There have long been laws on the books that require identity checks and waiting periods for purchasers of guns, but virtually no restrictions govern purchases of ammunition. It's a regulatory oversight that makes our communities less safe.
Demonstrating an admirable ability to change his mind when presented with a compelling set of new facts, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a controversial bill last week that will require gun dealers starting in February 2011 to record and retain the driver license numbers and thumbprints of people who buy handgun ammunition.
The governor had vetoed similar legislation in 2004, but since then 13 California cities have approved local ordinances requiring such record-keeping. As Schwarzenegger noted in his signing message, experience in those jurisdictions has shown that "requiring ammunition vendors to keep records on ammunition sales improves public safety."
Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel, one of several law enforcement leaders across the state who urged the governor to sign the ammunition bill, told lawmakers that Sacramento police were able to track 229 illegal ammunition purchases in 2008, the first year after the Sacramento City Council approved its ammunition ordinance. There were 173 convicted felons among those illegal purchasers. Scores of illegal guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition were taken out of the hands of criminals who are not supposed to have them.
Unfortunately, anyone looking for a way to evade Sacramento's restrictions could simply travel to a neighboring jurisdiction to buy ammunition. The measure Schwarzenegger signed, Assembly Bill 962 by Assemblyman Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, closes that dangerous loophole. It expands Sacramento's common sense protections statewide.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.