Judge considers background checks in California and anti-import rules for ammunition unconstitutional

Gina Ferazzi Los Angeles Times GUN owners must present their firearm registration and not be on a felon or seriously mentally ill list to purchase ammunition in California, according to the background check law that went into effect July 1.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Judge considers background checks in California and anti-import rules for ammunition unconstitutional

California politics, homepage news

Kevin Rector

January 31, 2024

A California law that requires people to submit to a background check every time they want to buy ammunition is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled in a decision made public Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez ruled that state laws prohibiting California buyers from purchasing and importing ammunition from out-of-state sellers also violated federal law.

Benitez barred the state from enforcing the laws in the future and denied a request from California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta’s office has decided to suspend his decision while the state appeals to a higher court.

The Judge Upending California’s Gun Laws: ‘Blessed’ Lawyer or ‘Stone-Cold Ideologue’?

Benitez, who has issued a long series of rulings against gun control measures in California in recent years, based his decision in part on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in the New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn. vs. Bruen. That decision said that gun laws that are not deeply rooted in American history, or analogous to some historical law, are generally unconstitutional.

“A sweeping background check imposed every time a citizen needs to purchase ammunition is an outlier that our ancestors would never have accepted for a citizen,” Benitez wrote.

Benitez also lambasted the state for trying to justify its modern ammunition restrictions under Bruen by citing 48 historic laws that restricted enslaved people and other racial minorities from owning ammunition.

“These 50 laws identified by the Attorney General constitute a long, embarrassing, disgusting, treasonous, and despicable list of examples of government tyranny against our own people,” Benitez wrote.

Lawyers for the state had not said they supported these racist laws, but disavowed them, saying they nevertheless provided a historical precedent for government restrictions on ammunition as required under Bruen.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, gun cases in California depend more on history than on modern threats

Bonta said in a statement Wednesday that his office will appeal Benitez’s decision to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking a ruling from that court that would keep Benitez’s decision from standing during the appeal is becoming.

Bonta said the Supreme Court was “clear that Bruen did not create a regulatory straitjacket for states,” and Benitez got the ruling wrong.

“These laws were put in place as a safeguard and a way to protect the people of California and they are working,” Bonta said. We will continue to fight for our authority to keep Californians safe.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom in his own statement called Benitez a “fanatical judge” and cited an earlier ruling in which Benitez partially overturned the state’s ban on assault weapons by comparing them to knives. That decision has also been appealed.

“Judge Benitez has once again put his personal politics and allegiance to the gun lobby over the Constitution and common sense,” Newsom said. “Guns loaded with bullets are the number one cause of death in America. California will fight this extremist, illogical and incoherent statement as we defend our lifesaving measures that are proven to keep our communities safe.”

Chuck Michel, an attorney for the plaintiffs who sued to overturn the laws, praised Benitez’s ruling.

“This law, like most gun control laws in California, has not made anyone safer. But it has made it much more difficult and expensive for law-abiding gun owners to exercise their Second Amendment right to defend themselves and their families,” Michel said. in a statement. “It has prevented many eligible people from getting the ammunition they need, which is the true political intent behind most of these laws.”

California voters first approved a measure in 2016 that required people to obtain a permit to purchase ammunition every four years, Proposition 63. The measure was put forward and championed by then-Lt. Gen. Gov. Nieuwsom.

California voters approve gun control measure Proposition 63

The California Legislature amended the measure under Senate Bill 1235 to require automated background checks on every ammunition purchase. That rule came into effect in 2019.

Benitez specified that his decision did not concern the voter-approved, four-year licensing scheme, but only the legislature’s requirement that background checks be conducted and paid for by the customer at the time of each purchase.

“Perhaps the simpler, four-year, $50 ammunition purchase permit approved by voters in Proposition 63 would have done better,” he wrote.

Benitez separately reiterated an earlier finding in the case that the state’s provisions against Californians purchasing and importing ammunition from other states violated federal trade law by favoring companies within California’s borders over their out-of-state competitors.

Benitez previously overturned California’s ban on assault weapons

it is his

ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines, decisions that the state is also fighting.

These decisions and his latest decision on Wednesday are all part of a wave of court rulings overturning gun control measures across the country in the wake of the Bruen decision.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Hot Topics

Related Articles