Judge Blocks California Ammunition Background Check Requirement

A federal judge blocked California's background check requirement for ammunition purchases, calling it "onerous," unconstitutional and that "the rights of California citizens have been gravely injured."

Judge Blocks California Ammunition Background Check Requirement

Update, April 25, 1:15 p.m. — Two 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges have issued a stay of U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez's injunction tossing California's requirement for background checks on ammunition purchases.

A request from the State of California was made for an immediate administrative stay was heard by judges Mary H. Murguia and Mark J. Bennett. 

Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle & Pistol Association, tweeted: "We will fight on for freedom. This case is not over." The CRPA and Kim Rhode are plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the State of California.

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A federal judge blocked California's requirement for background checks for ammunition purchases, calling it "onerous," unconstitutional and that "the rights of California citizens have been gravely injured."

U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez called the "experiment" damaging to law-abiding gun owners and that "casualties have been counted." He said in the seven months since implementation, "the standard background check rejected citizen-residents who are not prohibited persons approximately 16.4% of the time."

Benitez serves in the Southern District in San Diego. His 120-page ruling blocks the state's program, which opponents had called over-reaching and a violation of Second Amendment rights. The plaintiffs' group was led by the California Rifle & Pistol Association and Kim Rhode, a California resident and 6-time Olympic medalist in skeet and trap events. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was the defendant.

The Sacramento Bee reported the state's program "prevented nearly one in five law-abiding gun owners from purchasing ammunition because of database glitches and other record-keeping problems."

Benitez said in his ruling that California officials used the program to “systematically prohibit or deter an untold number of law-abiding California citizen-residents from undergoing the required background checks.”

“The experiment has been tried. The casualties have been counted. California’s new ammunition background check law misfires and the Second Amendment rights of California citizens have been gravely injured,” he added.

Benitez also said California's prohibition about purchasing ammunition from out of state violates the Commerce Clause. From his ruling:

The purported state interest to be achieved by these new laws is keeping ammunition out of the hands of prohibited Californians. These new laws are constitutionally defective for several reasons. First, criminals, tyrants, and terrorists don’t do background checks. The background check experiment defies common sense while unduly and severely burdening the Second Amendment rights of every responsible, gun-owning citizen desiring to lawfully buy ammunition. Second, the implementing regulations systematically prohibit or deter an untold number of law-abiding California citizen-residents from undergoing the required background checks. Third, in the seven months since implementation, the standard background check rejected citizen-residents who are not prohibited persons approximately 16.4 % of the time. Fourth, the ammunition anti-importation laws directly violate the federal dormant Commerce Clause. 

Benitez also blocked California’s ban on high-capacity magazines in 2019.

California was the first state to require a background check every time ammunition was purchased. New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey have background check requirements for anyone seeking a license to buy firearms or ammunition.

California officials said they are reviewing the case and whether to appeal Benitez's ruling, which took effect immediately. Ammunition sales surged including online; AmmoDepot.com said it would put Golden State buyers at priority for fulfillment and shipping.

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