California Screwed Up Ammunition Background Checks

Starting July 1 of this year, California required background checks for ammunition purchases.  In just a minute I’ll explain why this law is incredibly dumb. This is the story of how California screwed up ammunition background checks.

But for now let’s look at some data.  Articles in the Sacramento Bee and The Bee discovered that tens of thousands of people legally entitled to buy ammunition were being turned away.  Here’s their example:

Zachary Berg usually buys guns and ammunition with relative ease. After all, he’s a Sutter County sheriff’s deputy and needs them for his job. California’s stringent gun laws usually don’t apply to him.

But Berg couldn’t buy shotgun shells at his local hardware store in Yuba City prior to a duck hunting trip last month. He was rejected under California’s stringent ammunition background check program that took effect July 1, because his personal information didn’t match what state officials had in their database.

The numbers tell the tale.  Between July 1 and November, there were 345,547 background checks for ammunition sales.  A whopping 101 were turned down for cause.  That’s 0.03 percent of the total.

But 62,000 buyers were turned down because their information did not match what was in the background check database.  That means 18 percent of those entitled to buy ammunition were turned away because of bureaucratic screwups. Nearly 600 times as many people were rejected compared to those who were not legaly qualified to buy ammo.

I spent a few years writing database software.  And I learned a valuable lesson.  When it looks like your software isn’t doing what you expected the first place to look is the data.l  I suspect a substantial majority of those 62,000 rejects had incorrect information in the state’s database.

What do you suppose those 62,000 folks did?  Hint: ammunition is far more portable than actual firearms.  Nevada, Arizone, and Oregon are not all that far away.  Nice job, California.  Just remember, these folks also want to run your healthcare.


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