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Melissa Griffin: California Lawmakers Focus On Proposed Ammo Regulations

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Ammunition. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Ammunition. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – There’s an old saying that “guns don’t kill people, bullets kill people.” California Democrats are taking it to heart and taking aim at bullets.

Among the nearly two-dozen gun control bills that have been proposed this legislative session are several that apply to bullets. You may recall that James Eagan Holmes, the accused Aurora, Colo. movie theatre shooter, had ordered some 6,000 bullets online before opening fire in a movie theater on July 20, 2012.

Perhaps the most controversial of the bills just cleared its first hurdle at becoming law when it was given the thumbs up from the Assembly Public Safety Committee on April 2. The law, AB 48, proposed by Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) has been called an “unprecedented attack on ammunition” by the National Rifle Association.

Here’s what the proposed law would do:

  • Only allows bullets to be sold or furnished by licensed dealers.
  • Buyers have to show identification.
  • Sellers have to transmit to the Department of Justice the name, date of birth, address and number or rounds sold or transferred.
  • Department of Justice must notify local police of any purchase over 3000 rounds in 5 days.
  • Outlaw kits that convert legal magazines (10 bullets) into high-capacity magazines.

At the April 2 hearing, Skinner explained that bullets are far too easy to come by in a state where we regulate all sorts of things, saying, “Why is it easier now to buy bullets than to buy alcohol, cigarettes or Sudafed?”

Gun rights proponents were at the hearing to make their case that the law is too broad because it will prohibit people from giving bullets to their friends or children.

Sam Paredes, Executive Director of the Gun Owners of California testified, “The way it is written right now, if I as a father take my son to go shooting and I give him ammunition, I am not an authorized ammunition dealer, I would be in violation of the law and my son would be in violation of the law.”

When Skinner offered to create a loophole for gun ranges to furnish bullets in exchange for support of the gun lobbyists, they balked, saying that’s just one of may problems with the law. (It’s not clear whether Skinner will go ahead with the loophole in light of the fact that so far, it won’t help get any more votes.)

Paredes finished his remarks by gesturing to the chairman of the committee, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) and saying, “It would also prohibit me from inviting you to the range and giving you ammunition to teach how guns work, thank you.”

To which Ammiano replied, “Thank you very much, I’d rather hit somebody with my purse, actually.”

Also at the hearing, Craig DeLuz California Federation of Federal Firearms Licensees made it clear that the law would be challenged in court for being too broad – seeing as how it might prevent friends and Boy Scout troops from sharing bullets.

In fact, a similar law, AB 962 was passed in 2009 and signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger but has been held up in court. That law required sellers of handgun ammunition to collect identifying information about their customers and keep it for five years. The NRA challenged it in court on the grounds that the term “handgun ammunition” is unconstitutionally vague. A Fresno County Superior Court judge agreed, prohibiting the law from taking effect. That ruling is being appealed.

Skinner said she believes that the fact that AB 48 applies to all bullets (not just handgun bullets) will save it from the same fate.

The bill will be considered next by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, though no date has been set yet.

In addition to AB 48, there are two proposed laws that would tax bullets, and one that would require permits in order to purchase ammunition.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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