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California can enforce law on background checks for ammunition buyers

Robert Besser
9 Feb 2024

SACRAMENTO, California: This week, a divided federal appeals court ruled that California can enforce a law requiring people to undergo background checks to buy ammunition.

The law was put on hold after a U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego previously declared it as unconstitutional following a legal challenge.

On a 2-1 vote, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel stayed last week's decision by Benitez, an appointee of Republican former President George W. Bush who has previously ruled against other gun control measures, that the background checks law violated the right the bear arms protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

California, a Democrat state, asked the 9th Circuit to intervene and issue a stay while it appealed what officials called a "dangerous" ruling by Benitez.

Monday's ruling was issued by U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Clifton, also a Bush appointee, and U.S. Circuit Judge Holly Thomas, an appointee of Democratic President Joe Biden.

However, Bush appointee U.S. Circuit Judge Consuelo Callahan dissented against the decision.

The ruling meant that the state's "life-saving ammunition laws will remain in effect as we continue to defend them in court," California's Democrat Attorney-General Rob Bonta wrote in a post on X.

Olympic gold medalist and shooter Kim Rhode and the California Rifle & Pistol Association were among the plaintiffs challenging the law in court.

In a statement, Chuck Michel, president and general counsel of the California Rifle & Pistol Association, said the group will seek a further review by a different panel of the court and "restore the people's right to buy the ammunition they need for sport or to defend their families."

In a vote in 2016, California voters approved measure requiring gun owners to undergo initial background checks to buy ammunition and pay US$50 for a four-year ammunition permit.

In 2019, the measure was amended by lawmakers to require background checks for every ammunition purchase.

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