Legislators for years have tried regulating firearms to protect people from getting shot, but on Monday, California Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) unveiled a different approach, announcing a bill that would restrict the sale of bullets.
In a press conference attended by more than a dozen gun control advocates, religious leaders, educators and other activists, the legislators said their bill would help prevent murders like the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
"When we have so many safeguards in place around the purchase of guns, why is it so much easier to buy bullets?" asked Skinner. "It is easier in California to buy bullets than to buy alcohol, cigarettes or Sudafed cold medicine."
The bill is meeting opposition. Sam Paredes, executive director of the Gun Owners of California told KQED's Mina Kim that high-capacity magazines are not being used in very many California crimes.
"We don’t have a gun problem in California or in America," he said. "We have a people problem that nobody wants to address. As long as everybody concentrates on gun control we will continue to have these massacres occurring."
The bill, AB 48, would
- Require licenses for ammunition sellers
- Require ammunition purchasers to show identification
- Require ammunition sellers to report sales to the California Department of Justice
- Create a registry of ammunition purchases available to law enforcement agencies
- Require the Department of Justice to notify law enforcement of large ammunition sales. (The bill does not yet have a definition of "large ammunition sales." The legislators said they are still working on that.)
- Ban kits that can convert ammunition-feeding devices into high-capacity magazines
The bill is not the first to take aim at ammunition in the wake of the Newtown killings. On Dec. 20, state Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) introduced SB 53 requiring a permit for the purchase of ammunition.
Fresno Superior Court overturned a 2009 law sponsored by De Leon regulating the sale of ammunition after it was challenged by the National Rifle Association and the California Rifle and Pistol Foundation. The court ruled that it definition of handgun ammunition was too vague. The ruling is on appeal.
Paredes said gun enthusiasts would challenge AB 48 in court if it passes. Since the bill regulates the sale of ammunition across state lines, it violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, he said.
California already has a bill regulating assault weapons, and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is working to renew a similar nationwide ban that was in place from 1994 to 2004. But a review of the national ban's efficacy found many loopholes.