Ammo sales in Fresno jump after U.S. judge tosses California background checks

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Gun dealers at several Fresno stores have noted a jump in sales after a federal court ruling found unconstitutional California’s law requiring background checks for ammunition purchases, a measure in place since 2018.

Sales of all types of ammunition were “maybe double,” at PRK Arms, a longtime gun dealer near Olive and Clovis avenues in southeast Fresno, employee Anthony Beuster told The Fresno Bee on Thursday.

Beuster and others in the firearms industry said the surge was likely due to the ruling Wednesday by Federal Judge Roger Benitez of the federal District Court in San Diego, who issued an injunction stopping enforcement of the law.

At Duck and Cover Tactical, near West Shaw Avenue and Highway 99, a worker simply known as Spike said the business was alerted that the law was no longer in effect by a message from the state Department of Justice to federal firearm dealers.

“We’re getting phone calls and a lot more traffic, (probably) 50 percent more,” said Spike.

The store also sent out a text to customers offering 5 percent off ammunition purchases.

“It’s a broken system,” said Spike of the state background check. “I have had several customers with concealed weapons permits (who were disallowed ammunition purchases).”

In one case, he said a buyer was denied because he had purchased a firearm at a previous address.

“I hope it doesn’t come back,” he added of the law.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta is seeking a stay of the ruling by Benitez. He issued an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals almost immediately after the ruling last week. Background checks were launched after the passage of Proposition 63 in 2016 and then amended by Senate Bill 1235.

In his ruling, Benitez, who has ruled against other state firearms laws, including a ban on high-capacity magazines, said that the law had rejected ammunition purchases for 16 percent of applicants who were not prohibited persons, denying them their Second Amendment rights. Common reasons for denials included misidentification of the applicant.

Benitez also noted that applicants often faced lengthy and cumbersome obstacles when they attempted to correct errors in the DOJ system.

In arguing for a stay against Benitez’ injunction, Bonta said: “These laws were put in place as a safeguard and a way of protecting the people of California — and they work. We will continue to fight for our authority to keep Californians safe.”

Several of the major national ammunition vendors say they are taking a wait-and-see approach before selling cartridges to purchasers with a California address.

A sales person at Columbia, Mo-based Midway USA said the firm’s legal team was watching the case and would not be shipping to the state for now.

At Ammo Fast in Winfield, KS, and in Harvey, LA, officials said they were taking the same approach.