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The City of Los Angeles recently launched a program that requires selected ammunition retailers to send electronic reports of all sales to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). The effectiveness of the program during the trial period will lay the foundation for a city-wide statute making it mandatory for all ammunition dealers within the city limits.
In 2009, the State of California passed AB962 which has required since February 1, 2011, the delivery or transfer of handgun ammunition may occur only in a face-to-face transaction, and the purchaser must provide some form of photo identification. These two requirements do not apply to transfers to law enforcement, handgun ammunition vendors, or licensed firearms dealers, importer, manufacturers or collectors. Another aspect of this law was a bound book form of record keeping tracking all ammunition sales, similar to those governing the sales of firearms.
The record keeping requirements are not in effect statewide due to ongoing litigation and a pending appeal. In 2011, the Fresno Superior Court in Parker v. California, (Case No. 10CECG02116) found that the definition of “handgun ammunition” used in the legislation was impermissibly vague because the statute did not provide sufficient notice about what types of ammunition would be covered by the law. As a result, enforcement of the record keeping has only been taken on by certain cities and counties as opposed to the whole state.
The City of Los Angeles currently requires ammunition vendors to keep records and the LAPD actually deploys officers to visually inspect these transactions. Under the new initiative, sellers of ammunition would send these records electronically to the LAPD on a weekly basis.
Councilman Mitch Englander, a reserve officer with LAPD, said he fully supports the proposal. “The way we do it now is have to go out and manually look at the logs, and it’s a nightmare. Often, they need to ask for volunteers or assign reserve officers to the work.”
According to LAPD, this measure has helped them with regard to controlling crime. In San Pedro, police were able to find 14 people buying ammunition who had been prohibited from owning weapons.
LAPD is currently testing the electronic transmission program with several larger sporting goods retailers for effectiveness over a 60-day period. The outcome of which, will be used as a recommendation for a city-wide law making the electronic system mandatory.
Putting the statewide hold on the law to the side for a moment, this type of system is going above and beyond the letter and spirit of the law. Granted the electronic submission program that is being tested seems to be voluntary at the moment as only a handful of dealers are participating; this appears to be a blueprint for drafting a law to make it mandatory in Los Angeles.
It’s one thing for a private company to exceed government standards, it is quite another for the government to mandate these standards without the support of a regulatory statute in place. The legal argument to be made here against the City of Los Angeles if this program were to become a statute would be California’s law of pre-emption which prohibits local governments from enacting measures more stringent than those governed by state law.
California’s state and local laws have often been the foundation for firearms regulations in other cities and states throughout the US. The first assault weapon ban was passed in California which served as a blueprint for George HW Bush’s 1989 importation ban and the later 1994 Federal Assault Weapon Ban. As other cities and states pass regulations governing the sale of ammunition, the California model in general or the Los Angeles version in particular may very well be the laws upon which those statutes will be based upon and later enforced.
In our November 1st advisory, “The Potential NFA Dilema”, we stated, “The tax stamp approval period at that time of our initial advisory was averaging 9 months. After the 2-week federal government “shutdown” that time has now been quoted as increasing to as long as 15 months.”
Update: The current tax stamp approval period is 9 months.