Was it Jeff Cooper who said, ‘there’s nothing as useless as an unloaded gun?’ Maybe it was Bill Jordan. Anyway, I have never really understood why my friends in Gun-control Nation get all hot and bothered about regulating guns but almost never seem to be concerned about the ammunition which goes into the gun.
This issue came home to me yesterday when a judge in California stopped the state from enforcing a law requiring gun owners in the Golden State to pass a background check before purchasing ammunition for their guns. He said the law violated 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ The head of the Brady Campaign said the ruling was ‘contrary to what the Framers intended.’ And I thought the daily CONOVID-19 briefing from the White House was a lot of hot air. The statements by Judge Benitez and Kris Brown from Brady are just as far off the mark.
When the law called Proposition 63 was passed in 2016, it did some good things. It banned high-capacity gun magazines, it also contained a provision penalizing anyone who didn’t report a lost or stolen gun. But the law also exempted reloaded (i.e., home-made) ammunition from any controls, which basically nullified the law’s intent.
If you are going to require that someone pass a background check to buy ammunition, all you are doing is telling the bad guys to go out and make their own ammo, or go to a shooting range and buy reloaded rounds. For that matter, anyone in California can drive to a neighboring state and buy all the ammunition they need. My state, Massachusetts, requires a background check for purchasing ammunition, but I can drive into New Hampshire and load up with ammo (and fireworks), no questions asked.
That being said, I nevertheless don’t understand how Judge Benitez could find Prop. 63 to be an infringement on the 2nd Amendment when the government has always been given authority to regulate the ownership and sale of explosive devices, which is what ammunition happens to be. Now maybe the explosion that occurs when the firing pin of a gun hits the primer of a 9mm round doesn’t create the same degree of noise or destructive power caused by a stick of dynamite going off, but it’s an explosion, nonetheless.
Here’s how the ATF defines explosive device: “Explosive materials are any chemical compound, mixture, or device, the primary or common purpose of which is to function by explosion. The term includes, but is not limited to, dynamite and other high explosives, black powder, pellet powder, initiating explosives, detonators, safety fuses, squibs, detonating cord, igniter cord, and igniters” Now take a look at the bottom of a handgun round, let’s say 9mm or 45acp. The little, round cap in the middle of the shell’s base is called the primer, and it happens to be an igniter because when it is struck by a firing pin it explodes inside the casing, ignites the powder and the round goes – boom!
Has anyone ever said that the ATF’s regulation of igniters is a violation of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights?’ For that matter, is there any mention anywhere in the Constitution about any kind of ammunition at all? Last time I looked at the 2nd Amendment it says something about keeping and bearing ‘arms.’ Doesn’t say anything about ammo – not a single word.
There is nothing in the Constitution that gives any guidance about whether or not ammunition should be regulated the way we regulate guns. But the courts have been very clear over the years in defining governmental authority to set limits on how we behave and what we can buy based on the compelling state interest doctrine, otherwise known as keeping the community safe. El Schmuck-o Trump learned that one in spades last week.
Next time my friends in Gun-control Nation run one of their surveys to see whether gun owners like or dislike ‘reasonable’ gun laws, maybe they should throw in a question about whether background checks should be carried out for all purchases of ammunition as well. I know the answer to that one.