Buying Ammo in California in 2019
At LAX AMMO OC, we hear a lot of questions from our customers about the new “ammo laws” in California, so we put together a FAQ piece to cover most of the questions you may have regarding California’s current and future ammunition laws. It’s important to note that the CA DOJ is still working out how to implement all of the regulations of Proposition 63, so details may change. We will do our best to update this post as more information becomes available.
Q: It’s 2019, what are the current ammunition sales restrictions in CA?
A: Ammunition sales at stores and gun shows must be conducted in a face-to-face transaction by an FFL or licensed Ammunition Vendor and ammunition must be kept out of reach of the consumer and can only be accessed with the assistance of said vendor.
Q: Are there purchase limits on ammo ?
Q: Don’t I need an “ammunition purchase permit” or some special license to buy ammo in California?
A: You do not need to have a permit or license to buy ammunition. You must be 21 years of age to buy handgun ammo and at least 18 years of age to buy rifle and shotgun ammo (this may change in California in the near future if the Legislature has it’s way!). However, you will need to pass a background check (the DOJ is calling it an "ELIGIBILITY CHECK") starting in July 1 of 2019 to purchase ammunition in California.
Q: Wait, what happens in July 2019? Is there an ammunition background check?
A: Phase 2 of Proposition 63 commences on July 1 st 2019 and applies to stores and gun shows. In a nutshell, all ammunition purchases made in California will require a DOJ “point-of-sale” eligibility check at the cost of $1 paid by the consumer to the DOJ. It’s basically a “mini DROS,” that will cross-reference your information (name, current address, date of birth, Driver’s License or other form of government ID) with the info you have on file with the DOJ’s Automated Firearms System (AFS) when you purchased and registered your firearm. It will also check if you have anything on record that would prevent you from owning a firearm (i.e. felony). Those same restrictions apply to ammo purchases. If your information matches up and you are clear, then we can sell you ammo, if not, we cannot legally sell you ammunition. For our customers who do not pass the eligibility check, the DOJ has told us they will provide a "one-time" eligibility check at the cost of $19. This check could take up to 10 days to process.
Q: Will there be limitations on how much ammo I can buy? What about restricting ammunition purchases to only the caliber I have registered?
A: Prop 63 does not restrict the amount or type of ammunition you can buy. There are restrictions on how much a person can SELL in a 30 day period without being a licensed vendor. As for the DOJ restricting your purchase to only calibers you have registered: this is a myth. #1: there's nothing in the law that stipulates this #2: it's not practical because not only are there many guns capable of cycling multiple calibers, but a person buying ammunition may be buying ammo to shoot in a friend or family member's firearm at the range.
Q: What if I don't have any firearms registered to me (I'm a new gun owner) or my gun is registered to an old address?
A: If DOJ does not have anything on file with you in their Automated Firearms System (AFS) either because you are not yet a gun owner, or you do not have any firearms registered, you will not pass the eligibility check, and you will need to either 1) apply for the "one-time" $19 eligibility check, or 2) you will need to register your firearm. If your firearm is registered, but the address on file does not match your Driver's License address, you will not pass the eligibility check, and you will need to either 1) apply for the "one-time" $19 eligibility check, or 2) update your information with the DOJ.
Q: What if I am not a California resident and/or do not have a California ID?
A: We have spoken with the CA DOJ on 12/19/2018, and they have confirmed that we cannot sell ammunition to non-California residents. You must have a valid CA driver's license in order for us to run the eligibility check and sell you ammo.
Q: Will the DOJ be providing an on-line system to update my firearm registration information?
A: As of 11/29/18, the DOJ has told us that they are working to develop a system with the California Firearms Application Reporting System (CFARS) to quickly and easily register your firearm or update any of your information (ie. if you have changed addresses). CFARS website is www.CFARS.doj.ca.gov
Q: What are the details of the new regulations for ammo purchases in 2019 ?
