U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego struck down California’s stringent law requiring background checks for ammunition purchases, declaring it unconstitutional. The decision was made public on Wednesday.
California, known for its progressive stance on gun control, faced a significant setback when Judge Benitez ruled that the state’s law infringes upon the Second Amendment rights of its citizens. The law, which mandated citizens to undergo background checks every time they purchased ammunition, was criticized for its overreach and lack of historical precedent.
“The Constitution does not mention a right to own automobiles (or carriages or horses). Similarly, when a person chooses to buy a firearm, he is required to undergo a full background check,” Judge Benitez stated in his decision.
“However, until now, he was not required to also go through a background check every time he needs to refill his gun with ammunition. And the Bill of Rights commands that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Benitez was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush.
This ruling came as a response to the legal challenge against Senate Bill 1235, which amended the voter-approved Proposition 63. Proposition 63 initially created a system where gun owners would apply for a four-year ammunition purchase permit. However, Senate Bill 1235 replaced this with a requirement for an automated background check for every ammunition purchase.
Judge Benitez, in his decision, highlighted the impracticality and constitutional issues with this approach. “With the recently enacted ammunition background check laws, gun owners in California undergo background checks more than one million times each year simply to buy ammunition,” he noted while focusing on the excessive nature of the law.
The decision also pointed out the significant failure rate of the background check system, which denied Californians their Second Amendment rights. “Californians are denied the Second Amendment right to buy ammunition for self-defense at least 11% of the time because of problems with the background check system,” the judge remarked.
Judge Benitez’s ruling is seen as a significant victory for Second Amendment advocates, who have long argued that California’s gun laws are too restrictive and infringe upon constitutional rights. The judge’s assertion that the background checks have “no historical pedigree” and treat all citizens as having no right to buy ammunition underscores the perceived overreach of the state’s gun control measures.
The decision also referenced previous court findings that the background check and anti-importation provisions likely violate both the Second Amendment and the dormant Commerce Clause. This further solidifies the argument that California’s approach to gun control, particularly concerning ammunition purchases, is constitutionally questionable.
Federal courts have issued divergent Second Amendment rulings since a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision that expanded, the right of people to arm themselves in public…
Benitez has drawn criticism from Newsom for multiple decisions favoring firearms owners, including a Sept. 2023 ruling that California’s ban on high-capacity gun magazines was unconstitutional.
The judge had blocked California’s background checks requirement in April 2020. A federal appeals court asked him to revisit that ruling in light of the 2022 Supreme Court decision.
Benitez stopped short of endorsing the four-year ammunition permit, but said it would be “a more reasonable constitutional approach than the current scheme.”
California Rifle & Pistol Association President and General Counsel, Chuck Michel, described the verdict as a “big win.” He argued that California’s actions had “blocked many eligible people from getting the ammunition they need, which is the true political intent behind most of these laws.”