California Senate Approves Background Checks, Permits and Fees for Ammunition Purchases

Susan Jones and Shannon Quick | May 31, 2013 | 9:38am EDT
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Victor Valley Shooters owner Jay Stedt at his store in Victorville, Calif., in December 2012. (AP File Photo)

( – The California Senate this week approved a collection of bills, including one (SB 53) that would require background checks, permits, and fees for the purchase of ammunition.

All ammunition sales would have to be face-to-face, happening only in the presence of a store clerk; and vendors selling the bullets would have to submit sales records to the California Department of Justice. Those vendors also would need a permit to sell ammunition.

SB 53 is one of seven “gun violence” bills approved on Wednesday. Together, the seven Democrat-sponsored bills are known as the “Lifesaving Intelligent Firearms Enforcement Act,” dubbed the LIFE Act.

California Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat, said the LIFE act is designed to close “loopholes” in existing regulations, keep firearms and ammunition out of the hands of dangerous persons, and strengthen education on gun ownership.

“As Congress continues to dither, California must act,” Steinberg said. “The strength of the LIFE Act is in the sum of its parts, and this package will make dramatic strides in combating gun violence. In combination, these bills close legal loopholes that gun manufacturers have exploited, keep the circulation of firearms and ammunition out of dangerous hands, and improve education around safe gun ownership.”

But Republicans who voted against the gun control package say it won’t do anything to stop crime:

“SB 53 will do nothing to stop criminals from purchasing ammunition,” said Sen. Tom Berryhill. “These restrictions – like most of the gun legislation we are seeing here today – won’t do a thing to stop crime.  They will only hurt the law abiding citizens like hunters and sportsmen who, for the record, contribute millions to the state’s economy.”

Even one Democrat voted against SB 53: Sen. Rod Wright (D) said requiring permits to buy ammunition “only inhibits law-abiding citizens from exercising their 2nd Amendment rights.  It shouldn’t be in law.  It’s not going to stand up in court,” he added.

Sen. Kevin De León sponsored SB53, which passed on a vote of 23-14. “I’m proud that together with the California Police Chiefs Association, we’ve taken a significant step toward keeping ammunition out of the wrong hands—criminals and kids—to keep our communities safe,” he said in a news release.

The other six bills comprising the LIFE Act include:

Fixed magazines: SB 374 (Steinberg): Prohibits the future sale, purchase, manufacture, importation, or transfer in California of semi-automatic rifles that can accept detachable magazines. It also expands ownership records, ensuring all handguns and long guns with detachable magazines are recorded. “This legislative action decisively closes the loopholes that have allowed the gun industry to flood our communities with rapid-reload battlefield weapons,” Steinberg said. Passed on a 23-15 vote.

High Capacity magazines: SB 396 (Hancock): Bans possession of ammunition magazines over 10 rounds. Passed on a 25-14 vote. “California has good regulations, but gun manufacturers have found ways around them,” Sen. Loni Hancock said. “This bill closes the loopholes that allowed the discharge of large amounts of ammunition without reloading and will make our state a safer place.”

Bullet button: SB 47 (Yee): Bans modification tools that allow magazines to be rapidly detached and replaced on semi-automatic rifles. Passed on a 23-15 vote.

Shotgun Definition: SB 567 (Jackson):  Updates the definition of a banned shotgun with a revolving cylinder to include the new technology of a shotgun-rifle combination. Passed on a 22-15 vote.

APPS Expansion: SB 755 (Wolk): Expands the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) by adding additional drug and alcohol offenses. Passed on a 25-14 vote.

Fire arm safety certificate: SB 683 (Block): Expands the current handgun safety certificate to all new gun purchases, ensuring all new gun owners have a basic training and understanding of how their new firearm works. “It makes no sense to require safety certificates only for buyers of handguns but not of those buying rifles or shotguns,” Sen. Marty Block said. Passed on a 28-11 vote.

The LIFE Act bills now move to the Democrat-controlled Assembly, which has passed different gun control bills of its own.

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