Legally avoiding CA’s ammo background check law

Starting July 1st, California is requiring background checks on ammunition orders. Direct-to-buyer online sales are also banned for most people, though one can arrange to have the order sent to a local shop who’ll charge a fee for receiving it and administering the background check.

Were it just a standard background check, it’d be an annoying infringement on one’s rights, but pretty par for the course for California.

But it’s not. From the article,

The state Department of Justice, which will administer the background check program, estimates there will be 13.2 million ammunition purchases each year. But 13 million will be by people who already cleared background checks when they bought guns in California, so they are already registered in the state’s gun owners’ database.

They will pay a $1 processing fee each time they pick up bullets or shotgun shells.

[…] [O]wners of unregistered weapons will have to pay $19 for a one-time background check that can take days to complete and is good for a single purchase within 30 days. Wilcox said that should encourage owners to register their firearms.

That’s pretty sneaky: they rely on the fact that people are lazy and cheap and so are more likely to register their guns if it’s cheaper and faster for them to buy ammo if they do. Plus, the state knows how often one’s buying ammo and I’d be surprised if they weren’t analyzing those records for various purposes.

Fortunately, one can avoid this requirement by simply getting a C&R FFL and a state-issued Certificate of Eligibility (which is basically a document saying “I passed a NICS check!”) to continue to buy ammo online without needing to check in with the state for each purchase.

I highly recommend doing this.

7 thoughts on “Legally avoiding CA’s ammo background check law”

  1. Yes, but the FFL opens your home (if you conduct your business from your home) to the state. One’s FFL authorizes the state to waltz into your private abode. When they enter to audit your books what else will they see?

    1. In reviewing your past postings I see I made a similar comment in March 2018. The following is from your response to my comment back then;

      “It’s true that California law requires that those in the firearms business must have a COE, but there’s nothing I can find that says that those with a COE must be in the firearms business, or that the address listed on the COE becomes a place of business into which the state can enter at any time.”

      You mention that you are not a lawyer. Neither am I. But I will relate the point you make here to something of which I am familiar, namely the FAA regulation on commercial practices (or, what constitutes a commercial enterprise).

      Paraphrased, the federal regulation is that whether you make a profit, whether you even have a single customer, the FAA assumes the certificate holder is in practice of ‘holding out’ (offering their services) to the general public, therefore is a commercial enterprise for which certain certificates must be held.

      So, in that vein, having a COE would be considered intent to engage in business practices. I reckon ten lawyers would provide ten differing opinions on this subject. As for me, I wish to give zero reason to grant allowance to the state. It is the state which made this condition necessary.

      To be clear, my limit of tolerance is exceeded only by the agency of the state.

      1. The ATF is not the FAA, and a C&R is specifically forbidden by law from engaging in business.

        I definitely appreciate your concern (not to mention your readership), and it was something I was concerned about too prior to my getting my C&R many years ago. Fortunately, my concern was unfounded.

        1. I muddled my comment when I did not mention my concern about the contents of your quote in my comment of June 27 at 12:27PM.

          To wit, the law makes a ‘positive declaration’ (my term) which says you must have the COE to conduct business, whereas you looked for a ‘negative declaration’ wherein the law might say, ‘sure, holding the COE does not mean you must do business’.

          I don’t mean to be a jerk but it seems that would be like having a driver’s license and looking for where it says it’s okay not to drive even though you hold the license.

          (I’ve had a rough day, if that sounds like me being a jerk I apologize and will take my lumps.)

          And, as for visiting your blog, I am happy to read as much as I can so I may become more learned and informed. As long as you fulfill the requirement, I will visit. Thank you for your efforts in what you do. And thank you for your replies. On the subject at hand you have given incentive to renew my interest in the COE/C&R.

    2. A C&R is explicitly only for individuals not engaged in business. It does not carry the same privacy implications of a dealer or manufacturer FFL.

      The ATF can audit a C&R licensee’s bound book and the firearms listed therein, however it’s up to the licensee where the audit takes place: either at the licensed premises or at the local ATF office. This is defined by law.

      In short, merely having a C&R does not open your home up to government meddling.

      The CoE merely states that one is not a prohibited person, and has no other implications as to privacy. It does not imply one is running a business and does not open one’s house for search.

      There are examples on calguns.net of C&R+CoE holders getting their C&R records audited (usually to clear up a discrepancy with an 01 FFLs books), and they simply went to the local ATF office and did the audit there.

      If you’re particularly concerned for some reason, I’d recommend consulting a lawyer.

      Personally, I’m way more concerned about the state keeping records of my ammo buying habits with the retail check, rather than them simply knowing I have a CoE (which doesn’t even tell them I have guns or ammo at all). Your mileage may vary.

  2. A tangential subject: will the COE/FFL holder always enjoy the privilege of determining the time and place of how the state examines their books? That is, if they show up at your door, what do you expect to happen if you turn them away while offering a time and place off your premises? Field agents have a certain discretion of how they conduct their duties. Will every agent be as accommodating as you hope?

    1. Unless the law changes, it’s not up to the field agent. A C&R licensee can choose, at their discretion, to have any audit done at the field office.

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