Gun bills have stores up in arms
Proposed state legislation would affect ammo sales, firearm technology
Two new pieces of legislation related to guns are making their way through Sacramento — and making gun store owners in the Mid-Valley frustrated at what they call political myopia.
The bills, AB 962 by Assemblyman Kevin de Leon, D-East Los Angeles, and SB 697, by Senator Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, are aimed at reducing gun violence and improving gun safety.
But gun store owners like Lee Smith said the bills are pointless at best, and full of unintended consequences at worst.
"It does nothing other than create more paperwork and make a crime out of exchanging ammo between two people," said Smith, managing partner of Shooting Gallery in Yuba City, of AB 962. "They're do-nothing bills that restrict what's now a constitutional right."
AB 962 would compel those who sell ammunition to be licensed the same as gun dealers, and mandate a face-to-face transaction when someone buys ammunition.
Dan Reeves, de Leon's chief of staff, said the bill is based on ordinances in Sacramento and Los Angeles designed to curb the sale of ammunition to felons.
"You buy a gun once, but the ammunition you keep having to replace," Reeves said. "It's the oxygen that keeps this violence breathing."
Under the bill, people who buy ammunition through the Internet will have to pick it up at a gun store, and provide both identification and a thumbprint. Store owners would also have to take steps to prevent ammunition from being easily shoplifted.
Reeves said a study in Los Angeles showed that felons bought 10,000 rounds of ammunition in gun stores a three-month period. Leaving a thumbprint would make that easier to trace, he said.
"As far as the gun stores go, I'd argue they're no longer competing in selling ammunition against the kitchen-table dealer or someone on the Internet," Reeves said, adding store owners could add a pass-along fee to such sales.
But Smith disputed the notion that felons are buying at local stores.
"At my store, little gang bangers don't come in to buy ammunition," he said. "They don't want to pay retail."
He added, "By nature, felons don't abide by laws."
DeSaulnier's bill, SB 697, would mandate safety measures be included in every gun sold in California. That technology would be used to tell how many unfired cartridges remain in a gun, to avoid accidental shootings when thought to be empty.
Guns would also have to have biometric technology to prevent them from being fired if someone other than the registered owner tried to do so.
Gun store owner and former Sutter County Sheriff Roy Whiteaker said such technology would add so much to the cost of a gun, it could kill gun manufacturers' willingness to put product into California.
"It just throws the purchase of firearms onto the black market and throws away the safety net," said Whiteaker, who owns Guns & Ammo Outlet in Yuba City. "It just seems to add more stringent restrictions on firearm buying," he said of the two bills.
Reeves said AB 962 has passed the Assembly and is now in the Senate Public Safety Committee, while Eve Hightower, a spokeswoman for DeSaulnier, said SB 697 is considered a two-year bill that won't be seriously considered until next year's legislative session.
Smith said the bills reflect what he called a Democratic tendency to legislate first, think later.
"It shows that they're doing something about stopping crime," he said. "But if they stopped and thought about it for a second, they might say, 'Oh, that's maybe not such a good idea.'"
Contact Appeal-Democrat reporter Ben van der Meer at 749-4709 or firstname.lastname@example.org.