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Proposition 63: Firearms. Ammunition Sales. Initiative Statute.

The California Labor Federation does not take a stance on this measure.

Click here to download California Labor’s 2016 Endorsements & Ballot Measures Analyses

A YES vote on this measure means:

The state would prohibit the possession of large capacity ammunition magazines and would require most individuals to pass a background check and obtain authorization from the Department of Justice to purchase ammunition.

A NO vote on this measure means:

No change would be made to current state gun and ammunition control laws.

Official Secretary of State Ballot Summary: 

  • Prohibits possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines, and requires their disposal by sale to dealer, destruction, or removal from state.
  • Requires most individuals to pass a background check and obtain Department of Justice authorization to purchase ammunition.
  • Requires most ammunition sales be made through licensed ammunition vendors and reported to Department of Justice.
  • Requires lost or stolen firearms and ammunition be reported to law enforcement.
  • Prohibits persons convicted of stealing a firearm from possessing firearms.
  • Establishes new procedures for enforcing laws prohibiting firearm possession by felons and violent criminals.
  • Requires Department of Justice to provide information about prohibited persons to federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Background:

In 1989 and 1993, California was rocked by two mass shootings—one at an elementary school in Stockton, and another at a law office in San Francisco. Those two events prompted California to pass some of the toughest gun control laws in the country. The state currently bans most assault weapons, prohibits the sale of large capacity ammunition magazines, regulates gun shows, limits handgun purchases and imposes a ten-day waiting period before firearm purchases, among other restrictions. In 2014, California passed the nation’s first Gun Violence Restraining Order law, which allows family members or law enforcement to petition courts to temporarily prevent an individual from possessing or purchasing a firearm if they are a danger to themselves or the public.

A 2013 study by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence found that California’s gun death rate decreased by 56% from 1993 to 2010, compared to 49% nationally. In 2013, California had the ninth lowest gun death rate of any state, dropping from the thirty-fifth lowest rate in 1993.

Unlike most other states, California has no provision in the state constitution that explicitly protects the right to keep and bear arms. The state Supreme Court has maintained that most of California’s gun control laws are constitutional, based on the fact that the state constitution does not explicitly guarantee individuals the right to purchase, possess, or carry firearms. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has established that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, that protects the right to bear arms, applies to all states.

Federal and state laws generally do not regulate ammunition sales in the same manner as firearm sales. However, California does regulate some aspects of ammunition such as sales and transfers, persons allowed to possess ammunition, minimum age, and the prohibition on the sale or transfer of large capacity ammunition magazines. California further prohibits the carrying of ammunition on school grounds and in the State Capitol, any legislative office, any office of the Governor or other constitutional officer, or any hearing room in which any committee of the Senate or Assembly is conducting a hearing.

This measure would prohibits the possession of large-capacity magazines and treat ammunition sales like gun sales, requiring point-of-sale background checks and restricting certain categories of people, such as felons and the dangerously mentally ill, from ammunition purchases. The measure also defines a firearms relinquishment process for convicted felons and requires reporting to law enforcement if a gun is lost or stolen.

Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance estimate of fiscal impact: 

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 measure. 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. Potential increase in state and local correctional costs, not likely to exceed the low millions of dollars annually, related to new and increased penalties

Support and Opposition:

Supporters include the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the Democratic Party and a number of cities and elected officials. They argue that this initiative is a commonsense package of gun reforms that will save lives by making it much harder for dangerous people to get guns and ammunition in California.  They contend that there have been 150 school shootings since Newtown, CT and many more mass shootings and that more action is needed to restrict access to guns and ammunition. They argue that this will implement the toughest background check law in the nation to keep guns and ammunition out of the wrong hands. They state that California has led the country in the passage of gun control laws that save lives and this initiative continues that work.

Opponents include the Coalition for Civil Liberties and the California Rifle and Pistol Association. They state that the requirement to a background check to buy a box of ammunition will create another complicated, expensive and flawed database that will be impossible to effectively maintain and administer. They point to a similar approach in New York, which was abandoned after wasting millions of taxpayer dollars. They also state that regulating ammunition will only drive up the cost for law-abiding citizens and is discriminatory against those gun-owners who want to follow the law but find it prohibitively expensive.

Prior Positions:

The Labor Federation had no recommendation on Proposition 15 in 1983 that would have limited the number of handguns in the state by restricting importations and prohibiting mail order of guns and would have required owners of handguns to register them with the Department of Justice.


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