Political Report: Raw Deal: California Passes Ammo Registration

Saturday, January 23, 2010

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If you asked people to name the biggest problem in our country today, many would tell you it`s the economy. If you asked gun owners to name the biggest problem that prevents them from enjoying the shooting sports, many would tell you it`s the ammunition shortage.

And if you asked small business owners in California what problems they face, they could point to a study--issued by the governor`s own "Small Business Advocate"--showing the burden of over-regulation in California costs an average of $134,122 per business per year.

Now, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has made all three problems worse. And he did it by enacting a regulatory scheme that even the federal government decided was a waste of time--23 years ago. Worse yet, it`s the same scheme that he previously and sensibly vetoed--three times. On those occasions the governor called the scheme "simply unworkable" and of "no public benefit." We`re talking about ammunition registration. A.B. 962, the bill signed by Schwarzenegger, will require buyers of ammunition to provide government ID so that the transaction can be logged for review by the police at any time. It also requires buyers provide a thumbprint. It mandates ammunition be stored in locked cabinets, or in some other way that prevents direct access by customers. The legislation will eliminate the delivery of ammunition purchased online to residents of California. Due to vague wording, it may even prevent a person from selling a spare box of ammunition to a friend or family member.

Registration of ammunition is not a new idea. Anti-gun politicians have long resorted to childish slogans when their gun-ban proposals are rejected, predictably proclaiming that "guns don`t kill people--bullets do." Some California legislators have proposed taxing ammunition so that every round would cost $5,000.

But ammunition registration was long ago rejected by the federal government when everyone realized there was no crime-fighting value to the red tape registration created. And that scheme was far less intrusive than the one Schwarzenegger just signed into law.

It was no surprise to see Gov.Schwarzenegger surrounded by giddy gun-ban activists and anti-gun politicians at the bill signing. The bill`s sponsor, Assemblyman Kevin DeLeon from Los Angeles, said, "You have to show identification when you buy alcohol, you have to show identification when you buy cigarettes . . . this is no different." But there is a world of difference. Even if a California resident is "carded" for tobacco or beer, there is no paperwork to fill out with the person`s name and address, and no thumbprint is taken. If these requirements were the law, there would be a line dozens of people long outside every convenience store. And some would resort to a thriving black market instead.

Even some members of the media were skeptical. One pointed out the record-keeping by itself was useless, asking DeLeon, "So if someone comes in and wants to give a thumbprint and can give a thumbprint every time, they can buy as much ammunition as they want, right? Even if they`re a criminal?" "It sets up the platform, it sets up the framework, if you will, where law enforcement can have a valuable tool," responded DeLeon. He was pressed on the question and finally admitted, "Hopefully next year or the year thereafter, we`ll get a system set up for a real-time check." California residents can look forward to the anti-gun cabal pushing forward to make this scheme even more invasive, costly and time-consuming. Nothing new there.

One fairly new development is that new members of law enforcement are beginning to chafe at the hopelessly naòve and futile restrictions coming from the California legislature, and now from the governor, too. Lt. Rick Ells, a spokesman for the San Bernardino Sheriff`s Department, told the San Bernardino Sun, "What you`re doing is setting up a means of tracking law-abiding citizens` purchase of ammunition. What would be great is a way to track the way criminals purchase their ammunition . . . they`re not buying their weapons or their ammunition from [licensed dealers], and that`s the problem."

That`s basically what the federal government decided in 1986. But now, California residents will have to suffer massive red tape, increased costs and inevitably the loss of yet more gun dealers before Governor Schwarzenegger figures it out.

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