By Don Smith Wayne County Chair
The new California “Instant Background Check” system was part of Proposition 63 passed by voters in 2016. It may set a standard for other states and is actually more restrictive than our unSAFE Act. Gun owners should understand the key points as NY may attempt to adopt similar tactics. Some legislators in NY also want to register our long guns.
The purpose of the CA law was to force ammo buyers to undergo an "instant" background check each time they buy a round, box, flat or any amount of ammo. Two purchases on the same day means two background checks. Recall the unSAFE Act contains a similar provision but has not yet been implemented. However, NY recently announced it was closer to establishing the database required to operate the system. Here's how the California [CA] system works:
CA handgun owners have for many years received a “gun I.D. #” with the purchase of a permitted gun (handgun). Registration of long guns began in 2014 and either type of purchase lists them in the CA "Automatic Firearm System" (AFS). [Note that a convicted felon is automatically disqualified from buying ammo in CA].
If a qualified buyer goes to a dealer for ammo, they are not allowed to handle the ammo prior to a background check and have 3 background check options:
1. “Instant Background Check”- Only for residents listed in the California "Automated Firearm System" (AFS) (meaning they have purchased a firearm from a CA dealer). They pay $1 and can make an ammo purchase if they pass the background check. They must also provide: name, address, telephone #, drivers license #, type of ammo and name of the sales person. This info is maintained by CA. [Some claim it is not a registration of ammo. If not, then why require the ammo to be listed ???]
2. Possibly millions in CA have never purchased a gun but may have one via inheritance etc. Thus, they would not be on the AFS list. They can apply for a “Certificate of Eligibility” (COE) from the Department of Justice (DOJ). It costs about $100 and may take 30 days to have fingerprints checked and complete a background check. If they pass, they are then put into the AFS system and are eligible for an Instant Background Check in the future. Each ammo purchase thereafter costs $1 and also requires all contact info with each purchase.
3. If neither of these two options are available to a resident, then the third option is a direct dealer transaction where they must pay $19 and expect at least a 10-day waiting period for completion of a background check. The DOJ sends them a transaction # so they can track the progress of their background check. If they pass the check then they have 30 days in which to make the ammo purchase. This is a one-time purchase and the process must be repeated for future purchases unless they decide to purchase a gun and become listed in the AFS or apply for a COE. They must also supply the same contact information as in #1 or #2.
I assume the NY system will be linked to our drivers’ licenses like CA. Some say it is now. A NY gun owners I.D. card could also be required.
The CA bill was meant to simply require an instant background check for ammo purchases. However, the CA DOJ has expanded the requirements to include additional fees, waiting periods and transaction (tracking) #s with no legislative authorization. This could occur in NY.
Non-CA residents can no longer purchase ammo in CA unless they apply for a COE.
Residents of CA can no longer purchase ammo out of state directly from a dealer. The out-ofstate dealer is required to deliver it to a CA dealer. The resident obtains the ammo from the CA dealer after passing a background check.
However, a nonresident can legally bring ammo into CA and give it away but cannot sell it. I suspect the ammo black market in CA should do quite well.