As she has done repeatedly since 2016, Illinois State Rep. Sonya M. Harper (D) has introduced a bill to the Illinois General Assembly requiring that every round of handgun ammunition sold in the Land of Lincoln come with two serial numbers: one on the cartridge case and one on the base of the bullet itself.
Harper has claimed the serial numbers would help reduce crime by giving law enforcement a way to track the ammunition used in criminal acts of violence. But what H.B. 3088 would more likely do, if made into law, is create a de facto ban on handgun ammunition in Illinois. Even if manufacturers could somehow develop technology to put serial numbers—matching ones, no less—on ammunition, it would be crazy expensive. The numbers would also have to be tracked, and whoever bought the ammo would have to have their personal information registered so, somehow, authorities could figure out who bought what. This would create a registry of ammunition buyers operated by the Illinois State Police. Borrowing, gifting, and reselling ammo would have to be made illegal, too. And we’re just getting started—just imagine how long the serial numbers would soon get.
Also, according to H.B. 3088, all handgun ammunition sold in Illinois would have to possess the two serial numbers by January 1, 2022.
As the bill reads, “beginning January 1, 2022, any person who manufactures, causes to be manufactured, imports into the State for sale or personal use, keeps for sale, offers or exposes for sale, or who gives or lends any handgun ammunition that is not serialized is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. Provides that beginning January 1, 2022, any person who possesses in any public place any handgun ammunition that is not serialized is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor.”
H.B. 3088 also levies a one-half-cent per round tax on handgun ammunition to fund, “a centralized registry…[with] all reports of handgun ammunition transactions reported to the Illinois State Police in a manner prescribed by the Illinois State Police. Provides that information in the registry, upon proper application for that information, shall be furnished to peace officers and authorized employees of the Illinois State Police. …”
Does this legislator really think there is a manufacturer that could develop this technology this fast? Does Harper really think some software developer could create a system this fast? Does Harper care this is all unconstitutional? Likely not. This is simply another way to diminish the Second Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights.
Nationally, ammunition “serialization” received a lot of attention in 2008, when versions of the “Ammunition Accountability Act” appeared in 18 state legislatures. None of these bills passed.
According to FactCheck.org, under the various Accountability Acts, “manufacturers would be required to imprint the bullet and casing with a serial number, which would be recorded in a database maintained by a state agency. Firearms vendors would submit records of their ammunition sales, allowing the agency to identify the purchaser of any particular bullet.”
Interestingly, the various Ammunition Accountability Acts, FactCheck.org noted, were heavily promoted, “by an organization called ‘Ammunition Accountability,’ which says that if the requirement is enacted, ‘law enforcement personnel will be able to easily trace the ammunition involved in a crime and have an avenue to pursue and solve even the most difficult cases.’ Ammunition Accountability was founded by the owners of a Seattle company called Ammunition Coding System, which holds a patent on the necessary [ammunition serialization] technology.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade organization for the shooting sports industry, noted that requiring serial numbers on ammunition would “force a slowdown in the [ammunition] production process—the likes of which would turn one day’s worth of production into a nearly four-week effort. This massive reduction in ammunition would translate into substantially lower sales and profitability and ultimately force major ammunition manufacturers to abandon the market. In turn, there would be a severe shortage of serialized ammunition and all consumers, including federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, would be faced with substantial price increases.”
When bullet serialization was proposed in California, according to NSSF, many law-enforcement groups, including the California Police Chiefs’ Association, the California Peace Officers’ Association, the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, and the Los Angeles Police Protective League, urged lawmakers to vote it down, fearing serialization would reduce ammunition stocks and drive up costs to the police agencies and departments.
Obviously, H.B. 3088 would not stop ammunition makers from producing ammunition outside of Illinois. But given the increased cost and time associated with serialization, why would any company make handgun ammunition for the Illinois market?
While ammunition serialization attempts have repeatedly failed, anti-Second Amendment forces keep trying, because they know that a de facto ban on ammunition would effectively kill our ability to exercise our Second Amendment rights.