Attorney General Becerra and Governor Newsom Announce Ninth Circuit Stay Protecting Public Safety and Keeping California’s Ammunition Background Checks in Place

Thursday, May 14, 2020
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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and California Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that the state secured a stay of a district court preliminary injunction on California’s voter-approved ammunition background checks in Rhode v. Becerra. Today's decision follows a temporary stay issued by the court late last month. As a result of the stay order issued by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, California law aimed at protecting public safety by requiring background checks on ammunition purchases will remain in effect while the appellate court reviews the preliminary injunction appeal.

"Our commonsense law requiring background checks for ammunition sales not only can save lives, it keeps our communities safe," said Attorney General Becerra. "Violent criminals and people with serious mental illnesses shouldn't be able to get their hands on ammunition. While our fight isn't over, this decision is an important victory, allowing us to enforce the law for the protection of loved ones statewide."

“California’s strong gun safety laws are thoughtful safeguards that help deter crime, and protect our schools and communities,” said Governor Newsom. “In the interest of public safety, we are encouraged by the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision to stay the district court’s order, and hope for a resolution that ensures Californians’ safety.”

In 2016, Californians passed Proposition 63 by an overwhelming majority to require background checks for ammunition purchases in order to keep ammunition out of the hands of violent criminals and other prohibited persons. Voters found that the law’s reforms were necessary because gun violence kills or seriously injures thousands of Californians each year and regulatory gaps in ammunition sales were contributing to the problem. As a result of the law, more than 750 prohibited individuals were stopped from illegally purchasing ammunition largely over the second half of last year alone. Ammunition background checks are particularly important in order to prevent individuals who are prohibited from possessing a firearm from obtaining ammunition for untraceable, manufactured “ghost guns” or firearms that were purchased illegally. As a result of the stay order, all ammunition purchases will continue to be required to go through state-licensed vendors. California's laws and regulations on background checks remain as important as ever, especially given that, as of January 1, 2020, there were approximately 7,747 active investigations by the California Department of Justice to remove firearms from individuals who are armed and prohibited in the state.

Attorney General Becerra is committed to protecting the public and upholding the constitutionality of California’s commonsense gun safety laws. Last year, the Attorney General secured a ruling to keep provisions of California’s laws on large-capacity magazines in effect while litigation continued. Attorney General Becerra also called on Congress to put in place nationwide ammunition background checks by enacting Jaime’s Law — named in honor of a 14-year-old student who was killed in the Parkland, Florida mass shooting in 2018. The Attorney General also sponsored legislation last year in California to strengthen firearm safety laws in the state and close firearms licensing loopholes. Earlier this year, Attorney General Becerra joined a multistate lawsuit to block the Trump Administration’s irresponsible efforts to loosen regulations governing blueprints for 3D-printed ghost guns. A video highlighting the Department of Justice’s efforts to protect public safety by keeping firearms out of the hands of individuals who are prohibited by law from possessing them is available here.

A copy of the Ninth Circuit's order is available here. A copy of the emergency stay request filed with the Ninth Circuit is available here.

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