It's not easy being a gun owner in California. The state already has the strictest gun laws in the nation, with the possible exception of New York, and a flurry of bills are making their way through the legislature that seek to solidify California's position of chief gun-hater.
California legislators are striking at the very heart of liberty. Their actions should worry both those who own guns and those who do not.
Senate Bill 53 is the latest in an anti-ammunition effort being led by State Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). In 2009, then-Assemblyman de León authored Assembly Bill 962, which imposed restrictions on the sale of handgun ammunition and was signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In 2011, however, the Fresno Superior Court ruled the bill was “unconstitutionally vague,” so the provisions were never enforced. Now, de León is back with SB53, which would apply to all kinds of ammunition.
The bill says ammunition sellers may not allow consumers access to ammunition in their stores without the assistance of an employee, sellers must obtain a thumbprint and other personal information from purchasers of ammunition and the delivery or transfer of ammunition must take place in a face-to-face transaction (online and mail order sales would be banned).
In addition, SB53 would require anyone wishing to purchase any kind of ammunition to obtain an “ammunition purchase authorization” permit from the state, undergo a background check, and pay a fee every year. The Senate has already passed the bill, which is currently pending in the Assembly.
Of course, this measure won't keep ammunition out of the hands of criminals any more than the numerous existing gun laws keep guns out of the hands of criminals. By raising the cost of ammunition in California and making it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to acquire it though, SB53 will surely create a sizable black market for out-of-state ammo.
The ammunition bill's true crime is that it violates every person's fundamental and inherent right of self-preservation.
Our government was purportedly established to secure our liberties. More and more often, however, it usurps our rights and then licenses portions of them back to us – for an appropriate fee, of course. But our rights do not come from government.
The Declaration of Independence holds it as self-evident truth that one has the rights to life and liberty, and the U.S. Constitution defends the right “to keep and bear arms.” If we have the right to our lives, we must also have the right to defend our lives – by use of a gun, if necessary. And a gun is little more than an expensive paperweight without ammunition.
Can you imagine the Founding Fathers arguing, “People have the right of free speech, but only if they are licensed by the government, obtain a permit from the government to own a printing press, provide their personal information and register such a purchase with the government, and pay an annual fee to the government for the privilege”?
They would consider such a proposal utter nonsense and the antipathy of liberty. Yet this is precisely what California legislators are proposing to do to those who wish to exercise their right of self-defense.
As with government restrictions on gun ownership, the only people who will be harmed by the ammunition restrictions will be law-abiding citizens. The same criminals who are willing and able to acquire their guns illegally will have no hesitation about ignoring even more laws to acquire ammunition.
As a result, honest citizens – gun owners and non-owners alike – will be the losers if this bill becomes law.
Adam B. Summers is a senior policy analyst at the Reason Foundation. This column originally ran in the Orange County Register (paid subscription required).