As someone who wants to help Californian’s understand firearm laws, I wanted to put together some of the most common questions regarding the purchase of ammunition in the golden state.
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, this is meant to be helpful information not legal advice.
Do I Need to Pass a Background Check to Buy Ammo in CA?
Starting July 1 of 2019, you must meet the following criteria to purchase ammunition in California:
- Be a current resident of California
- Pass “Eligibility Check” aka Background check
- Be 21 years of age or older to purchase handgun ammunition
- Be 18 years of age or older to purchase rifle or shotgun ammunition
On July 1st of 2019 phase 2 of Proposition 63 begins and applies to gun stores and gun shows throughout the state. At this point ammunition sales require a $1 fee (paid by you of course) for a point-of-sale background check, or eligibility check as the DOJ calls it.
What Does the “Eligibility Check” Check Exactly?
This background check will cross-reference your name, current address, date of birth, Driver’s License or other form of government ID with the info you have on file with the DOJ’s Automated Firearms System when you purchased and registered your firearm. If you’re not currently a gun owner or in the system, the DOJ will conduct a special one-time check for $19.
It will also scan your record for felonies which would make you ineligible for ammo purchases. It’s basically the same search that is performed when you purchase a firearm. If all your information checks out and you are clear, you can legally purchase ammunition.
The DOJ says the check should take 60-90 seconds, there is no wait period beyond that.
Where Can I Purchase Ammo in CA?
Ammunition sales must be conducted face-to-face with an FFL or licensed ammunition vendor. There may be some local sporting goods stores that apply for an ammunition license, you’ll need to check on this yourself.
Can I Purchase Ammunition Online?
In the past, you could scour the internet for the best deals all over the country and have it all sent to your doorstep with a credit card. Now days it is a little more tricky, you have two options:
- Have ammunition first shipped to local licensed ammunition vendor and pay an additional fee (likely defeating the savings of buying it online) to receive ammunition face-to-face.
- Apply for FFL03 and COE which would allow ammunition dealers everywhere in the country to legally ship to you directly (if they are willing to, many will not bother shipping to CA)
With the first option, you would need to find a local licensed dealer willing to receive your ammo. Since they will not be making a profit on the ammo coming from another vendor, they will likely charge a substantial fee to make it worth their while. I have heard of some awesome places only charging $5 for any amount of ammo.
For the second option, you have to do a little more work. COE will run you initially around $80 (live scan fees and COE fee) then it is $25 annually as long as you don’t let it expire.
FFL03 is $30 for 3 years. The application asks how many firearms you have purchased as a C&R (Curious and Relics). As long as you never purchase a C&R firearm, you will never get an audit.
Getting ammo shipped to your door will be up to the online retailer even if you have all the legal paperwork in place. Most will not want to deal with the hassle California has created.
Can I buy Ammo out of State and Bring it Back In?
The law says the following, “Commencing January 1, 2018, a resident of California shall not bring or transport into the state any ammunition that he or she purchased or otherwise obtained from outside of this state unless he or she first has that ammunition delivered to a licensed ammunition vendor for delivery to that resident pursuant to the procedures set forth in Section 30312.”
You are free to purchase ammo in other states as long as you do not bring it back with you. First time violations will be infractions, after that its a misdemeanor.
Are There Limits on Ammo Purchases?
Currently, there are no restrictions on the amount of ammunition you can purchase after you pass the eligibility check.
Am I Limited to the Calibers I Own?
Currently, there are no restrictions on buying calibers of ammunition you do not own.
Can I Make my Own Ammo?
There is nothing in the provisions of Prop. 63 that regulates reloading components (powders, primers, projectiles/bullets). Reloading components are not governed by the laws created by Prop 63, however, the leadership of CA could likely come after reloading components in the future.
What Does the Law Say Specifically on Ammunition Purchases?
Want to read and interpret the law yourself? Here is the actual Penal Code section 30370:
(a) Commencing July 1, 2019, the department shall electronically approve the purchase or transfer of ammunition through a vendor, as defined in Section 16151, except as otherwise specified. This approval shall occur at the time of purchase or transfer, prior to the purchaser or transferee taking possession of the ammunition. Pursuant to the authorization specified in paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 30352, the following persons are authorized to purchase ammunition:
1) A purchaser or transferee whose information matches an entry in the Automated Firearms System (AFS) and who is eligible to possess ammunition as specified in subdivision (b). (2) A purchaser or transferee who has a current certificate of eligibility issued by the department pursuant to Section 26710. (3) A purchaser or transferee who is not prohibited from purchasing or possessing ammunition in a single ammunition transaction or purchase made pursuant to the procedure developed pursuant to subdivision (c). (b) To determine if the purchaser or transferee is eligible to purchase or possess ammunition pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (a), the department shall cross-reference the ammunition purchaser’s or transferee’s name, date of birth, current address, and driver’s license or other government identification number, as described in Section 28180, with the information maintained in the AFS. If the purchaser’s or transferee’s information does not match an AFS entry, the transaction shall be denied. If the purchaser’s or transferee’s information matches an AFS entry, the department shall determine if the purchaser or transferee falls within a class of persons who are prohibited from owning or possessing ammunition by cross-referencing with the Prohibited Armed Persons File. If the purchaser or transferee is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm, the transaction shall be denied.
(c) The department shall develop a procedure in which a person who is not prohibited from purchasing or possessing ammunition may be approved for a single ammunition transaction or purchase. The department shall recover the cost of processing and regulatory and enforcement activities related to this section by charging the ammunition transaction or purchase applicant a fee not to exceed the fee charged for the department’s Dealers’ Record of Sale (DROS) process, as described in Section 28225 and not to exceed the department’s reasonable costs.
(d) A vendor is prohibited from providing a purchaser or transferee ammunition without department approval. If a vendor cannot electronically verify a person’s eligibility to purchase or possess ammunition via an Internet connection, the department shall provide a telephone line to verify eligibility. This option is available to ammunition vendors who can demonstrate legitimate geographical and telecommunications limitations in submitting the information electronically and who are approved by the department to use the telephone line verification.
(e) The department shall recover the reasonable cost of regulatory and enforcement activities related to this article by charging ammunition purchasers and transferees a per transaction fee not to exceed one dollar ($1), provided, however, that the fee may be increased at a rate not to exceed any increases in the California Consumer Price Index as compiled and reported by the Department of Industrial Relations, not to exceed the reasonable regulatory and enforcement costs.
(f) A fund to be known as the “Ammunition Safety and Enforcement Special Fund” is hereby created within the State Treasury. All fees received pursuant to this section shall be deposited into the Ammunition Safety and Enforcement Special Fund and, notwithstanding Section 13340 of the Government Code, are continuously appropriated for purposes of implementing, operating, and enforcing the ammunition authorization program provided for in this section and Section 30352 and for repaying the start-up loan provided for in Section 30371.
(g) The Department of Justice is authorized to adopt regulations to implement this section.