In this Article:
Since we live in a constitutional republic divided into fifty separate sovereign states, the laws by state can vary significantly, especially when it comes to firearms and ammunition.
While all states have laws regulating firearms and ammunition, some state laws are very lax, while others are more restrictive.
Even before Proposition 63 went into effect in the beautiful state of California on January 1st, 2018, the gun laws there were already quite strict in comparison to the rest of the country. But now, they’ve been made even tighter.
On November 8, 2016, California voters went to the polls to vote, and Proposition 63 was on the ballot. Voters could either vote yes or vote nom and the final count was 63% in favor and 37% against.
Thus, Proposition 63 became law and officially went into effect in January 1st, 2018.
Let’s discuss the nitty gritty details of Proposition 63 and what it means exactly for the citizens of California:
The Ballot Summary of Proposition 63
Proposition 63 is without question one of the largest and most complex laws regarding the sale and possession of firearms and ammunition that has ever gone into effect in the entire country, not just in California.
The official ballot summary of Proposition 63 is as follows:
- Requires individuals to pass a background check and obtain Department of Justice authorization to purchase ammunition.
- Prohibits possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines, and requires their disposal, as specified.
- Requires most ammunition sales be made through licensed ammunition vendors and reported to Department of Justice.
- Requires lost or stolen firearms and ammunition be reported to law enforcement.
- Prohibits persons convicted of stealing a firearm from possessing firearms.
- Establishes new procedures for enforcing laws prohibiting firearm possession.
- Requires Department of Justice to provide information about prohibited persons to federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System
There is also a shorter ballot label summary, which was written as follows:
“Requires background check and Department of Justice authorization to purchase ammunition. Prohibits possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines. Establishes procedures for enforcing laws prohibiting firearm possession by specified persons. Requires Department of Justice’s participation in federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Fiscal Impact: Increased state and local court and law enforcement costs, potentially in the tens of millions of dollars annually, related to a new court process for removing firearms from prohibited persons after they are convicted.”
Court Ruling On Possession of ‘High Capacity’ Magazines
Proposition 63 was almost immediately challenged in court by opponents and gun rights advocates, who argued that the bill was unconstitutional and violated the 2nd Amendment in the United States Constitution.
Specifically, opponents argued that the bill’s ban on ‘large capacity magazines’ constituted infringement of the 2nd Amendment. Xavier Becerra, the Democratic Attorney General of California, was the defendant in the case and argued that the ban was constitutional.
Under Proposition 63, possessing magazines that held over ten rounds of ammunition in California was made illegal and either a misdemeanor or an infraction. Previously, it was only illegal to buy or sell them in the state. Furthermore, the law required current owners of ‘high capacity’ magazines to either surrender them to law enforcement or otherwise remove them from the state.
The United States District Court for the Southern District of California ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and thus the magazine ban was, at least temporarily, lifted.
Judge Roger Benitez ordered Attorney General Becerra to no longer enforce the magazine ban, arguing that it criminalized law abiding citizens who owned the magazines for defense of ‘self, home, and state.’
Most Significant Changes Under Proposition 63
One of the most significant aspects of Proposition 63 deals with the possession, purchasing, and selling of ammunition.
Let’s discuss the changes made under Proposition 63 in greater detail:
PERMIT TO BUY AMMUNITION
One of the most largest changes to California state law under Proposition 63 is that not just anyone of legal age is allowed to walk into a store and buy ammo now.
Instead, the new law requires you to attain a permit too. Furthermore, whoever is selling you the ammo must check his permit to confirm you have it before they can legally sell it to you.
The permit is issued by the California Department of Justice and is good for four years before it needs to be renewed. So in other words, dealers essentially need to go through the Department of Justice before they can sell ammunition.
PERMIT TO SELL AMMUNITION
You would think that if there’s a required permit to by ammo, then there’s a required permit to sell it as well, and you would be correct.
