This year saw a series of new gun laws including background checks to buy ammunition and required range time for concealed carry weapon (CCW) permit holders.
Proposition 63, passed in 2016, requires background checks for ammunition purchases and prohibits possession of large-capacity magazines. While the U.S. District Court for Southern California blocked the large-capacity magazine section of the proposition, the background checks to purchase ammunition went into effect on July 1.
“We had no training, no lead-way and couldn’t read anything regarding the new law prior to July 1st,” said Emile Mogannam, owner of the Rusty Knife in Arnold, a firearms, ammunition and knife shop. “It simply wasn’t available to us.”
Mogannam saw a relatively brusque business of ammo sales leading up to July 1.
Under the new law, there is no limit to the amount or caliber of ammunition – including snake shot – one can buy, and currently there is no need to show proof of gun ownership.
However, to purchase ammunition, an eligibility check must be completed at a licensed firearms dealer that will cross-reference with the California Automated Firearms System (AFS) as well as the Prohibited Armed Persons File (PAPF) to check for eligibility. This is done with a valid California driver’s license or a federally compliant identification that does not state “Federal Limits Apply.”
Each time a person wishes to purchase ammunition, he or she must complete an eligibility check that costs $1. If the eligibility check is denied, the buyer must complete a background check that costs $19. If the background check is approved, then the purchaser must once again complete an eligibility check, again, at the cost of $1.
“It’s not required to show proof of gun ownership yet,” said Michael Oliveira, owner of Forensic Consultant Services, and a certified firearms instructor. “And it is not possible to track ammo purchased by one person to be used by another.”
Additional requirements for illegal possession of firearms and/or ammunition within the bill created a redundancy with existing laws.
Verbiage within Proposition 63 enacted a court process that attempted to ensure prohibited individuals do not continue to have firearms. The measure requires courts to inform individuals prohibited from owning firearms that they must turn their firearms over to local law enforcement, sell their firearms to a licensed dealer or give their firearms to a dealer for storage. This process also requires probation officers to check and report on what prohibited individuals did with their firearms.
Infractions include, but are not limited to purchasing ammunition out-of-state and bringing it across states lines and not reporting to local law enforcement the theft of personal ammunition within five days.
Proposition 63 also made stealing a gun, including one valued at less than $950, a felony punishable by up to three years in prison.
Additional responsibility is placed on the sellers’ shoulders as they are required to obtain and hold a license from the California Department of Justice to sell ammunition. If a licensed dealer fails to comply with the licensing requirements, they face a misdemeanor penalty.
The range time now required for “carry concealed weapons” (CCW) permit holders came into effect Jan. 1, 2019. This requires all CCW permit holders to fire a minimum of 30 rounds at varying distances with each firearm listed on the permit with 80% proficiency.
“Responsible gun owners should train with their firearms,” Oliveira said, further stating that it is not uncommon for a firearm owner to expend 300 to 500 rounds of ammunition per month, keeping their firearm skills at peak levels.
Oliveira, a stickler for safety, said, “If you are going to own a gun, you better know how to use it, and more importantly, know how to secure it.”
“The CCW range requirements, I think, it is definitely a good thing,” said Scott Ellis, chief of the Angels Camp Police Department. “Weapon proficiency and safety is very important and without some sort of hands-on range qualification, we just don’t know whether the person in possession of the firearm can handle it in a safe manner without endangering others.”
This thought was reiterated by Calaveras County Sheriff Rick DiBasilio.
“I think this is a good idea, as it requires that the applicant show they can proficiently manipulate every firearm they want listed on their permit,” he said.
While it is not known if Proposition 63 will reduce crime, it has been met with criticism from local law enforcement.
“I believe that there are enough gun laws on the books that pretty much cover the gamut of safety concerns,” Ellis said. “The biggest problem is not the possession of firearms by law-abiding citizens; it is the possession of firearms by criminals, which the California Penal Code clearly addresses. More laws just muddy the waters and make it more difficult on those attempting to legally purchase or possess weapons.”
Lawmakers “know bad guys don’t go to gun shops,” Mogannam said. “They (criminals) can get weapons and ammunition if they want; they can also unmodify the state-required modifications on guns. This is a cat-and-mouse game – bad people will be bad people.”