Soapbox

New law will help keep bullets out of wrong hands

State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, urges lawmakers to approve his ammunition bill in May. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure last week.
State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, urges lawmakers to approve his ammunition bill in May. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure last week. The Associated Press

Before rushing off last week to vacation in Europe, Gov. Jerry Brown signed six bills regulating firearms in California.

The most important was Senate Bill 1235 by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, which will help the state enforce laws on the possession of ammunition.

It has long been illegal for dangerous “prohibited persons,” including felons, those convicted of domestic abuse and the violent mentally ill to have firearms and ammunition. But that ammunition restriction has been difficult to enforce, in part because no one knew who was selling it.

Thanks to the Legislature and Brown, anyone who sells ammunition will be required to register with the state Justice Department and follow certain procedures such as sending information about sales to the department. Buyers of ammunition will have to pass background checks.

Criminals don’t follow the law, say those who oppose such regulations. But the effectiveness of laws like these does not depend on criminals obeying laws.

Those wanting to buy ammunition will not be able to do so unless they pass a background check, and buying ammunition illegally on the black market will become far more expensive and difficult because there will be fewer sellers. Also, this new measure will give law enforcement an important new investigative tool for finding and seizing guns and ammunition from people banned from having them.

The background check process will not be onerous because it will use two existing state databases: the Automated Firearms System and the Armed & Prohibited Persons System. The latter contains the names of gun purchasers who, sometime after legally purchasing a gun, became a prohibited person by committing a felony or an act of domestic violence or for some other reason.

This new law regulating ammunition sellers and buyers continues California’s national leadership in passing sensible gun laws. And they are making us safer. Between 1993 and 2014, the state’s firearm mortality rate declined by 58 percent – more than double the reduction in the rest of the nation.

The gun lobby loves to say that we should just enforce the laws we have. Well, thanks to dedicated activists throughout California, our elected legislators and Gov. Brown, now, for the first time, we will be able to enforce our laws regarding ammunition.

Griffin Dix of Kensington is co-chairman of the Oakland/Alameda County chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He can be contacted at brady.alameda@gmail.com.

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