As with buying ammo, dealers who want to sell ammo need to attain a permit from the California Department of Justice. But unlike the other license that is good for four years, this license is only food for one year.
The only time you are allowed to sell ammo and not need the license is if you are a hunter who sells fifty rounds or less per month.
If you sell more than fifty rounds a month and lack the required permit, and assuming you are caught by the authorities, you will be dealt with a misdemeanor penalty for failing to meet the requirements.
PREVENTING PROHIBITED INDIVIDUALS IN FIREARMS
Proposition 63 also seeks to make it harder for prohibited people from possessing firearms.
Under the new law, the California court has the responsibility to inform any prohibited individual that they have lost the right to own a gun, and that they have three possible options:
Sell their firearms to a dealer licensed with the state of California
Hand over their firearms to a dealer to store
Surrender their firearms over to local law enforcement
It is also the responsibility of probation officers to confirm that prohibited individuals follow the law with their firearms.
BUYING AMMO OUT OF STATE
Under Proposition 63, California residents may longer buy ammunition out of state or online and then transfer it back themselves to California.
Instead, the ammunition must be first delivered to a licensed dealer who can then transfer the ammo over to you.
And again, both you and the dealer must have the appropriate licenses from the Department of Justice in order for this transaction to be fully legal.
Selling Ammunition Legally
As was noted above, selling more than fifty rounds of ammunition a month will require you to attain a one year license from the California Department of Justice.
However, there is one way to get around this and still be able to sell ammo legal, and that is to attain an FFL license.
The reason why this is legal is because the state of California considered any FFL holder to also be a Licensed Ammunition Vendor.
The reason why you may want to go this route if you sell ammo in California is because holding an FFL license allows you to do far more than just the Licensed Ammunition Vendor license. Not only can you buy and sell ammo legally, but you can also become a firearms dealer and have guns shipped to you. You can also get discounts from gun manufacturers on the firearms and products they sell as well, which is pretty cool.
Yes, an FFL license requires far more time and steps to take in order to attain, but it is something to think about getting if you plan on selling large quantities of ammunition in California.
Arguments For and Against Proposition 63
Those who supported Proposition 63 made the following arguments in favor of it:
- The law would prevent guns and ammunition from falling into the wrong hangs
- The rights of law abiding citizens to own firearms for self defense, recreational use, or hunting would be preserved
- Felons would be less likely to be armed with guns
Those who opposed Proposition 63 made the following arguments against it:
- The law, or at least certain aspects of it, is a violation of the 2nd Amendment
- The law inflicts significant burdens on law abiding citizens
- The law does not prevent criminals from owning firearms
- The law takes away resources from local law enforcement and police agencies
- The law is a waste of public resources
Here are some prominent voices against Prop 63:
“Gavin Newsom’s dangerous ballot measure threatens to criminalize law-abiding Californians without taking one weapon out of the hands of criminals and terrorists. Tens of thousands of sheriffs, officers and prosecutors — our frontline law enforcement officials — are opposed to Newsom’s proposal.”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a pro athlete or an LGBT activist, you have a Constitutional right to protect yourself. Gavin Newsom’s dangerous ballot measure threatens to take away some of your civil rights. His proposal will criminalize law-abiding Californians while doing nothing to stop criminals and terrorists from attacking.”
About the Coalition for Civil Liberties
The Coalition for Civil Liberties is a diverse group of Californians from all walks of life who have come together to stand against the systematic reduction of our basic civil rights. In 2016 they fought against ill-conceived gun control laws and the political aspirations of anti-2A politicians. According to them, the actions of the politicians did nothing to make you more safe, and they are standing against those that restrict your rights to protect your families and others.
