Skip to comments.Judge blocks state handgun ammo law
Posted on 01/20/2011 1:33:32 AM PST by South40
Fresno jurist says statute was "unconstitutionally vague"
A Fresno County Superior Court judge has blocked a pending state law that would have required Californians to provide a thumbprint and photo identification when buying handgun ammunition.
Judge Jeffrey Hamilton ruled from the bench late Tuesday that the law scheduled to go into effect Feb. 1 was unconstitutionally vague.
Gun-rights groups had argued that some types of ammunition can be used in both handguns and rifles, making enforcement and compliance a challenge.
One of those making that case is Marc Halcon, owner of the American Shooting Center in San Diego.
When legislation is passed that doesnt give clear guidance, you are making it much more difficult to make heads or tails of it, said Halcon, who is also president of the California Association of Firearms.
The ruling frustrated state Sen. Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat and author of the law.
This Republican judge decided his personal ideology was more important than the safety of kids and police officers, de Leon said in an interview Wednesday.
Using the judges reasoning, de Leon continued, a separate law banning the sale of cop-killer bullets that can penetrate body armor should also be tossed.
At issue is language in the law that bars sales of ammunition principally for use in handguns without a thumbprint and ID.
The laws objective, de Leon said, was to aid investigations and potentially prevent crime by making it easier for police to track criminals already barred from owning handguns who buy ammunition.
The ruling comes from a judge generally considered conservative. An appeal is likely, although new Attorney General Kamala Harris has not made a final determination.
We will decide in the next few days, said Jim Finefrock, her spokesman.
Harris is a Democrat and former San Francisco district attorney with a reputation for supporting tighter gun control. Gov. Jerry Brown, when he was the states attorney general, defended the law.
Gun-rights advocates hailed the judges decision.
Its good news for the state, said Halcon, fearing customers would just buy ammunition elsewhere. Had the ruling gone the other way you would have seen another decrease in tax revenue for the state which we cannot afford right now.
Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed de Leons Assembly Bill 962 in 2009, but implementation was purposely delayed to give dealers and law enforcement time to adapt.
If implemented, the law would have imposed the strictest handgun ammunition purchase regulations of all states.
It also would have required Californians buying handgun ammunition over the Internet or by mail order to have it shipped to a licensed vendor. There, buyers would still have to provide the thumbprint, ID and other information.
Dealers would have had to keep those records on who buys the ammunition, how much and which type for five years. Also ammunition must be stored in areas only accessible to employees,
Violations were to be treated as misdemeanors, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
California law mandates background checks and a 10-day waiting period for those buying handguns, among other restrictions. But there are no restraints on handgun ammunition sales.
Halcon said one of his clerks talked to the attorney generals office seeking forms and other guidance just last week.
Their comment was, and I quote, Wing it. They had no idea either how to enforce it, how to apply it or how to interpret it, said Halcon, who was attending a gun trade show in Las Vegas.
The lawsuit was brought by former Tehama County Sheriff Clay Parker, who in court papers said it was too vague to enforce.
His attorney, Chuck Michel, said in an e-mail:
All this ill-conceived and incomprehensible law would have done is impose costly burdens on police and ammunition sellers, It would not have stopped violent criminals from getting ammunition. What it might have done is made accidental criminals out of good people who couldnt determine their legal obligations.
Sen. de Leon disputes that argument, saying that aggressive police investigations using data retrieved from gun shops can lead to known criminals and gang members.
Sacramento police armed with a similar city ordinance found that 151 ex-felons had bought ammunition, including 15 known gang members, four sex offenders and two who spent time behind bars for murder, according to statistics between Jan. 16, 2008 and June 1, 2009.
Police could use the information to learn who is buying large quantities of ammunition to resell on the black market, de Leon added.
De Leon said he tried to answer vagueness complaints through legislation to refine definitions already in a 30-year-code, but gun groups defeated the bill last year.
Judge Hamilton issued his ruling orally during a hearing earlier this week and indicated a written order would be released, most likely Friday as part of a routine follow-up proceeding.
Of course it did. It thwarted his effort to subvert the Constitution.
The point is the law is intentionally vague and no person should be compelled to guess how to comply with a law. Because if you have to do that, its a lottery crap shoot as to when you break it and that inevitably leads to selective law enforcement and prosecution. Sen. Kevin De Leon is welcome to write a better statute but I doubt he can overcome the real problems that killed it in the courts.
That's the best argument they could come up with? So, presumably, all they would have to do is change the law to read all ammunition and it will be just hunky-dory.
Sure... you can ban ALL ammo sales. Then the gun banners like Sen. de Leon lose the support of law enforcement. They can’t square the circle on that one.
Easy enough for Cali folks to drive to a neighboring state to buy ammo.
Next the CA inspection stations will be checking for ammo in addition to food inspection.
And watch the black market...
Yes... Yes it should. IIRC, the "cop-killer" bullet ban uses nearly identical language; "ammunition 'principally for use' in handguns". de Leon's law failed because the State could not define "ammunition principally for use in handguns". My understanding is that the State could only identify .25 ACP as a caliber "principally for use in handguns". No other popular handgun caliber could be identified as such. For all others, rifles and carbines could be found chambered in those calibers.
OK... I may have added just a little bit to the original citation.
What rifles are chambered for .32auto, also known as the 7.65mm cartridge (used in James Bond's Walther PPK), or for the .380auto?
I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen inexpensive (read: kinda crappy) carbines in both calibers. They may not have been big sellers, but their existence was more than enough to scuttle the State’s case. AB962 is a perfect example of what happens when those who do not understand firearms are permitted to write laws governing firearms.