Gun Control’s New Front: Ammunition

posted on October 15, 2018
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Ammunition control is the new front in gun control. Well, OK, not new exactly, as legislators and activists opposed to American freedom in states such as California, Illinois and Massachusetts have long tried with some unfortunate success to tax, ban and strictly regulate the sale of ammunition. But new in that this has become a very active line of attack on your right to bear arms.

The anti-gun group Giffords Law Center thinks it sees an opening on the ammunition front.

“Ammunition background checks and other common-sense policies regulating the sale and transfer of ammunition are important ways to keep deadly power away from those who threaten the safety of others,” says Giffords’ website, before advocating for a long list of bans, extra costs and restrictions on the American citizens’ ability to purchase ammunition.

“Without ammunition, firearms are no more dangerous than any blunt object, causing some scholars to refer to ammunition as the ‘actual agent of harm’ in gun violence,” the Giffords’ group even says.

Apparently, criminals are not the actual agents of harm.

Gun control groups advocate for bans and restrictions on ammunition even though they know that such laws won’t affect criminal use of firearms or ammo. Preloaded ammunition, after all, is a mid-19th century invention that has long been perfected to the point where it is small, safe, stable and long-lasting. If they can’t keep guns out of the wrong hands, how do they expect to keep ammunition out of the hands of criminals.

Bans, restrictions,  fees and taxes do one thing and one thing only—they further burden America’s 100-plus million gun owners, which is what groups like Giffords are really after. If they can make gun ownership and use more expensive and difficult, then they can discourage the poor and those who don’t have the time to navigate the bureaucracy from utilizing their Second Amendment rights.

If they can make the Second Amendment too burdensome a right for many to utilize, then, over time, they calculate that the large voting bloc of law-abiding gun owners will shrink into a smaller constituency. This would then allow them to further restrict or even ban Americans’ right to bear arms.

California has led the way on such onerous restrictions on ammunition; in fact, its layers of new laws are so complex the estimated 6 million people who legally own firearms in California are confused.

If they can make the Second Amendment too burdensome,  they calculate that the large voting bloc of law-abiding gun owners will shrink. That would then allow them to further restrict Americans’ right to bear arms.

Part of the confusion in California comes from restrictions on ammunition purchases in a voter initiative, Proposition 63, passed on a wave of anti-gun money in 2016. This includes a provision that would have required California residents to pay the state up to $50 for a four-year permit to buy ammunition. Legislation signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown now appears to have overridden that provision. Instead of requiring a permit, the legislation Brown signed says ammunition buyers will have to pay a $1 state fee for a background check at any store that sells ammo. A court challenge could upend this however, as courts have often ruled that voter initiatives supersede state legislation.

Meanwhile, starting Jan. 1, 2019, consumers in California won’t be able to directly purchase ammunition from catalogs. All ammo will have to be shipped to a Federal Firearms Licensed (FFL) dealer that can charge a processing fee. Also, starting Jan. 1, California residents can’t legally buy ammunition in another state and then drive it into California without taking it directly to a dealer to have it transferred to them.

Restrictions on buying ammo, of course, hardly begin and end in California. Some state laws are getting so complex that the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for firearm manufacturers, put a chart online to help anyone who is traveling to hunt, to attend a competition or who just wants to carry concealed as they travel.

Even people in the gun industry are often confused by the many state laws now restricting ammunition purchases.

I recall being in Massachusetts to visit Savage Arms when a marketing person who works for Savage’s parent company, Vista Outdoor, wanted to give me some new shot shells to try from Federal Ammunition, another Vista company. He didn’t bring ammo with him from Minnesota, as he was uncertain about Massachusetts’ laws. 

We went to a local sporting goods store in Massachusetts to buy some ammo. We were quickly turned down, however, as Massachusetts is one of the states that requires residents to get a state ammunition card so they can buy ammo. In this way the state also prohibits anyone from out of state from buying ammunition.

The District of Columbia, Connecticut, Illinois, part of Maryland and New Jersey (for “handgun” ammo) also require some kind of special license for citizens to purchase ammo. Other states have further restrictions on the types of ammo that can be sold and even how it can be displayed.

This line of attack has become so dishonest that as a justification for pushing ammo control, Giffords even blames American freedom for supplying Mexican drug cartels with ammo.

“The lack of strong ammunition laws in the United States also substantially impedes efforts to stop ammunition trafficking to Mexico,” says Giffords’ website. “As one report explained, ‘because rounds of ammunition, unlike firearms[,] can only be used once and have a relatively shorter life span, [drug trafficking organizations] engaging in fighting are often in constant need of more rounds. As such, ammunition poses just as much or more of a threat to Mexican authorities and civilians’ as firearms.

Again, this is nonsense. Ammunition does not have a “relatively [short] life span.” When you buy a box of ammo there is no expiration date printed on it because ammo can often be stored for decades. The lifespan of ammunition does vary, as primers and power do degrade. This is especially true if ammo is stored in very hot or humid conditions, but ammo degradation is hardly something Mexican drug runners would be worried about. 

Gun-control groups, such as Giffords, might be showing their own ignorance of guns and ammo here, but it is also likely they are again attempting to prey on the ignorance of members of the media, some politicians and others who don’t chose to learn about or utilize their right to bears arms.

There have been many other attempts by anti-freedom politicians and activists to restrict and ban ammo. Some California legislators even pushed a scheme to tax each shell or cartridge. Other laws have banned lead in ammo and certain types of ammunition. Some states are even using ammunition purchases by their residents to create databases of gun owners.

And, as they did with gun control efforts, liberal legislators keep trying to invent new ways to infringe on the rights of law-abiding gun owners. In Michigan, the Wayne County commissioner for the sixth district (Detroit), devised a scheme where he wants to make citizens buy ammunition only with the approval of law enforcement. Potential buyers would need to undergo a mental illness background check with their local police department. They would need approval for each purchase other than at gun shows, where showing a certificate of a previous mental illness check would suffice. That’s on top of a proposed increase on the ammunition tax.



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