On January 30, 2024, Judge Benitez of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California struck down a California law mandating background checks for ammunition. The decision in the case, Kim Rhode, et al. v. Rob Bonta, held that a California law, Senate Bill 1235, requiring a background check for every purchase of ammunition, is unconstitutional pursuant to the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Bruen, 597 U.S. 1(2022). The Court in Bruen held that a firearms regulation is constitutional only if it is “consistent with the Second Amendment’s text and historical understanding.” Applying this framework, the court held in Rhode that “the ammunition background checks laws have no historical pedigree and operate in such a way that they violate the Second Amendment right of citizens to keep and bear arms.”
In addition, the court struck provisions of California Penal Code §§ 30312, 30314, 30370, and 30385, finding they violated the Constitution’s dormant commerce clause by prohibiting persons in California from purchasing ammunition and obtaining it directly from vendors outside of California. The dormant commerce clause is a “negative implication, which restricts the ability of states to regulate and interfere with interstate commerce.” The court held that the California law restricting ammunition purchases was an unconstitutional restriction of interstate commerce.
Although a win for the Second Amendment, the decision was stayed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on February 5 after California filed a notice of appeal and requested a stay. This means the California laws that were held unconstitutional will remain in effect until the appeals court renders a decision. Therefore, for now, the rights of California residents to obtain ammunition without undue burden on their Second Amendment rights will continue to be abridged pending the appeal. Several other states have similar restrictions and requirements, so the Ninth Circuit’s decision could have implications beyond California.
Renzulli Law Firm will continue to monitor this case and other litigation concerning laws affecting the Second Amendment. If you have any questions about the above decision, or the effect the Bruen decision has had on the rights protected by the Second Amendment, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.