California Can Continue Enforcing Ammunition Background Check Law, Appeals Court Rules

By Jace Dela Cruz

Feb 06, 2024 04:31 AM EST

California can proceed with implementing a law requiring background checks for people buying ammunition after a federal appeals court on Monday put on hold a previous judge's ruling that deemed it unconstitutional.

According to Reuters, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, on a 2-1 vote, granted the state's bid to temporarily halt last week's ruling by US District Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego, which held that the background checks law violated the right to bear arms under the US Constitution's Second Amendment.

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(Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
PETALUMA, CA - APRIL 02: Rounds of .223 rifle ammuntion sits on the counter at Sportsmans Arms on April 2, 2013 in Petaluma, California.

California Asked the Appeals Court to Maintain Ammunition Background Check Law

The Democratic-led state had asked the 9th Circuit to intervene and issue an immediate stay of the "dangerous" ruling by Benitez, an appointee of former Republican President George W. Bush, who had previously ruled against other gun control measures.

In a post on X, California's Attorney General Rob Bonta welcomed the court's decision and said that the state's "life-saving ammunition laws will remain in effect as we continue to defend them in court."

"We will never stop fighting to protect Californians from the scourge of gun violence," he added.

The California Rifle & Pistol Association and Kim Rhode, who won three Olympic gold medals in shooting events, are among the plaintiffs challenging the law in court.

In a statement, the association's president, Chuck Michel, said the group plans to seek further review by a different court panel and restore people's right to buy ammunition for sports or self-defense. 

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Judge Rejects California's Reliance on Historical Laws

California's background check law for people buying ammunition and paying $50 for a four-year ammunition permit had been approved by voters in 2016. Lawmakers amended the measure requiring background checks for each ammunition purchase beginning in 2019.

Benitez's ruling last January 30 was the latest court decision declaring a gun restriction unconstitutional following the Supreme Court's June 2022 ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which makes it more challenging to defend rules that limit guns in public places.

In his ruling, Benitez dismissed California's dependence on dozens of laws from way back, since 1789, as "historical analogues" for ammunition checks.

The judge noted that the law had "no historical pedigree" and that the background checks violated the Second Amendment by treating all people as having no right to buy ammunition.

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