February 25, 2024
California Flag Guns Gun Control
California Flag Guns Gun Control iStock 884191010

Californians have been free to purchase ammunition, much like the rest of the United States, from January 31, 2024 to February 5, 2024. On February 5, 2024, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit, in a split decision, granted a motion to stay the decision of the District Court by Judge Benitez. Judge Benitez found the ammunition law to be unconstitutional for a second time.

In 2016, voters in California approved a ballot measure known as Proposition 63. The proposition created a system where gun owners would apply for an ammunition permit, which would cost $50 and be good for four years.  Ammunition vendors would be required to check a California list of valid permits before approving a purchase.  This system never went into effect.

Before the election day, when Proposition 63 was voted on, the California legislature enacted Senate Bill 1235. The bill changed and eliminated Proposition 63, and put Bill 1235 in place. Bill 1235 required a background check every time ammunition was purchased, along with numerous other requirements, fees, and prohibitions. Bill 1235 was to go into effect on January 1, 2018. The bill was challenged in the courts as unconstitutional on April 26, 2018.  On April 23, 2020, Judge Benitez issued an order granting a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the law. On April 24, 2020, a three-judge panel granted a stay on implementing the preliminary injunction.

On June 24, 2022, the case was sent back to Judge Benitez to consider the impact of the Bruen decision at the Supreme Court. On January 30, 2024, Judge Benitez issued an order granting a permanent injunction to stop the enforcement of the unconstitutional ammunition law infringements. From the order:


The ammunition background checks laws have no historical pedigree and operate in such a way that they violate the Second Amendment right of citizens to keep and bear arms. The anti-importation components violate the dormant Commerce Clause and to the extent applicable to individuals travelling into California are preempted by 18 U.S.C. § 926A. Perhaps the simpler, 4-year and $50 ammunition purchase permit approved by the voters in Proposition 63, would have fared better.

Accordingly, the Court permanently enjoins the State of California from enforcing the ammunition sales background check provisions found in California Penal Code §§ 30352 and 30370(a) through (e), and the ammunition anti-importation provisions found in §§ 30312(a) and (b) and 30314(a). Criminal enforcement of California Penal Code §§ 30312(d), 30314(c), and 30365(a) by the Attorney General and all other law enforcement defendants is permanently enjoined.

The State of California (defendants) asked for a stay on the permanent injunction. Judge Benitez refused to grant a stay on January 31, 2024. The defendants appealed.

On February 5, 2024, an administrative three-judge panel granted a stay on the permanent injunction. The panel was split, two to one.

Californians have had a five-day period where they could purchase ammunition in ways similar to most of the residents of the United States. This case is far from over. The merits of the three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit may be appealed to. They could reverse the stay of the permanent injunction, returning California ammunition law to what it was before Bill 1235 was put into effect.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten

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