Finally, score one for the good guys.
Just days before it was to be implemented, a superior court judge in Fresno County declared a new California state law restricting handgun ammunition sales and registration unconstitutional. The ruling stops the implementation of AB 962 passed in late 2009, which would have required registration of all handgun ammunition buyers, leaving a thumbprint with each purchase. It also banned all mail order ammunition sales. The bill was set to be enforced beginning Feb. 1.
Called an ìimportant victory for California gun owners,î by the National Rifle Association, the gun rights organization heralded the unwritten ruling from the bench by Judge Jeffrey Hamilton of the Fresno Superior Court who found the law ìunconstitutionally vagueî on its face. Hamilton focused his decision on the lawís section that defined handgun ammunition as ìfor use in pistols, revolvers, and other firearms capable of being concealed.î
This could describe virtually all ammunition, and the judge said as much in his ruling.
AB 962 was introduced by democratic Senator Kevin De Leon in 2009, ostensibly to keep handgun ammo out of the hands of criminals, drug abusers, or the mentally ill. And members of the media and anti-gun politicians like De Leon immediately derided the judge.
ìAmmunition is the fuel that feeds violence. This is deplorable, especially in light of what just took place in Tucson,î De Leon was quoted by Associated Press.
But De Leon didnít say how his legislation, if it has been in place in Arizona, could have helped stop the crazed man.
Why? Because De Leonís knows his bill would have done nothing to stop Jared Lochnerís murdering spree. The bill would have done nothing to prevent any crime, and it was merely a burden on local law enforcement, retailers, and law-abiding gun owners. There was no way to track ammunition sales back to the scene of a crime, and no process for checking sales against databases of felons or other prohibited from owning guns.
Gus Harden, owner of Shoot the Moon Outfitters, a retail guns and hunting shop in Paso Robles, said that when he called the Department of Justice in California to get ammunition sales registration forms, he was told the agency didnít have them. The law was going to be enforced by the local police agencies, they said, and Hardin had to make his own forms and get them approved.
Harden was appalled and amazed. ìCan you believe that? There was no standardization. There were likely to be a hundred different forms being used all over the state.î
The lawsuit challenging the law was funded by the NRA and the California Rifle and Pistol (CRPA) Foundation as part of a joint Legal Action Project. It was partially prompted by the questions raised by confused police, ammunition purchasers, and sellers about exactly what ammunition was covered under the new law. Plaintiffs in the case include Tehama County Sheriff Clay Parker, the CRPA Foundation, Herb Bauer Sporting Goods in Fresno, and other ammunition sellers.
Many of the nation's largest mail-order and online ammunition retailers had already announced that they would end all ammunition sales to California residents because it was unclear was meant by the lawís description of ìprincipally for use in a handgun.î Since handguns are made to shoot everything from .410 shotshells to .308 ìrifleî ammunition, it was simply too vague for anyone with common sense -- and the judge saw this fact and ruled the law was unconstitutional.
ìThis was just going to cost police and ammunition sellers money. It really wasn't going to stop violent crime or criminals from getting ammunition,î CRPA attorney Chuck Michel told the AP. ìAll this was going to do was impose a tremendous and expensive burden on law enforcement.î
While the law has been set aside for now, there is no doubt the state will appeal the ruling and legislators will set about the task of correcting the flaws in the law by ìdefiningî handgun ammunition. Or they just might make the bill apply to all ammunition. They will also continue trying to ban mail order sales. There is also a very good likelihood our brilliant legislators will also try to tack on a fee to the sale of handgun ammunition so they can fund some paperwork storage bureaucracy.
Is there any doubt about their intensions.
Legislators like De Leon donít believe anyone really should own a gun, and this is their dishonest, expensive, and discriminatory way to piecemeal the implementation of that goal. AB 962 will be back with another disguise.