A: According to Cal. Penal Code section 30370:
(a) Commencing July 1, 2019, the department shall electronically approve the purchase or transfer of ammunition through a vendor, as defined in Section 16151, except as otherwise specified. This approval shall occur at the time of purchase or transfer, prior to the purchaser or transferee taking possession of the ammunition. Pursuant to the authorization specified in paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 30352, the following persons are authorized to purchase ammunition:
1) A purchaser or transferee whose information matches an entry in the Automated Firearms System (AFS) and who is eligible to possess ammunition as specified in subdivision (b). (2) A purchaser or transferee who has a current certificate of eligibility issued by the department pursuant to Section 26710. (3) A purchaser or transferee who is not prohibited from purchasing or possessing ammunition in a single ammunition transaction or purchase made pursuant to the procedure developed pursuant to subdivision (c). (b) To determine if the purchaser or transferee is eligible to purchase or possess ammunition pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (a), the department shall cross-reference the ammunition purchaser’s or transferee’s name, date of birth, current address, and driver’s license or other government identification number, as described in Section 28180, with the information maintained in the AFS. If the purchaser’s or transferee’s information does not match an AFS entry, the transaction shall be denied. If the purchaser’s or transferee’s information matches an AFS entry, the department shall determine if the purchaser or transferee falls within a class of persons who are prohibited from owning or possessing ammunition by cross-referencing with the Prohibited Armed Persons File. If the purchaser or transferee is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm, the transaction shall be denied.
(c) The department shall develop a procedure in which a person who is not prohibited from purchasing or possessing ammunition may be approved for a single ammunition transaction or purchase. The department shall recover the cost of processing and regulatory and enforcement activities related to this section by charging the ammunition transaction or purchase applicant a fee not to exceed the fee charged for the department’s Dealers’ Record of Sale (DROS) process, as described in Section 28225 and not to exceed the department’s reasonable costs.
(d) A vendor is prohibited from providing a purchaser or transferee ammunition without department approval. If a vendor cannot electronically verify a person’s eligibility to purchase or possess ammunition via an Internet connection, the department shall provide a telephone line to verify eligibility. This option is available to ammunition vendors who can demonstrate legitimate geographical and telecommunications limitations in submitting the information electronically and who are approved by the department to use the telephone line verification.
(e) The department shall recover the reasonable cost of regulatory and enforcement activities related to this article by charging ammunition purchasers and transferees a per transaction fee not to exceed one dollar ($1), provided, however, that the fee may be increased at a rate not to exceed any increases in the California Consumer Price Index as compiled and reported by the Department of Industrial Relations, not to exceed the reasonable regulatory and enforcement costs.
(f) A fund to be known as the “Ammunition Safety and Enforcement Special Fund” is hereby created within the State Treasury. All fees received pursuant to this section shall be deposited into the Ammunition Safety and Enforcement Special Fund and, notwithstanding Section 13340 of the Government Code, are continuously appropriated for purposes of implementing, operating, and enforcing the ammunition authorization program provided for in this section and Section 30352 and for repaying the start-up loan provided for in Section 30371.
(g) The Department of Justice is authorized to adopt regulations to implement this section.
Q: How long will this background check take ?
A: The CA DOJ is telling us the background check to purchase ammunition will take 60-90 seconds to complete. There is no waiting period beyond that.
Q: Why do I have to pay $1 ? Do I have to pay for it each time ?
A: The $1 fee is collected by the DOJ to fund Proposition 63. We have no control over this set fee. The fee is collected for each total purchase, so if you buy ammo on let’s say a Saturday, come back on Sunday to buy more, we have to run the check again and collect the fee. To be clear: the fee is per transaction. It's not based on the quantity of ammo you buy. Ridiculous? Yep. If your blood is boiling like ours is, then join the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA), who is fighting in court to overturn this nonsense. Oh, and VOTE in your local and state elections!
Q: How do I know if my correct information is on file with the DOJ ?
