Last week, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law that requires handgun ammunition to be treated by retailers in much the same way that cigarettes, some cold medicines and even spray paint are treated.
As already shown in some California cities, this common sense measure will go a long way toward keeping ammunition away from gang members and felons in California, and provide law enforcement crucial leads to track down and apprehend armed criminals.
Getting this bill passed was the top priority of our California Brady Campaign Chapters this year, and was the result of tireless advocacy by our activists and allies alongside the bill's sponsor, Assembly Member Kevin DeLeon of Los Angeles.
What does this new California law do? It requires handgun ammunition vendors to record identifying information of ammunition buyers, including their names from a state-issued ID, a thumbprint and a signature. In addition, vendors will also have to record information about the type and amount of ammunition purchased or transferred. These records are to be maintained by the vendor for at least five years and must be made available to law enforcement.
Similar measures have been tested in California cities, and they work.
For example, Sacramento already has a similar law in effect. From January 16, 2008 to August 31, 2009, Sacramento police used their ordinance to find 229 prohibited people - including gang members - who had illegally purchased ammunition. Of those, 173 had previous felony convictions. After police matched ammunition purchase records to the California prohibited persons file, the Sacramento District Attorney was able to charge 181 illegal ammunition purchasers with felonies.
As a result of these investigations, 160 illegal firearms were seized from these prohibited purchasers, as well as cash, drugs, and even explosive devices. Beyond the immediate benefits of catching illegal ammunition buyers, this ordinance actually helped Sacramento law enforcement discover and punish other unlawful behavior.
The Governor cited these local ordinances, and the success they demonstrated, in explaining why he signed the current bill after having vetoed a similar measure a few years back. If other states would show some confidence in letting local communities try different measures like this - instead of pre-empting local efforts to prevent gun violence - maybe we would learn of other successful strategies to make us all safer.
The new law signed by Governor Schwarzenegger had the strong support of law enforcement officials from across California, and the Brady Campaign was proud to join them.
By adopting a common sense policy to give law enforcement powerful tools to disarm felons and gang members in possession of illegal guns and bullets, the state of California has once again set an example for the rest of the country to follow.
Other states should note what California has done here, and consider similar measures.