[Read:Once Banned, Now Loved and Loathed: How the AR-15 Became ‘America’s Rifle’]
The purchase or sale of magazines that can hold more than 10 bullets has been illegal in California for nearly two decades. Possession also became criminal in the wake of the 2015 attack in San Bernardino, where the couple used 30-round magazines. That ban was recently overturned by the courts.
Next July, California will begin requiring stores to conduct point-of-purchase background checks on ammunition buyers. Typically, background checks will not be required for people purchasing bullets at gun ranges for use on-site.
New York is the only other state with a similar requirement, but its rollout has stalled amid political pushback and an inability or unwillingness to finish building the database required to conduct these background checks.
As the new regulations take effect in California, their two main architects are ramping up political campaigns for higher office. Some of the rules were achieved through legislation written by Kevin de León, a Democratic leader in the State Senate who is challenging Senator Dianne Feinstein, a veteran Democrat, in November’s midterm election. Other ammunition regulations were part of Proposition 63, a ballot initiative approved by voters in 2016 and spearheaded by Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor who is now running for governor.
In a recent televised campaign advertisement, Mr. Newsom said Proposition 63 was indicative of the sort of “bold leadership” that made him “the first to take on the National Rifle Association and win.” PolitiFact, an influential fact-checking organization, rated the claim as “False” because it disregards generations of politicians credited with past gun control laws.
Decades ago, in the wake of several assassinations, including those of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, Congress imposed sweeping gun and ammunition regulations primarily through the Gun Control Act of 1968, which raised the minimum age requirement to 21 for handgun or ammunition purchases, banned felons and other categories of “prohibited people” from owning guns or ammunition, barred mail-order sales of guns and ammunition, and required dealers to log their sales of bullets.
But in 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation loosening many restrictions, including the ban on mail-order ammunition purchases and the requirement to log all ammunition sales. Since then, states have taken the lead in adopting tighter measures on how firearms and bullets can be bought.