A: You’ll need to contact the DOJ to confirm your own records. Gun owners should make sure that their AFS records contain at least one entry with their true and correct name, date of birth, current address, and driver’s license or other government identification number to ensure that your ammunition purchase with us will not be denied. You can send CA DOJ this form (per its instructions) and they will mail you back a copy of their AFS records, if they have any.
Q: What if the system to conduct a background check is down ?
A: The CA DOJ is required to provide a phone number we can call in case of such an event.
Q: OK, so let’s say I pass the “mini background check,” then what ?
A: You can buy as much ammo as you want. There will not be any purchase restrictions on the quantity of ammo you can buy. The purchase, no matter how big or small, will have to be electronically registered with the DOJ, which we will handle at the point of sale.
Q: My ammunition purchase will be recorded with the DOJ ?
A: Sadly, yes. Cal. Penal Code section 30352 lays out some other things that the law will require for ammunition purchases beginning on July 1, 2019. (a) Commencing July 1, 2019, an ammunition vendor shall not sell or otherwise transfer ownership of any ammunition without, at the time of delivery, legibly recording the following information on a form to be prescribed by the Department of Justice:
(1) The date of the sale or other transfer.
(2) The purchaser and or transferee and drivers license or other identification number and the state in which it was issued.
(3) The brand, type, and amount of ammunition sold or otherwise transferred.
(4) The purchaser and or transferee and full name and signature.
(5) The name of the salesperson who processed the sale or other transaction.
(6) The purchaser and or transferee and full residential address and telephone number.
(7) The purchaser and or transferee and date of birth.
(b) Commencing July 1, 2019, an ammunition vendor shall electronically submit to the department the information required by subdivision (a) for all sales and transfers of ownership of ammunition. The department shall retain this information in a database to be known as the Ammunition Purchase Records File. This information shall remain confidential and may be used by the department and those entities specified in, and pursuant to, subdivision (b) or (c) of Section 11105, through the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, only for law enforcement purposes. The ammunition vendor shall not use, sell, disclose, or share the information for any other purpose other than the submission required by this subdivision without the express written consent of the purchaser or transferee. (c) Commencing on July 1, 2019, only those persons listed in this subdivision, or those persons or entities listed in subdivision (e), shall be authorized to purchase ammunition. Prior to delivering any ammunition, an ammunition vendor shall require bona fide evidence of identity to verify that the person who is receiving delivery of the ammunition is a person or entity listed in subdivision (e) or one of the following:
(1) A person authorized to purchase ammunition pursuant to Section 30370.
(2) A person who was approved by the department to receive a firearm from the ammunition vendor, pursuant to Section 28220, if that vendor is a licensed firearms dealer, and the ammunition is delivered to the person in the same transaction as the firearm. (d) Commencing July 1, 2019, the ammunition vendor shall verify with the department, in a manner prescribed by the department, that the person is authorized to purchase ammunition. If the person is not listed as an authorized ammunition purchaser, the vendor shall deny the sale or transfer.
Q: Who is exempt from the background check to purchase ammunition in 2019 ?
A: According to Cal. Penal Code 30352: (e) Subdivisions (a) and (d) shall not apply to sales or other transfers of ownership of ammunition by ammunition vendors to any of the following, if properly identified:
(1) An ammunition vendor.
(2) A person who is on the centralized list of exempted federal firearms licensees maintained by the department pursuant to Article 6 (commencing with Section 28450) of Chapter 6 of Division 6.
(3) A person who purchases or receives ammunition at a target facility holding a business or other regulatory license, provided that the ammunition is at all times kept within the facility’s premises.
(4) A gunsmith.
(5) A wholesaler.
(6) A manufacturer or importer of firearms or ammunition licensed pursuant to Chapter 44 (commencing with Section 921) of Title 18 of the United States Code, and the regulations issued pursuant thereto.
