Everybody knows that the United States was formed by settlers who moved from East to West. But whether it’s Ronald Reagan or Half-n-Half, what starts in California usually then moves back East. Which is why when a citizen’s ballot initiative to limit magazine capacities and ammunition sales in California was first announced back in January, the NRA threw an especially big fit because they know that if this kind of measure can be passed in our most populous state, then gun-control legislation can pop up anywhere and no amount of Capitol Hill noisemaking can necessarily hold the line against such reforms.
The California initiative is particularly interesting because, for the first time, it is aimed (no pun intended) not just at the regulation of guns, but the regulation of ammunition as well. And for all the talk about gun violence on both sides, what is rarely mentioned is the fact that while gun ownership is more or less regulated in all 50 states, the control of ammunition is usually left entirely undone. For example, despite a strongly-held belief among many GVP advocates to the contrary, most internet gun sales involve a background check before the buyer can actually take possession of the gun. But in most states that same buyer can purchase an armory-full load of ammunition for that same weapon and there is no requirement that such purchases be tracked or reported at all. The Aurora shooter, James Holmes, for example, amassed a stash of more than 6,000 rounds, much of it bought online.
To a certain degree the California initiative follows from ordinances that were passed in Los Angeles and Sacramento which require that ammunition purchasers identify themselves in face-to-face transactions with ammunition sellers, and that the latter keep records of everyone to whom they have made a sale. The problem, of course, is that these laws are only useful to law enforcement engaged in an investigation after-the-fact; they really don’t do much to prevent ammunition from getting into the wrong hands before it’s used in an improper way. The new ballot initiative, known as “The Safety For All Act,” would require a background check for all ammunition sales, making California the first state to impose the same requirement for ammunition purchases that exist for the purchase of guns.
Frankly, if I were the NRA, I’d be freaking out too. And I would be particularly freaking out right now because the folks who are spearheading the effort to put this issue on the ballot have just announced that they have collected the necessary 365,880 signatures to put the item before statewide voters this Fall. Actually, they are going to submit over 600,000 signatures, because like all citizen initiative campaigns, signatures on a petition are one thing, valid signatures are something else. But I get the clear sense that putting this issue before the voters come November is really a done deal.
You know, of course, that the NRA will pull out all the usual 2nd-Amendment stops to try and defeat this bill, but in a funny kind of way they are hoisted by their own petard. Because the NRA doesn’t let a single day go by without reminding the world that they represent the most law-abiding citizens on God’s green earth; namely, the folks who under law (a law that was supported by the NRA) are allowed to own guns. So if the government imposes the same legal requirements on ammo that it imposes on guns, why should any good-guy citizen (or non-citizen, for that matter) have a problem with this law?
This ballot initiative is also going to test one other, heartfelt NRA argument, namely their self-promoting nonsense that they are a true, grass-roots movement whereas the other side is an artificial creation of Mayor Mike and his big bucks. Let’s see how that one flies in the Golden State – it sure didn’t work when I-594 was passed in a state right up Interstate 5.