Recent changes to firearms laws in California include the implementation of Proposition 63. Prop 63 is a ballot initiative passed in 2016 which, among other things, restricts the purchase of ammunition in the state. Many have been left confused as to the actual requirements and process. To help clarify, what follows is a summary of how to buy ammunition in California.
** Please note: This is NOT legal advice. We at Inland Training are not attorneys. We are simply passing along the best available public information to assist you in understanding the new legal requirements.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s answer a few of the most common questions that we’ve been asked recently.
Do you need a background check to buy ammo in CA?
Short answer: Yes.
Effective July 1, 2019, ammunition purchases now require a background check. While there are a few exceptions to the required ammunition eligibility check (firearms dealers, law enforcement, etc.), almost all California residents are required to pass an eligibility check via one of three different methods.
Of course, this assumes that you are not prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm. If you are, then it’s very likely that you will also not be permitted to buy ammunition. If you’re unsure, you can submit a Personal Firearms Eligibility Check Application to the California Department of Justice (get the form here).
1) The Standard Ammunition Eligibility Check
If you have an Automated Firearm System Record (AFS), AND your personal information and identification match the information in your AFS record (name, address, date of birth, etc.), you can use the Standard Ammunition Eligibility Check. This is a relatively simple process that should take 2-3 minutes. The fee for this is $1.
How do you know if you have an AFS record?
You should have an AFS record in the system if:
- You’ve purchased a handgun since January 1, 1990 (from a firearms dealer), or
- If you’ve purchased a long gun since January 1, 2014 (from a firearms dealer), or
- You’ve notified the DOJ that you possess a firearm (i.e., self-registered).
If you have moved, changed your name, or if for some other reason, your current personal information is different than your AFS record(s), you will very likely have to use the Basic Ammunition Eligibility Check option.
2) COE Verification Process
If you have a COE, you can use the COE Verification Process. This process is similar to the Standard Ammunition Eligibility Check. It also takes approximately 2-3 minutes and costs $1 to process.
What’s a COE and how do I know if I have one?
A Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is a background check that’s required of anyone that works with firearms in California (firearms dealers, ammunition vendors, instructors, gun show promoters, etc.).
A COE requires a special application and background check to be sent to and processed by the California DOJ. If you’re not sure if you have one, you most likely do not.
3) Basic Ammunition Eligibility Check
If you do not have an AFS or a COE, you’ll be required to use the Basic Ammunition Eligibility Check process. This process is very similar to the background check required to purchase a firearm. The fee is $19, though it’s difficult to say how long this process will take. Since it’s a full-scale background check, it may take hours or even days.
Do I have to go through this check every time I buy ammunition?
Yes. Because this check does not “create” an AFS record, you will have to go through this every time you buy ammunition. Or, at least until you purchase or register a firearm that does create a record with the DOJ.
When you are purchasing a firearm from a dealer, the required background check will suffice for any ammunition purchased as well. As a result, you can buy ammo at the same time without an additional fee or background check. You are also not limited to the caliber of the firearm you are buying. The only concern is eligibility, so you can buy any caliber ammunition.
In addition, since purchasing a firearm will create an AFS record, the next time you buy ammunition you should be able to do so using the Standard Ammunition Eligibility Check.
Are CCW Permit Holders Exempt?
No, people that have valid California concealed carry permits are not exempt. Permit holders will still have to pass a background check through one of the above-listed processes.
Who Is Exempt From The Requirements?
There are a number of exceptions to the background check requirements. They include:
- Licensed ammunition vendors
- Licensed gunsmiths
- People on California DOJ’s list of exempted firearms dealers (FFLs)
- Licensed manufacturers, importers or wholesalers of firearms
- Licensed manufacturers or importers of ammunition
- Authorized law enforcement representatives
- Sworn law enforcement officers who are authorized to carry a firearm in the scope of their duties
Can I Buy Ammunition Online and Have It Shipped To Me?
No, unless you qualify for one of the limited exceptions. Transfers of ammunition, with a few exceptions, must be conducted “face to face” by a licensed ammunition vendor and must include the eligibility check. The exceptions include the obvious for licensed businesses and law enforcement.
However, there are three exceptions that may apply to everyday citizens. These exceptions are:
- Licensed collectors who also possess a COE
- People receiving ammunition at a properly licensed target facility – provided the ammo does not leave the premises
- People receiving ammunition from a spouse, a registered domestic partner or immediate family member
Do I Need To Have A REAL ID To Buy Ammunition In California?
If you do not have a REAL ID, you may be required to provide supplemental proof of lawful residency in order to purchase ammunition. Now, we say “may” be required because it’s not clear whether or not the state will accept a “legacy” Driver’s License or ID card. Be prepared to provide additional documentation, just in case. A passport is a federally-compliant ID that you can use if you have one.
If your DL/ID says “FEDERAL LIMITS APPLY”, then you will almost certainly have to provide additional documentation.
Below are some additional resources from the California Rifle and Pistol Association. CRPA has committed a tremendous amount of resources to help California residents understand the requirements of the law.
You can find more information and resources at CRPA’s Ammunition Background Check resource page.