Democrats Reintroduce Bill to Require Background Check When Buying Ammo

By Michael W. Chapman | March 14, 2019 | 12:32pm EDT

( -- Democratic Congress members reintroduced the Ammunition Background Check Act on Wednesday, legislation that would require people to undergo an instant, universal background check through the federal NICS database everytime they purchase gun ammunition. 

The lead sponsors of the bill are Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). The proposal is known as 'Jaime's Law," in honor of Jaime Guttenberg, one of the 17 victims of the shooting at the Marjory Stonemen Douglas High School in February 2018.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)   (Getty Images)

"Ammunition sales should be subject to the same legal requirements that should govern firearm sales: universal background checks," said Sen. Blumenthal on Wednesday at the Capitol. "The same laws that prevent dangerous individuals from purchasing firearms also prohibit them from amassing arsenals of ammunition, with one major loophole: there are no background checks for ammunition sales to enforce the law."

"Closing this ludicrous loophole is a common sense component of a comprehensive strategy to reduce gun violence,” said Blumenthal.

“Criminals and domestic abusers can’t own firearms under federal law, and they’re not supposed to be able to buy the ammunition, either,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).  “But it’s tough to enforce the law without requiring background checks for ammunition purchases. Jamie’s Law is a commonsense bill that would prevent people who shouldn’t be buying ammunition or guns from endangering themselves or others."

As explained in a statement, the proposed legislation would require "all buyers of ammunition to undergo an instant background check under the same FBI National Instant Background Check System (NICS), the same quick and easy process that applies to the purchase of firearms.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)  (Getty Images)

"Under the proposed bill, federally licensed gun dealers could simply use their existing system to run instant checks on ammunition purchasers, either by phone or electronically. Sellers who are not federal licensees could continue to sell ammunition by conducting a background check through an existing licensee or by obtaining a federal license."

Commenting on the idea of background checks for ammo purchases, the NRA's Fred Miniter wrote last fall, "Ammunition control is the new front in gun control. ... [It is] a very active line of attack on your right to bear arms." Apparently, the ammunition, not the actual criminal, is the bad agent, he said.

"Gun control groups advocate for bans and restrictions on ammunition even though they know that such laws won’t affect criminal use of firearms or ammo," said Miniter. "If they can’t keep guns out of the wrong hands, how do they expect to keep ammunition out of the hands of criminals?"

Miniter went on to explain the bureaucracy and burden of buying ammunition in several states that already restrict its sale. In California, for instance, a state initiative passed requiring people to buy a $50 four-year permit to purchase ammo. But then the governor signed legislation mandatin that people pay a $1 fee for the background check every time they buy ammunition. 

Also, Californians can no longer buy ammo from a catalog; the bullets have to be sent to a Federal Firearms Licensed (FFL) dealer, who can charge a processing fee, said Miniter. 


"The District of Columbia, Connecticut, Illinois, part of Maryland and New Jersey (for 'handgun' ammo) also require some kind of special license for citizens to purchase ammo," he wrote. "Other states have further restrictions on the types of ammo that can be sold and even how it can be displayed."

"In Michigan, the Wayne County commissioner for the sixth district (Detroit), devised a scheme where he wants to make citizens buy ammunition only with the approval of law enforcement," said Miniter.  

"Potential buyers would need to undergo a mental illness background check  with their local police department," he said.  "They would need approval for each purchase other than at gun shows, where showing a certificate of a previous mental illness check would suffice. That’s on top of a proposed increase on the ammunition tax."

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