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Shooting Down California's Ammo Law

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Dove season opens in California and across the U.S. on Sept. 1.

For as long as I can remember, all I had to do when dove season rolled around each year was oil my 1970s-vintage shotgun, buy a case or two of shells at the nearby Big Five sports store and drive toward the Arizona border with my hunting buddies for a few happy days of shooting.


But thanks to a proposition approved by 63 percent of Californians in 2016 and the leftist lawmakers in Sacramento who've been wrecking the state for 40 years, dove season this year will be much more complicated.

A new state law aimed at reducing gun violence took effect on July 1 that requires anyone who buys ammo for any kind of gun to first pass a state background check.

If you're one of California's 4.5 million gun owners who has bought a gun recently, it's no big deal.

You are already in the state's database as a registered gun owner, so you don't need to clear another background check.

But if you're someone like me who hasn't purchased a gun since the 1970s, when you could buy a deer rifle or shotgun at Sears as easily as buying a lawn mower, you're in for some serious bureaucratic torture.

Before I can buy the shotgun shells I'll need this year, I have to go to a state-licensed vendor (a sporting goods store), give them all my information, show them my California driver's ID and then pass a background check that takes anywhere from 3 to 30 days to clear.

After I pass my $19 background check I have 30 days to buy the shotgun shells I'll need. If after 30 days I need to buy more shells, I'll have to pay another $19 for another background check.

The DMV-like process of buying ammo in California is bad enough, but if I'm not careful about how or where I get my shotgun shells, I could become a criminal.


Let's say I'm out in the field next month and I run out of shells after a day or two of shooting.

According to the new law, the only place I'd be allowed to buy more shells is at the same sports store where I passed my background check, which would be a hundred miles away.

What if I asked one of my hunting buddies to give me a box of his shells?

Good idea, but if he gives them to me he'll break the new ammo law because he didn't do a background check on me first.

A person from a less liberal state like Pennsylvania might ask, "Why don't you just go out of state to Arizona and buy your shells there?"

It's a perfectly sensible idea, except that if you are caught bringing more than 90 rounds of ammo into California you can go to jail.

And don't think you are free to order your ammunition online. Manufacturers aren't allowed to ship directly to individuals in the state, just to licensed ammunition vendors like Big Five.

The end result of all this anti-ammo-madness is that somehow on Sept. 1 all of us will be breaking the law at some point by sharing shotgun shells.

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