There has been much controversy over gun laws in California, and the legal rights of gun owners in the state are always changing. Even more confusing are California ammunition laws – is ammo more restricted than firearms? Less?
The truth is that California restricts ammunition sales and possession in similar ways to guns, but ammo laws are different and are enforced differently. Not knowing a certain ammo law could mean a fine or even an arrest.
Read up on California ammunition laws with this guide, and if you have more specific questions about your rights to buy and keep ammo, don’t hesitate to talk to a lawyer. Simmrin Law Firm offers free consultations so you can better understand California’s legal system.
Ammo Regulation in California
California is one of the strictest states on gun control, and one way that the state tries to control gun use is through the regulation of ammunition. Lawmakers believe that if ammo is more restricted, then it will lead to less violent crime. Gun owners do have the right to own ammunition, but they must adhere to California’s tight ammunition regulations.
Ammunition Sale and Transfer
In 2016, California voters passed the sweeping Proposition 63, certain parts of which went into effect at different times. The proposition has been challenged in California courts multiple times, though, and could be subject to change in the future.
The most pertinent part of proposition 63 affects those purchasing ammo – effective July 2019, California law requires anybody who buys ammunition in the state to undergo a background check. However, if you are at a gun range and will not be taking the ammo off the premises, you can buy ammunition without a background check.
Ammunition vendors are also heavily regulated. Everyone who sells ammunition must have a license to do so and must also undergo a background check. Unlicensed vendors can still sell ammo, but in general, those sales have to go through a licensed vendor. The same is true for out-of-state vendors and sales over the internet.
Regulations for Ammo at Gun Shows
Ammo can be displayed and bought at gun shows, but it must be locked away in a sealed container unless a vendor is actively showing it to a buyer. Ammo sale regulations are the same at a gun show as any other place–buyers must have undergone a background check and vendors must be licensed.
Additionally, nobody except for authorized security, officers, and vendors can carry both a firearm and ammunition that can be fired by the firearm at the same time.
Unreasonably Dangerous Ammunition
California also limits the type of ammunition that you can buy, and there are regulations on what the state considers “unreasonably dangerous ammunition.” In California, unreasonably dangerous ammunition can include:
- Metal- or armor-piercing handgun rounds, including ammo meant to pierce body vests. This does not apply to shotgun or rifle ammunition.
- Tracer rounds, except those meant for a shotgun
- Explosive or incendiary ammunition
California law also prohibits the possession or sale of any fixed ammunition greater than 60 gauge. California’s ammunition regulation laws can be complicated, and sometimes if you don’t know you’re doing something wrong, you can still be charged with a crime. If you’re arrested or fined for an ammunition crime, a gun offense lawyer in California can help.
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Who Is Prohibited from Possessing Ammunition?
According to California Penal Code (PC) §30305(a), people who are banned from owning guns are also banned from owning ammunition. People who are prohibited from owning guns and ammunition in California include:
- People convicted of a felony
- People convicted of certain domestic abuse crimes
- People who are addicted to narcotics
- People convicted of certain firearm and firearm storage offenses
- People subject to an active warrant for certain offenses
- People who have a restraining order or protective order against them
- People whose terms of probation expressly prohibit them from owning a gun or ammunition
If you live with someone prohibited from owning ammunition, you can still own ammo, but they can’t have access to it. You have to keep the ammo safely stored away from them in a locker, a safe, or another locked container. Similarly, vendors can’t sell ammo to anyone they should reasonably know is banned from having it.
The list of people prohibited from owning ammunition is long, and sometimes you can be subject to a warrant or a restraining order without even knowing it. You could be able to avoid the charges associated with wrongly possessing ammunition, but the chances are slim unless you have a skilled defense lawyer by your side.
Is There a Minimum Age to Possess Ammunition?
In many cases, yes. California law holds that the minimum age to possess ammunition is 18 years old. The law also prohibits the sale of ammunition to minors under 18 and the sale of handgun ammunition to people under 21. This coincides with California laws regarding the possession and sale of firearms.
