In an important victory for California gun owners, the Fresno Superior Court ruled today that California's new ammunition regulation law is unconstitutional, and blocked further enforcement.
The law, passed last year as AB 962, would have banned mail order ammunition sales and required all purchases of so called “handgun ammunition” to be registered. In an unwritten ruling from the bench, Judge Jeffrey Hamilton found the law unconstitutionally vague on its face and issued an injunction against its enforcement. For now, at least, mail order ammunition sales to California residents can continue, and ammunition sales need not be registered under the law.
The lawsuit—funded by the National Rifle Association and the California Rifle and Pistol (CRPA) Foundation as part of a joint Legal Action Project—was prompted in part by the many objections and questions raised by confused police, ammunition purchasers, and sellers about what ammunition is covered by the new law. Plaintiffs in the case include Tehama County Sheriff Clay Parker, the CRPA Foundation, Herb Bauer Sporting Goods, ammunition shipper Able’s Ammo, collectible ammunition shipper RTG Sporting Collectibles, and individual Steven Stonecipher. Mendocino Sheriff Tom Allman also supported the lawsuit.
The ruling comes just days before the ban on mail order sales of so called “handgun ammunition” was set to take effect. Many of the nation's largest mail-order and online ammunition retailers had already announced that they would soon end sales to California residents. If the law had gone into effect, it would have required that “handgun ammunition” be stored out of the reach of customers, that ammunition vendors collect ammunition sales registration information and thumbprints from purchasers, and that vendors conduct transactions face to face for all deliveries and transfers of “handgun ammunition.”
Fortunately, the court agreed that AB 962 is unconstitutionally vague on its face because it fails to provide sufficient legal notice of what ammunition cartridges are “principally for use in a handgun,” and therefore regulated as "handgun ammunition" under AB 962. The law gives no explanation of how to determine what cartridges are "principally for use in” handguns.
The state is likely to appeal this important victory, and anti-gun lawmakers in Sacramento will undoubtedly try again to destroy lawful ammunition sales in California. Only the ongoing support and activism of California gun owners can block those efforts, so please watch your e-mail alerts and visit www.nraila.org for updates on this critically important issue.