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Proposition 63 – Firearms – Ammunition Sales

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Overview:

Proposition 63 would make a number of changes related to firearms and ammunition.

Under both state and federal law, some people are not allowed to own or possess firearms.  These individuals are referred to as "prohibited persons" and generally include individuals convicted of felonies and some misdemeanors, and those determined by a court to be a danger to themselves or others.  In California, persons who are prohibited from owning firearms are also prohibited from owning ammunition.

Under current law, there are various procedures, regulations, and limitations for individuals seeking to purchase firearms.  These include a federal background check, limits on the type of firearms that can be purchased, a ten-day waiting period before a dealer may transfer a firearm to a purchaser, and requirements for recording and reporting firearms purchases.

Ammunition sales are generally not regulated in the same manner as firearms sales.  However, some regulations do apply.  For example, since 2000, California law has prohibited the manufacture, sale or transfer of "large capacity magazines" (holding more than 10 rounds).  However, individuals who possessed large capacity magazines before 2000 were allowed to keep them.

Proposition 63 would make a number of changes to these provisions, most specifically those dealing with ammunition sales.  In particular, Proposition 63 would (1) regulate all ammunition sales in a manner similar to firearm sales, (2) implement a court process to ensure certain offenders surrender their firearms at the time of their conviction, and (3) expand the existing ban on large capacity magazines.

First, the proposition would regulate all ammunition sales in a manner similar to firearm sales.  Vendors of ammunition would be required to obtain a one-year license from the state Department of Justice (DOJ) in order to sell more than 500 rounds of ammunition in a 30-day period.  In addition, individuals wishing to purchase ammunition would have to obtain a 4-year authorization from the DOJ.  Proposition 63 would also require  ammunition vendors to collect and submit specified information—such as the date of the transaction, the purchasers’ identification information, and the type of ammunition purchased—to DOJ for retention in a centralized database for law enforcement purposes.

Second, Proposition 63 contains includes provisions to require that individuals convicted of offenses that prohibit them from owning firearms surrender their firearms at the time of their conviction.

Finally, as discussed above, the 2000 ban on "large capacity magazines" allowed persons who owned them before the ban to keep them.  Proposition 63 would change that and require persons currently lawfully possession of such magazines to (1) remove the magazine from the state, (2) sell the magazine to a licensed firearms dealer, or (3) surrender the magazine to law enforcement for destruction.

Fiscal Impact:

According to the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO), Proposition 63 would result in increased state costs in the tens of millions of dollars annually related to regulating ammunition sales, likely offset by various regulatory fees authorized by the proposition.  The proposition would also result in an increase in court and law enforcement costs, not likely to exceed the tens of millions of dollars annually, related to removing firearms from prohibited persons as part of court sentencing proceedings. These costs could be offset to some extent by fees authorized by the measure.  Finally, Proposition 63 could result in a potential increase in state and local correctional costs, not likely to exceed the low millions of dollars annually, related to new and increased penalties.

CCC Position:

No position

Support:

The lead proponent of Proposition 63 is Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.  Other supporters include U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and other elected officials, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the California Democratic Party, and the League of Women Voters of California.

Supporters state that more than 300 Americans are shot each day, more than 80 of them fatally, and that more than one million Americans were killed or seriously injured by guns from 2004-2014.  Proposition 63, the Safety for All Act, will save lives by closing loopholes to prevent dangerous criminals, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill from obtaining and using deadly weapons.     

In addition, supporters state that thousands of dangerous felons remain illegally armed.  This measure will remove illegal guns from communities by ensuring that dangerous criminals and domestic abusers sell or transfer their firearms after they are convicted. 

Opposition:

Opponents of Proposition 63 include the Coalition for Civil Liberties, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the California Reserve Peace Officers Association, and the California State Sheriffs’ Association, and other law enforcement and civic groups.

Opponents argue that this measure will divert scarce law enforcement resources away from local law enforcement and overburden an already overcrowded court system with the enforcement of flawed laws that will turn harmless, law-abiding citizens into criminals.  Moreover, opponents claim that by directing resources away from measures that are truly effective at preventing the criminal element from acquiring guns and ammunition, Proposition 63 will make us all less safe.   

Reflections on Church Teaching:

"All of us must do more to end violence in the home and to find ways to help victims break out of the pattern of abuse.  As bishops, we support measures that control the sale and use of firearms and make them safer (especially efforts that prevent their unsupervised use by children or anyone other than the owner), and we reiterate our call for sensible regulation of handguns."  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice (2000)

"On January 15, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Chair of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development joined 46 other national religious leaders in signing the letter of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence. The letter urges Congress to support policies that:

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Require universal background checks for all gun purchases;

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Limit civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines;

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Make gun trafficking a federal crime, and;

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Improve access to mental health care for those who may be prone to violence.

“In addition to policies intended to curb gun violence, we must also look to our entertainers, especially film producers and video game creators, and encourage them to reflect on how their profit motives have allowed the proliferation of movies, television programs, video games and other entertainment that glorify violence and prey on the insecurities and vulnerabilities of our young people. Such portrayals of violence have desensitized all of us. We must improve our resources for parents, guardians and young people, so that they can evaluate entertainment products intelligently. The viewing and use of these products have negative emotional, psychological and spiritual effects on people, especially the young.” Testimony on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shootings, February 2013

"The production and the sale of arms affect the common good of nations and of the international community.  Hence public authorities have the right and duty to regulate them.  The short-term pursuit of private or collective interests cannot legitimate undertakings that promote violence and conflict among nations and compromise the international juridical order."  Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2316.