California’s Ammo Background Checks Misfire


‘Criminals, tyrants, and terrorists don’t do background checks,’ said the judge who blocked the law.

California’s attempts to discourage gun ownership hit a bump Thursday. U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez granted a preliminary injunction that stopped the state from enforcing its background checks on ammunition purchases. The initiative, which was spearheaded by Gavin Newsom when he was the lieutenant governor, passed in 2016 with 63 percent of the vote. The background checks have failed miserably, succeeding only in preventing law-abiding citizens from buying ammunition. Between July 2019 and January 2020, 101,047 non-prohibited Californians were prevented from buying bullets. By contrast, just 188 prohibited people were denied. That means that for every prohibited person whose purchase was rejected, 537 law-abiding citizens were denied. This high ratio is not too surprising, since few criminals are dumb enough to try to go through a background check. As Judge Benitez noted, “Criminals, tyrants, and terrorists don’t do background checks.” Instead, many of these criminals buy their guns and ammunition from drug dealers. We’ve had no more success in stopping the illegal gun trade than in stopping the illegal drug trade. Denials typically result from such things as the buyer’s current address differing from the address when they last bought a gun. Even law-enforcement officers, such as Sutter County deputy sheriff Zachary Berg, are being denied because their personal information doesn’t match the state database records. The small number of “prohibited” people who have been stopped is undoubtedly even smaller than the 188 cases the state claims. California provides no evidence that any of these “prohibited” individuals were actually convicted for breaking the law by trying to buy this ammunition. In the federal background check system for gun purchases, only about one out of every 3,000 denials actually leads to a conviction. That’s because the vast majority of prohibited purchases were the result of mistaken identification. The government confused the identities of law-abiding citizens with those who were prohibited.


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