SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today will appeal the district court decision striking down California’s ammunition laws adopted by Proposition 63 and amended by SB 1235, and will seek an immediate stay of the district court decision pending appeal to maintain California’s life-saving, constitutional restrictions on ammunition in Rhode v. Bonta. These commonsense ammunition laws require that transactions take place in face-to-face interaction at a licensed ammunition vendor, that a background check be submitted before the ammunition sale or transfer may be completed, that a purchaser demonstrate proof of lawful presence in this country, and that ammunition vendors report certain information to the California Department of Justice. Attorney General Bonta will urge the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the district court’s decision, which will ensure that these vital public safety protections remain in place to prevent gun-related deaths and injuries in California communities.
“These laws were put in place as a safeguard and a way of protecting the people of California — and they work,” said Attorney General Bonta. “We will continue to fight for our authority to keep Californians safe. We will move promptly to seek an immediate stay of this decision so these ammunition laws can remain in effect. The Supreme Court was clear that Bruen did not create a regulatory straitjacket for states — and we believe that the district court got this wrong. We will move quickly to correct this dangerous mistake. We will not stop in our efforts to protect the safety of communities, and Californians’ rights to go about their business without fear of becoming victims of gun violence, while at the same time respecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.”
With the proliferation of self-assembled, fully-functional, and unserialized “ghost guns” that are typically made from user-friendly kits purchased online, these ammunition laws serve as a backstop to the acquisition of firearms by prohibited persons. Ghost guns have hampered the ability of law enforcement to trace crime guns and investigate firearm trafficking. The background checks for ammunition purchases help to identify prohibited persons that have illegally acquired or manufactured firearms and prevent them from acquiring ammunition for use in those weapons.
The plaintiffs challenge a California law that requires the California Department of Justice to pre-approve all ammunition sales, which must be conducted by, or pass through, a licensed ammunition vendor. The plaintiffs allege that the law violates the Second Amendment, the Dormant Commerce Clause, and Equal Protection Clause, and that the law is preempted by federal law. The federal district court previously granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, prohibiting the Attorney General from enforcing the law pending resolution of the case. The next day, the Attorney General secured a stay of that decision from the Ninth Circuit, allowing California to continue to enforce the law while the case is pending. After New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen was decided in June 2022, the Ninth Circuit vacated the preliminary injunction and remanded the case back to the federal district court. The Attorney General will now once again appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
Gun violence remains a growing threat to public safety throughout the nation, as mass shootings are on the rise. On average, there are over 110 gun deaths each day and nearly 41,000 each year in the U.S. Guns are the leading cause of death among children and adolescents, with U.S. children being more likely to die from gun violence than in any other comparable country. In 2021, California was ranked as the #1 state for gun safety by Giffords Law Center, and the state saw a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average. According to the CDC, California’s gun death rate was the 44th lowest in the nation and the gun death rate for children is 58% lower than the national average.