Sporting goods and gun shop sales people say there was a slight uptick in ammunition sales the last week or so of June — running up to the institution of a new California law requiring background checks that went into effect July 1. And since then, sales have remained about normal.
California is known as having some of the strictest gun control laws in the U.S., and now even more so. The new law requires people purchasing ammunition to undergo an in-store background check before every purchase, and pay $1 per each eligibility check.
“We still had people purchasing ammo the first day the law went into effect,” said Pat Kittle, co-owner of Kittle’s Outdoor and Sport Co. in Colusa. “There was definitely a slight uptick in the days leading up to the change but sales have stayed pretty average.”
Brittany Barlow, manager at Union Ace Hardware in Marysville agreed, saying ammunition sales have been about what they usually are this time of year.
“In July, ammo sales are usually not that high because it is not a big time for hunting,” Barlow said. “We did see a lot of people stock up prior to July 1 though.”
According to California Healthline, California is the first state in the nation to require anyone buying ammunition to go through a background check at the time of each purchase and retailers that sell ammunition must also start submitting sales records to the state Department of Justice.
Kittle said he has noticed customers buying ammunition in bigger quantities since the change.
“A lot of the people that come in to just buy a box or two of ammo have been purchasing cases, instead, just because it takes a bit longer to go through the background check now,” Kittle said.
He said the average background check in his shop takes roughly two minutes to process but some can take up to 10 minutes.
More thorough background checks are required for customers that have not recently purchased a gun or ammunition.
“If you have not purchased a gun in the last five years, the background check is not instant,” Barlow said. “It can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple of days to get approved.”
Barlow said those customers are also required to pay a one-time $19 extensive eligibility check fee. Any purchases made after the initial $19 screening will include the standard $1 eligibility check.
The Proposition 63 ballot measure approved by voters in 2016, created procedure that utilizes the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, searching a number of federal databases to ensure that the buyer is not a prohibited buyer.
Kittle said he has seen many people that have not purchased firearms within a number of years get denied while going through the background check in recent days because there is no record of them in the current NICS system.
“These customers have to go through a more extensive process to get into the system and build a profile with the Department of Justice before they are even able to purchase ammo under the new rules,” Kittle said.
There have been two big changes since the law went into effect at his shop, Kittle said. — At the start of the year, all ammunition was required to be put out of the reach of the public. Kittle said he used to keep palates of ammunition on the storeroom floor so he had to do a bit of rearranging and purchase new hardware to comply with the new law. — Kittle said he has also had to get all of his employees that handle ammunition sales transactions fingerprinted.
“We also have to pay a fee to the Department of Justice for each employee annually,” Kittle said.
Kittle also noted that nearly 40 percent of people hoping to purchase ammunition at this particular location have needed to provide additional identification because of certain restrictions listed on their driver’s license.
“There have been more than I thought there would be,” Kittle said.
Barlow said the biggest challenge that she is seeing with the new ammunition purchase regulations have been changes to personal status, such as a change of address or last name due to marriage, which are not reflected in the NICS database.
Barlow said that if a customer has a P.O. Box address listed on their license, they must bring additional documentation to verify their home address.
“They have to bring in a utility bill or car registration, something that reflects their physical address,” Barlow said.
Overall, Kittle said that there have been a few concerns about this new requirement, but most customers don’t seem to mind after the process has been explained to them.
Barlow said customers have been understanding about the new process but she reminds customers that ammunition purchases will no longer be a quick in-and-out stop.
“Don’t expect to walk into a busy shop now and expect to be out hunting the next morning,” Barlow said. “Sometimes it takes five minutes just for approval and if we are busy the process may take longer.”
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