Appeals Court Reinstates California Law Mandating Background Checks for Ammo Purchases, Overturning Previous Ruling

San Diego, California – An appeals court has overturned a federal judge’s ruling that struck down a state law requiring background checks for ammunition purchases. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to allow the California Attorney General’s Office to suspend the judgment. The decision follows U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez’s injunction last week, which deemed the background check requirement for most ammunition purchases as unconstitutional.

In a brief ruling, Judges Richard Clifton and Holly Thomas granted the suspension, while Judge Consuelo Callahan dissented. Callahan stated that she did not believe the appellant had sufficiently demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits or the potential for irreparable harm without a suspension.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta emphasized the importance of the state’s ammunition laws in a statement. These laws aim to prevent the use of firearms by individuals who are prohibited from owning them, especially in light of the increasing availability of self-assembled and untraceable “ghost guns.” Bonta acknowledged the long legal battle ahead but expressed relief that the ammunition laws would remain enforceable during this time.

The ruling, however, disappointed the California Rifle & Pistol Association, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging the state’s ammunition restrictions. The association believed that Judge Benitez’s earlier ruling, which invalidated the law as burdensome, had been undermined by the appeals court’s decision.

Last week’s ruling was the second time Judge Benitez has blocked the ammunition background check law. Known for consistently siding with gun rights advocates in his decisions, Benitez criticized the state’s background check system, describing it as cumbersome and complex.

Prior to Election Day in 2016, voters had approved a background check system that required prospective ammunition buyers to obtain a four-year permit. However, Benitez highlighted that the law was later amended to mandate background checks for every ammunition purchase, a change that lacked clear justification.

Benitez further criticized the existing system for its technical errors, which have resulted in the denial of ammunition purchases for law-abiding citizens at an alarmingly high rate.

The suspension of Judge Benitez’s ruling signals a temporary victory for the state of California in its ongoing efforts to regulate ammunition sales. As the legal battle continues, the fate of the background check requirement remains uncertain, and the debate over firearms and public safety persists in the state.