January 20, 2011 in Nation/World

Handgun ammunition rules blocked

Judge guts California law days before it takes effect
Garance Burke Associated Press
 

FRESNO, Calif. – A trial court judge in central California has thrown out key sections of a state law restricting handgun ammunition sales, barring authorities from registering bullet buyers’ thumbprints on the grounds that it would be unconstitutional.

Gun rights supporters applauded Tuesday’s ruling in Fresno County Superior Court, saying the law would have created uncertainty by forcing local sheriffs and firearms shops to decide for themselves what caliber of bullets were covered under the regulations.

The statute also would have compelled customers to buy their handgun ammunition in face-to-face transactions.

Parts of the law may still be implemented, and California’s newly elected Attorney General Kamala Harris is considering an appeal, spokesman Jim Finefrock said Wednesday.

“This was just going to cost police and shell ammunition sellers money. It really wasn’t going to stop violent crime or criminals from getting ammunition,” said attorney Chuck Michel, who brought the case on behalf of the California Rifle and Pistol Association Foundation with partial funding from the National Rifle Association. “All this was going to do was impose a tremendous and expensive burden on law enforcement.”

Democratic Sen. Kevin De Leon introduced AB 962 in 2009 as an attempt to keep handgun ammo out of the hands of criminals, drug abusers or the mentally ill, and it was signed into law that same year.

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Hamilton’s oral ruling covers key sections of that law that rely on a state code defining handgun ammunition as “principally for use in pistols, revolvers, and other firearms capable of being concealed,” a definition he said was so vaguely written it was unconstitutional.

The judge’s decision blocks the creation of a licensing and registration system governing ammunition sales, and prevents gunshops from taking buyers’ fingerprints, elements of the law that were set to go into effect on Feb. 1.

Regulations in some California cities limiting ammo sales, including in Sacramento and Los Angeles, will not be affected.

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