(7) An authorized law enforcement representative of a city, county, city and county, or state or federal government, if the sale or other transfer of ownership is for exclusive use by that government agency, and, prior to the sale, delivery, or transfer of the handgun ammunition, written authorization from the head of the agency authorizing the transaction is presented to the person from whom the purchase, delivery, or transfer is being made. Proper written authorization is defined as verifiable written certification from the head of the agency by which the purchaser, transferee, or person otherwise acquiring ownership is employed, identifying the employee as an individual authorized to conduct the transaction, and authorizing the transaction for the exclusive use of the agency by which that individual is employed.
(8) (A) A properly identified sworn peace officer, as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2, or properly identified sworn federal law enforcement officer, who is authorized to carry a firearm in the course and scope of the officer and duties.
(B) (i) Proper identification is defined as verifiable written certification from the head of the agency by which the purchaser or transferee is employed, identifying the purchaser or transferee as a full-time paid peace officer who is authorized to carry a firearm in the course and scope of the officer and duties. (ii) The certification shall be delivered to the vendor at the time of purchase or transfer and the purchaser or transferee shall provide bona fide evidence of identity to verify that he or she is the person authorized in the certification. (iii) The vendor shall keep the certification with the record of sale and submit the certification to the department. (f) The department is authorized to adopt regulations to implement the provisions of this section.
Q: Are CCW holders exempt from having to do the eligibility check and ammo registration?
A: NO. We have spoken with the DOJ. CCW holders are NOT exempt.
Q: So, the CA DOJ will keep records of what ammo I buy and how much ?
A: Yep. But, so does your grocery store every time you input your "customer loyalty number." They keep track of what you buy, how much, and when. The only difference is, they send you coupons, DOJ won't be sending you coupons for the ammo you like to buy (sorry, trying to make light of a grim situation).
Q: What will the CA DOJ do with all of this information ?
A: Hard to say and depends on who you ask. If you’re not a criminal (and don’t plan to be), there really isn’t anything CA DOJ can do with the data. Information on the amount and type of ammo you buy isn’t grounds for law enforcement to act against you.
Q: What about reloading components?
A: There is nothing in the provisions of Prop. 63 that regulates reloading components (powders, primers, projectiles/bullets). Reloading components are not governed by the laws created by Prop 63, however, with Gavin Newsom as California's new Governor, it's always possible he could pass new laws that cover reloading components at some point.
Q: This has me really upset. What can I do ?
A: It has us upset too. The burden on our customers and our business is considerable. We support the NRA and the CRPA as well as Gun Owners of America and Firearms Policy Coalition. They are fighting in court right now to overturn this nonsense. Suing the CA government isn’t cheap. They could use your help by having you as a member. The CRPA is for fighting the good fight in California only, so if money is tight for you, join with them. Your money will go further. Also VOTE in your local and state elections. Proposition 63 happened because gun owners didn’t vote here in CA.
Q: How does this affect an ammo shop like you ?
A: Well, thanks for asking! These laws are considerably burdensome for us as well as our customers, but we at LAX AMMO OC are going to make it our mission to make the buying process for ammo in CA as easy as possible for you. For example, in 2018, Phase 1 of Prop 63 required ammo to be inaccessible to the consumer without ammo vendor assistance. I’m sure you’ve noticed most ammo vendors then either greatly reduced their ammo selection or moved what little ammo they had to far behind the counter or into enclosed metal lockers where you can no longer see the ammo, packaging and pricing. We felt this made for a horrible shopping experience, so we had custom gates made around our bulk ammo to keep it on our floors and easily visible to our customers so you can shop and browse without our help until you are ready. We also had large glass lighted cabinets made to display all of our “specialty” ammo, like hunting and home defense rounds, so our customers can see the details of each round up close. Phase 2 of Prop 63 will likely result in many “big box” retailers such as Walmart abandoning the 2nd Amendment community and exiting the ammunition business in California completely. We at LAX AMMO OC will pick up the slack to serve our 2nd Amendment community by continuing to expand our selection of ammunition at the most competitive prices and provide unmatched customer service.
Written by Christy McNab, LAX AMMUNITION OC.