- California Rifle & Pistol Association
- CalGuns Shooting Sports Association
- Congress of Racial Equality
- Gun Owners of California
- National Rifle Association
- California Waterfowl
- Jews Can Shoot
- Law Enforcement Alliance of America
- NRA Members’ Council
- Pink Pistols
- San Francisco Veteran Police Officers Association
- Women Against Gun Control
- National Wild Turkey Federation
FAQ About Proposition 63
If you still have questions concerning Proposition 63 and need definitive answers, this section should be able to help you out:
Q: IS IT LEGAL IN CALIFORNIA TO OWN SEMI-AUTOMATIC RIFLES WITH MILITARY FEATURES SUCH AS THE AR-15 AND AK-47?
A: It’s still legal for Californian residents to own military style semi-automatic rifles, or so called ‘assault rifles’ or assault weapons,’ but as of 2016 they can no longer purchase them from California dealers and anyone who does own them has to register them.
In 2016, California legislators sought to ban the sale of AR-15s with the ‘bullet button,’ which gun control advocates claimed as a big loophole in the state’s assault weapons ban.
Today, the state of California officially defines an ‘assault weapon’ as any semi-automatic or fully-automatic centerfire rifle with a detachable magazine and any one of listed features, such as a collapsible stock or a pistol grip.
Q: IS IT LEGAL IN CALIFORNIA TO OWN A MAGAZINE HOLDING MORE THAN TEN ROUNDS?
A: So called ‘high capacity magazines,’ or magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, have been illegal to purchase in California since 2000. However, those who owned the magazines before then would still be allowed to own them.
Even though Proposition 63 contained a ‘high capacity’ magazine ban on ownership, this part of the law was successfully challenged in the United States District Court of the Southern District of California.
California Attorney General Becerra has appealed the court’s decision, but for now, it is legal to own magazines that hold more than ten rounds of ammunition in the state.
In the near future, the cases will go to the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for a final decision.
Q: IS IT LEGAL TO BUY AMMO ONLINE IF YOU LIVE IN CALIFORNIA
A: Yes, but the ammunition cannot be sent directly to your home and instead needs to be sent to a licensed dealer. The dealer also then needs to see your four year license that allows you to buy ammunition and charge you a processing fee before they can legally hand over the ammunition.
This new law applies to the whole of California and not to specific cities such as Los Angeles or Sacramento like it did previously.
Q: DO YOU NEED A LICENSE TO BUY AMMUNITION IN CALIFORNIA?
A: Yes, under Prop 63, you need to acquire a four year license from the California Department of Justice in order to purchase ammo.
You are also required to present this license to an ammunition vendor before they can actually sell the ammo to you.
Q: DO YOU NEED A LICENSE TO SELL AMMUNITION IN CALIFORNIA?
A: Yes, so long as you are selling more than fifty rounds of ammunition a month, you do need to acquire a one year license from the California Department of Justice, or otherwise became an FFL holder (in which case you apply to the Federal government).
Q: DO YOU NEED A BACKGROUND CHECK TO BUY AMMUNITION?
A: As of now, no. But it won’t stay that way for long.
Starting in July 2019, you will need to undergo a background check, and through a licensed dealer, before you can both buy and transfer ammo.
Q: CAN YOU BRING AMMUNITION OUT OF STATE INTO CALIFORNIA?
A: Not anymore. Under Prop 63, it is illegal to import ammunition into California that was bought out of state. This changes a 2016 law that allowed hunters to bring fifty rounds out of state into California.
Q: ARE THERE LIMITS TO THE AMOUNT OF AMMO YOU CAN BUY AT ONCE?
A: As of now, no.
To conclude, there is absolutely no question that Proposition 63 has resulted in some of the tightest regulations on ammunition that we have seen yet in the entire country.
In summary, direct mail of ammo to your house, importing ammunition from out of state, or buying or selling ammo without a license is no longer legal under Prop 63. Prop 63 also initiated a ban on the ownership of ‘high capacity’ magazines, but this has been successfully challenged in court for now, and has headed to an appeals court instead.
News & Resources
Disclaimer: Readers of this website should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No reader, user, or browser of this site should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on this site without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation.