearms eligibility criminal background check was performed”. It is required for “prospective licensed firearms dealers, licensed ammunition vendors, manufacturers, certified instructors, gun show promoters [WTF? -AZR], explosive permit holders, and other firearm related employment activities”. In short, you get the background check done ahead of time and you’re good to go for a year without needing to deal with the hassles the whole time.

Sure, the local police department is informed about one possessing a C&R 03 FFL, but no action is required on their part and it likely just disappears into some file somewhere or gets thrown out. The state also knows one has a Certificate of Eligibility, but so long as one orders ammo for delivery, they don’t get any information about individual purchases.

Unfortunately, even those with CoEs are required to do the full background check and registration when buying ammo at retail dealers.

These laws are a huge hassle and, while I loathe the fact that a C&R 03 FFL and CoE are required to bypass the absurd background check and state registration of ammo purchases (which ended up costing the state $25 million to start, plus unspecified ongoing costs — hooray bureaucracy!), the fact that one can bypass those absurd requirements with relatively minimal hassle and cost is at least some relief. In addition, one can personally import ammo from other states (e.g., in the trunk of a car) if one has a C&R 03 FFL and CoE.

I already planned on getting a C&R 03 FFL, as I had before I left the country, and getting a CoE means the state gets even less information about me than if I didn’t have one, so that’s not too bad as far as California goes.

RSS Feed Oops

I was recently fiddling with some options on the blog and ended up introducing an error into the RSS feed. The error was minor (a blank line on the first line of the feed) and many (but not all) RSS readers end up automatically compensating for it, but it may have caused issues for some readers.

I’ve corrected it and it everything should be back to normal. Mea culpa.

NPR: “Science Provides Few Facts On Effects Of Gun Policies, Report Finds”

This article from NPR is interesting, as it refers to a recent study from the RAND Corporation (rather than some gun-control think tank) about what gun policies actually work to reduce violent crime.

The article can be summed up by the line, “The nonprofit RAND Corporation analyzed thousands of studies and found only 63 that establish a causal relationship between specific gun policies and outcomes such as reductions in homicide and suicide.”

Let’s go through the meat of the article:

“Most of the effects that we were looking for evidence on, we didn’t find any evidence,” says Andrew Morral, a behavioral scientist at RAND and the leader of the project.

This isn’t surprising: in general, criminals don’t follow laws, so gun control means little to them.

They found, for example, no clear evidence regarding the effects of any gun policies on hunting and recreational gun use, or on officer-involved shootings, or on mass shootings or on the defensive use of guns by civilians.

Again, not particularly surprising: most gun laws don’t seek to restrict hunting (other than basic things like hunting season times, restrictions on certain prey, etc.) or recreational gun use.

Officer-involved shootings and defensive gun uses by civilians (note: police officers are also civilians) are usually explicitly permitted by law in life-threatening situations, so I don’t really see the relevance.

The point about mass shootings isn’t unexpected: mass shooters tend to plan their attacks meticulously for a long period of time and are very detail-focused. All the “common sense gun laws” like waiting periods, background checks, etc. wouldn’t have any effect on someone willing to plan and wait as needed.

There were some categories with better data, however, Morral says. There is relatively strong evidence, for example, that policies meant to prevent children from getting access to firearms — such as laws that require guns to be stored unloaded, or in locked containers — reduce both suicide and unintentional injury and death.

Makes sense. Leaving loaded guns lying openly around the house when there’s kids or irresponsible adults around is an invitation to disaster. Fortunately, this is quite rare.

Guns should be secured when not under the immediate control of the owner.

Previous work has also found that places that require a permit (issued by law enforcement) for the purchase a firearm do reduce violent crime.

This surprised me a bit, but I’m curious how that works out: I suspect that criminals of any sort don’t end up getting permits, and that permit holders don’t commit much crime.

[a few minutes elapse as I read the linked study, available as a PDF]

Ok, the study basically says that if a state requires permits to purchase a gun, guns are less likely to end up being diverted to criminals. I wonder how much of this is psychological, in that the would-be straw purchaser is a bit more concerned that their name and fingerprints are “in the system” once they get a permit, even though their information is kept on the Form 4473 during a retail purchase anyway. Either way, permits should never be required for a constitutionally-protected right.

There is also some evidence that prohibitions against purchase by people who have been diagnosed with mental illness reduce violent crime, and that “stand your ground” laws, which allow citizens who feel threatened in public to use lethal force without retreating first, lead to an increase in violent crime.

As for mental health, that’s expected. As for stand your ground laws, the issue is not so much an increase in violent crime, as reported by NPR in this article, but an increase in homicides. How a homicide is classified — as a justifiable homicide, for example, or an unlawful homicide — is dependent on how police classify shootings. From an earlier NPR article on the topic, “Police guidelines likely vary from state to state, and police in different places may be interpreting shootings differently in light of stand your ground laws.”

Also interesting is the results of a survey of 95 gun policy experts “from across the political spectrum”, who they asked for their thoughts on effects of various policies including “universal background checks, bans on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, expanded mental illness prohibitions, minimum age requirements and required reporting of lost or stolen weapons”.

The vast majority of the specialists RAND surveyed agreed that the primary objectives of gun policies should be reducing suicides and homicides, and that protecting privacy, enabling hunting and sport shooting and preventing mass shootings were secondary priorities.

“That was a surprise, actually,” says Morral. “I think people on either side of gun policy debates think that the other side has misplaced values — or that it’s a values problem, in any case. But that’s not what we find. We find people prioritize the same things in the same order.”

However, those surveyed varied widely in their predictions about how different policies would affect each outcome.

“Where they disagree is on which laws will achieve those those objectives. So this is a disagreement about facts,” says Morral. “And the facts are sparse.”

So, no surprises there. Still, it’s an interesting study and I recommend you read it.

“Gun Control, Duck Vaginas, and Why Your Opinion Might Not Matter”

The title for this article is so great that I couldn’t help but reproduce it here.

Here’s the best part:

Lastly, I’ll note that recently we saw a popular cry of “No vagina, no vote” regarding women’s health issues. I personally agreed with this position 100%. If you cannot be affected by a proposed piece of medical legislation for the opposite gender, and are functionally ignorant on the topic, you clearly have no business telling a woman what to do with her reproductive organs, let alone a duck.

So the next time you hear people talking about Assault Weapons, ask them to define that term, because it’s got a different definition in almost every piece of legislation regulating them. Sometimes it includes handguns, sometimes it doesn’t. Bayonet lugs? 30 round magazines? Does the stock fold? Do they even know what they’re talking about? Do you? Are you informed enough to have a worthwhile opinion, or are you just repeating things you’ve heard that fit your preconceptions?

If you don’t know anything about guns, and won’t be personally impacted by legislation controlling them because you don’t want to own any, do you even deserve a voice in this debate?

Good advice in general.