2009 - AB 962 De Leon, Ammunition

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AB 962, De Leon - Ammunition

UPDATE: The lower court's ruling is being appealed by the State of California. See Parker v. California for more information.

JAN 18th, 2011 - This laws was struck down in its entirety as being unconstitutionally vague. See Parker v. California for more information.

By order, AB962 (Penal Code sections 12060, 12061, and 12318) cannot be enforced. However, those sections will remain in the Penal Code until the Legislature passes a new bill, if ever.

Governor Schwarzenegger signed Mr. De Leon's bill regarding ammunition in October, 2009. The effective date of the law is Jan 1, 2010, except for the face-to-face and associated record keeping provisions, which take effect February 1, 2011. rklute on Calguns.net created this handy document showing the changes made by AB-962 as applied to the existing Penal Code.

The full text of the bill as signed by the governor is here. The legislative analysis states, in part, that these are the new provisions:

  • This bill would, subject to exceptions, commencing February 1, 2011, require handgun ammunition vendors to obtain a thumbprint and other information from ammunition purchasers, as specified. A violation of these provisions would be a misdemeanor.
  • The bill would prohibit supplying or delivering, as specified, handgun ammunition to prohibited persons, as described, by persons or others who know, or by using reasonable care should know, that the recipient is a person prohibited from possessing ammunition or a minor prohibited from possessing ammunition, as specified. Violation of these provisions is a misdemeanor with specified penalties.
  • The bill would provide, subject to exceptions, that commencing February 1, 2011, the delivery or transfer of ownership of handgun ammunition may only occur in a face-to-face transaction, with the deliverer or transferor being provided bona fide evidence of identity of the purchaser or other transferee. A violation of these provisions would be a misdemeanor.

Some confusion about the language of the bill has ensued.

12318(b)(2) defines what ammunition is subject to the 'face to face' requirement:

  (2) "Handgun ammunition" means handgun ammunition as defined in 
subdivision (a) of Section 12323, but excluding ammunition designed
and intended to be used in an "antique firearm" as defined in Section
921(a)(16) of Title 18 of the United States Code. Handgun ammunition
does not include blanks.

12323(a) says

12323.  As used in this chapter, the following definitions shall
apply:
  (a) "Handgun ammunition" means ammunition principally for use in
pistols, revolvers, and other firearms capable of being concealed
upon the person, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 12001,
notwithstanding that the ammunition may also be used in some rifles.

The new law specifies that the definition of handgun ammunition to use is the one in section 12323, and no other definition.

The confusion arises from old section 12316 and new section 12317. Both of those apply to 'prohibited persons' - 12316 to prohibited persons possessing 'ammunition' as defined there, and 12317 to transferring 'ammunition' as defined there to prohibited persons.

New section 12317 is California's version of the Federal provisions of 18 USC 922

(d) It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose
of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having
reasonable cause to believe that such person—
(1) is under indictment for, or has been convicted in any court of, a
crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
(2) is a fugitive from justice;
(3) is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance
(as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21
U.S.C. 802));
(4) has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed
to any mental institution; 
   [et cetera; remainder omitted]

The expansive definition of ammunition from 12316/12317 -

  (c) For purposes of this section, "ammunition" shall include, but
not be limited to, any bullet, cartridge, magazine, clip, speed
loader, autoloader, or projectile capable of being fired from a
firearm with deadly consequence. "Ammunition" does not include
blanks.

IS NOT the definition used for face-to face sales in the new 12318. Sellers have been subject to the Federal prohibitions against transferring ammunition to 'prohibited' persons for years, and have in place safeguards to protect themselves from such errors; California's new law will be no more difficult for them.

Reloading components, magazines and clips are not subject to the face to face burden imposed on more reasonably defined handgun ammunition in 12318.

The confusion arises from the use of "this section". A Section is a numbered piece of the Penal Code. The definition used in 12317 applies ONLY to 12317 - had the Legislature meant a broader application, it would have written "this Chapter" or "this Title", or listed the specific numbered sections to which that definition applied.

Legal Action

On July 14/15, the NRA-CRPA Foundation Legal Action Project filed a lawsuit against implementing this bill. Further details when released. Calguns discussion thread here.

On July 28, 2010, The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has joined with the Calguns Foundation, the National Rifle Association, the Folsom Shooting Club and two individual truckers to challenge California’s soon to be implemented ban on the interstate shipment of handgun ammunition to California. link