Bullet Sales Restriction Struck Down

California’s law regulating the purchase of ammunition “principally for use” in handguns has been struck down as unconstitutionally vague by a state appeals.

The law, known as the Anti-Gang Neighborhood Protection Act of 2009, placed restrictions on sale of handgun ammunition, requiring that it may only be a face-to-face transaction, where the buyer supplies legitimate identification.  In addition, the seller must obtain the driver’s license, birth date, address phone number and thumbprint of the buyer and maintain records of ammo sales.

Enforcement of the law has been blocked by the courts since 2011.

The Fifth District Court of Appeals last week, in a 2-1 ruling, struck down a portion of the law because it fails to provide adequate notice to ammo buyers whether the law would include their purchases.

Virtually all calibers of ammunition can be used in safely in both rifles and handguns, the law fails to provide any standard by which a person could know where the bullets they were buying was “principally for use” in handguns, the plaintiffs argued.

The law failed to make clear what was meant by “handgun ammunition,” according to Justice Gene Gomes.  That would make the law difficult to enforce.

The lawsuit was filed in 2010 by the Sheriff of Tehama County, Herb Bauer Sporting Goods, the California Rifle and Pistol Association Foundation, Able’s Sporting and RTG Sporting Collectibles.

“At a minimum, the challenged states present a general conflict with the protections of due process and are unconstitutionally vague in the great majority of cases for failure to provide adequate notice of the conduct proscribed and a reasonably certain standard for enforcement of the law,” he said.

In dissent, Justice Dennis Cornell said, “As I see it, the evidence that handgun vendors label a portion of their stock as ‘handgun ammunition’ and that the ammunition encyclopedia includes a section entitled ‘current handgun cartridges of the world’ demonstrates that the meaning of ‘ammunition principally for use in handguns’ can be determined objectively by reference to common life experiences.”

Case: Parker v. State of Calif., No. F062490


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