California’s Proposition 63: Background Checks for Ammunition Purchases and Large-Capacity Ammunition Magazine Ban

Prop 63 would clearly violate the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms with a complex and unworkable nest of new regulations and mandates on law enforcement.

Voter Guide: 2016 California Ballot Initiatives

Prop 63 would require individuals to pass a background check and obtain a license from the Department of Justice in order to buy ammunition, and stipulates that most ammunition be sold by licensed vendors and reported to the Department of Justice. It requires lost or stolen firearms to be reported to law enforcement and prohibits persons convicted of stealing a firearm from ever possessing firearms. It would bans large capacity magazines in the state and require all current owners of them to dispose of them. It also requires law enforcement to search for and seize any firearm, wherever it may be in the state, owned by a person who commits a crime that would make them ineligible to purchase a new gun.

Fiscal Impact:

Increased state and local court and law enforcement costs, potentially in the tens of millions of dollars annually, related to a new court process for removing firearms from prohibited persons after they are convicted. Potential increase in state costs, not likely to exceed the millions of dollars annually, related to regulating ammunition sales. These costs would likely be offset by fee revenues. Potential net increase in state and local correctional costs, not likely to exceed the low millions of dollars annually, related to changes in firearm and ammunition penalties.

Proponents’ Arguments For:

Proponents of Prop 63 argue that we need to stop gun violence—more than 300 Americans are shot each day, more than 80 of them fatally. Prop 63 will close loopholes to prevent dangerous criminals from obtaining and using deadly weapons.

Prop 63 removes illegal guns from our communities by taking requiring criminals to sell or transfer firearms they own. The Department of Justice identified more than 17,000 felons and other dangerous people with more than 34,000 guns, including more than 1,400 assault weapons.

Prop 63 keeps guns and ammo out of the wrong hands while protecting the rights of law-abiding Californians to own guns for self-defense, hunting and recreation.

Opponents’ Arguments Against:

Opponents argue that Prop 63 will burden law-abiding citizens without keeping violent criminals and terrorists from accessing firearms and ammunition.This is why it is overwhelmingly opposed by the law enforcement community who don’t want to waste resources that could be better used effectively fighting crime.

Prop 63 opponents say the law won’t work. It is incredibly complex and intrusive, putting huge demands on law enforcement to undertake activities not linked to responding to any crime. New York recently abandoned its enforcement of a similar proposal after it was passed, finding that it was impossible to implement and effectively maintain. Prop 63 would divert law enforcement resources for fighting criminals away from the real threat and toward criminalizing lawful gun ownership.


Prop 63 is clearly attempting to work around the failure to overturn the 2nd Amendment and require licenses to own a gun. Requiring a license to buy and own ammunition accomplishes that same thing, since a gun is unusable without it. Since the 2nd Amendment establishes the right to keep and bear arms, but does not mention ammunition, this is a workaround for gun control. It will certainly be challenged in court and will face a tough battle. Ammunition is necessary to make gun ownership a meaningful right. Could the law require a license for owning a firing pin and argue that people would still be able to own guns, albeit unable to fire, without a license?

At the same time Prop 63 is a very complex and comprehensive attempt to regulate gun ownership and use. It has 34 pages of details and that is where the devil lies. It has a massive section requiring law enforcement to identify and seize guns from people if convicted of a wide range of crimes, and in a number of instances even if mere evidence of a crime is found—before a trial and conviction occurs. Law enforcement groups can easily see this black hole of time and resources, and hence many of them oppose Prop 63. It also opens a 4th Amendment Pandora’s box, because in order to find any weapon owned by a suspect, police will have to search anywhere it could be—which is just about anywhere. While legally conducting that search anything they find is chargeable so it is basically a warrantless search for evidence of as-yet-unknown crimes.

Advocates of gun control are so focused on their emotions about guns they consistently ignore the failure of these controls. The fact that New York tried a similar approach and gave it up as unworkable is simply ignored. Likewise, the fact that gun violence is not primarily a problem of legally owned guns and ammunition. The black market for guns in California is extensive, and a 2015 survey of federal prison inmates found that 90% said they obtained weapons illegally.

Prop 63 would clearly violate the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms with a complex and unworkable nest of new regulations and mandates on law enforcement.

Voter Guide: 2016 California Ballot Initiatives