There are some exceptions to these laws, though. If a minor’s parent or guardian has expressed written permission, then a minor can buy live ammunition. The same is true if a minor is in the presence of their parent or guardian.
Minors can also buy live ammunition if they are explicitly engaging in sport, i.e., hunting or shooting at a shooting range. The lines can blur, though, so if you or your child are in trouble for wrongfully purchasing ammo, you might want to have an attorney to help you avoid harsh penalties.
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Can You Drive with Ammunition in California?
Yes, you can have ammo in your car in California. There is no law against transporting ammunition in any motor vehicle as long as you are otherwise in legal possession of the ammo and it’s not attached to or loaded into a firearm.
However, if you are transporting the ammunition in order to illegally sell it or if the ammo is directly accessible to someone who cannot possess it, you could be in legal trouble. For more information on your rights regarding transporting ammo in your vehicle, get a consultation with an experienced gun attorney.
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Do I Have to Lock Up My Ammo at Home?
California’s laws on ammo storage are less explicit than its laws on gun storage, but there are some steps you can take to make sure your ammo is stored safely and legally. First, gun owners are urged to store their guns in a locked container, unloaded, in a different location than their ammunition. While locking up ammo is not a part of that recommendation, the safer you can make your house, the better.
If there is a child present in the home, then it is illegal to have a loaded gun where they can access it. If there is any chance that a child could use your ammo to load a gun, then you should make sure to lock both up.
Similarly, if you live with or are in the presence of someone who cannot have guns or ammo, then yes, you should lock up your ammo. If that person gains access to your ammo or if a prosecutor can prove that they were able to, then both you and the person in question could be in legal trouble.
It can be difficult to know exactly how to store your ammo. You should always consult with a trained professional if you’re not sure whether your storage solution is safe enough. If you believe your rights are being infringed, then a free consultation with a gun lawyer can help clear things up.
Can You Buy Ammo Over the Counter in California?
If you meet certain criteria and have passed a background check, then yes, you can buy ammo over the counter. The sale must be from a licensed vendor and the ammo must be a type that is legal to sell and possess in California.
However, the details can get more complicated if you’re out of state or purchasing ammo over the internet. California residents cannot buy ammo from out of state and then bring it within state borders.
If you intend to buy ammo outside of the state of California, it must first be shipped to a licensed gun vendor in the state for inspection. The same goes for purchases of ammunition over the internet.
What Is the Background Check for Ammunition in California?
In general, to purchase ammo, you simply have to go through a “quick” background check before you buy it. That is just to check that the Department of Justice has already cleared you to buy guns or ammunition based on your criminal record. Most of the time, this goes fairly smoothly.
If you’ve never had a background check (or the last time you had one was before the state started keeping records of background checks), then you can pay $19 for a one-time check that then carries over for any future purchase. The system isn’t perfect, though, and background checks can go wrong. If your background check is incorrectly rejected, then you can go back for another one. You can also get a criminal defense lawyer to get any incorrect parts of your criminal record taken off.
If you do have things on your record that could result in a rejected background check, then there is a chance you could get those expunged. People curious about the process of expunging their criminal records can get a free consultation with an attorney who can walk them through what it means to have a record expunged.
How Long Do You Have to Wait to Get Ammo?
After your first background check, there is a short waiting period until you can buy ammunition. In general, the wait time to buy ammunition after a background check is up to 10 days but can be even longer if there are complications.
At your background check, you’ll receive an Ammunition Transaction Number (ATN) that will help you track your check. After you’re approved, you’ll have 30 days to use your ATN at the vendor who performed your background check.
If your background check is rejected, you will receive a letter in the mail informing you of the reason why. A wrongly denied background check can be fixed. Talk to a gun lawyer in California to find out what your options are after a denial.
Consult with a California Gun Lawyer for Free
Because the laws surrounding guns and ammo in California can be especially complicated, you may have questions about your eligibility. A free consultation with California gun lawyers Simmrin Law Group can clear up your legal confusion.
If you’ve been arrested or ticketed for an ammo violation, that’s even more reason to contact one of our attorneys. Call us or contact us online today to get your FREE consultation. Don’t wait until it’s too late to get help.