Cali’s Restrictive Ammo-Purchasing Law Declared Unconstitutional, Then Stayed


California’s restrictive ammunition law was repealed, and then stayed, after a lawsuit from ammunition e-tailer Ammunition Depot and the California Pistol & Rifle Association (CRPA) exposed the violations that it imposed on California citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

The law, Proposition 63, implemented in-person background checks for every single purchase of standard ammunition, a massive overreach that obstructed the Second Amendment rights of nearly 40 million Americans.

Ammunition Depot, one of the largest discount online retailers and nationwide suppliers of ammunition and legal firearms in the United States, joined the lawsuit led by the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA) in 2018 to fight against this legislation and has finally won this fight for gun owners in California.

The court case was Rhode v. Bonta, in which Rhode was Olympic gold medalist shotgunner Kim Rhode and Bonta is Rob Bonta, the attorney general for the state of California.

“Like millions of gun owners, we share a deep appreciation for the freedoms guaranteed to us by our nation’s constitution, and we were alarmed by the overt violations this system sought to impose on second amendment rights for our country’s most populous state,” said Ammunition Depot CEO Dan Wolgin. “We applaud the court’s decision, and Ammunition Depot is proud to have joined Kim Rhode, the CRPA, and all others in this fight to protect the liberties we all hold dear as Americans.”

In 2019, California became the first and only state in U.S. history to require in-person background checks for every single purchase of standard ammunition. As has now been found by the federal court, this was an extreme overreach that obstructed the 2nd Amendment rights of nearly 40 million citizens.

The law effectively blocked countless law-abiding residents from being able to make simple purchases or secure ammunition—a right guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment.
For example, hunters and sportsmen were suddenly prohibited from bringing home ammo from out-of-state locations, and longtime gun owners could no longer order supplies from popular online suppliers.

As U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez highlighted in 2020—the law not only infringed on the fundamental rights of everyday Americans, but it was also ineffective. In the decision, Judge Benitez commented as follows:

During its seven months in effect, the state’s background process to buy ammo mistakenly rejected an average of 16.4% of law-abiding citizens because of various administrative errors, record mix-ups, or no apparent reason—while only .11% were appropriately prohibited (pg. 34).

The system’s overly complicated and restrictive nature discouraged millions of other law-abiding residents from even attempting to go through the process at all—with analysis showing an estimated 95% decrease in total legal ammo transactions (pg. 36). In total, results of California’s background law showed a system that violated the 2nd Amendment rights of nearly 40 million American citizens—reduced legal ammunition sales by an estimated 95%—while actively blocking more than 16% of lawful attempts and only preventing .11% of unlawful purchases.

Click here to see a PDF of the decision.

Judge Benitez did not stay his decision, which meant California residents were immediately able to buy ammunition online and without the restrictions in the law. They could do so for about a week.

However, the state immediately sought a stay of the decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and received the stay. That paused Judge Benitez’s order — meaning ammunition sales were again subject to the restrictive California law — until further legal hearings occur. That could mean a delay of weeks or even years, based on recent Ninth Circuit scheduling shenanigans.

This article was amended on Feb. 8, 2024, to reflect the effects of the state of California asking for, and receiving, a stay of the Benitez decision. 



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