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California ammunition law AB 962 found unconstitutional

Although the state of California almost certainly will appeal (“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.“), yesterday morning, Fresno Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Hamilton ruled that the AB 962 statute that would have banned mail order ammunition sales and required all purchases of so-called “handgun ammunition” to be registered (and purchasers thumbprinted), was unconstitutionally vague on its face. The Court enjoined enforcement of the statute, so mail order ammunition sales can continue unabated to California, and ammunition sales need not be registered under the law. The ruling comes just days before the portion of the law that bans mail order sales of so called “handgun ammunition” (whatever THAT is!) was set to take effect on February 1, 2011.

I wrote about AB 962 becoming law in October of 2009 (“One out of two ain’t good” • Monday, October 12th, 2009). At that time, then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had VETOED another “goofy” California bill, SB 585, which was a resurrected, previously-defeated bill to ban firearm sales at the Cow Palace in Daly City, CA. HOWEVER, Governor Schwarzenegger SIGNED AB 962 into law. The entire message from Governor Schwarzenegger to the Members of the California State Assembly concerning that signing is reproduced in my blog entry, as is a link to the history of the bill in the legislative session.

In a highly unusual move that reflects the opposition, by law enforcement agencies to ineffective gun control laws, Tehama County Sheriff Clay Parker is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Other plaintiffs include the CRPA (California Rifle and Pistol Association) Foundation, Herb Bauer Sporting Goods, ammunition shipper Able’s Ammo, collectible ammunition shipper RTG Sporting Collectibles and individual Steven Stonecipher.  Mendocino Sheriff Tom Allman also supported the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, Parker v. California, alleged, and the Court agreed, that AB 962 is unconstitutionally vague on its face because it fails to provide sufficient legal notice of what ammunition cartridges are “principally for use in a handgun,” and thus is considered “handgun ammunition” that is regulated under AB 962. It is practically impossible, both for those subject to the law and for those who must enforce it, to determine whether any of the thousands of different types of ammunition cartridges that can be used in handguns are actually “principally for use in” or used more often in, a handgun.  The proportional usage of any given cartridge is impossible to determine, and in any event changes with market demands.

(You might ask yourself, why would the California Legislature write such a vague and IMHO “stupid” law? Why indeed! In fact, using Google searches, I found it difficult this morning to find many reports of the Court ruling in California’s large newspapers. Imagine THAT! :-) I went away from this blog entry for an assignment today, and I am STILL having trouble finding coverage in California’s large newspapers. :-) Just a little slow to cover news that some folks may not like….)

Democrats, especially California Democrats, for some reason have trouble understanding the Second Amendment (Republicans have trouble understanding the 14th Amendment, especially as it affects children of immigrants born into American citzenship). (Note added February 12, 2011: Here is some similar thinking, at the STATE level. Did these folks SLEEP through American History?) In the wake of a national tragedy in Tucson, Arizona caused by a deranged man who somehow fell through the shoddy mental health coverage in the United States, Republicans are seeking to FURTHER weaken health care and Democrats are seeking further gun and ammunition control, despite the ineffectiveness of existing laws in fighting crime. (There is no “gun violence;” there is only human violence.)

Please do not count on the courts to protect your liberties. Contact your legislatures before goofy, unconstitutional bills become goofy, unconstitutional laws, ESPECIALLY in California.

(Note added January 19, 2011: Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, has introduced legislation to outlaw the “open carry” of UNLOADED <emphasis mine> handguns in California, a resurrection of a similar bill in the Legislature last year that failed to get to the governor’s desk. The bill, AB 144, which was introduced Thursday, makes it illegal to carry an unloaded handgun in any public place or street. Such a bill seems in direct violation of the U.S. Constitutional Right “to keep and bear arms” <emphasis mine> under the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights, as reaffirmed by TWO recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Let’s not even pretend that the carrying of an UNLOADED firearm has anything to do with crime or public safety. It seems like an American Right frightens Assemblyman Portantino and perhaps other Democrats, as well. Californians, please contact your California representatives to oppose AB 144.) (Note added February 6,2011: A bill to outlaw the open carry of unloaded firearms was introduced in the LAST legislative session, as described in my blog enty “CA Legislature keeps voting ’til they get it WRONG!” on August 31, 2010.)

-Bill at

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