Universal background checks for ammunition pushed by House Democrats
Funding bill hides a study targeting gun owners
House Democrats quietly tucked into a big spending bill a provision to create a so-called universal background check for ammunition purchases.
This means that to buy ammunition from a licensed dealer – or a private sale – you would have to get the same FBI background check as you do to buy a gun. A gun-rights group and a Republican member of the committee are trying to stop it.
The provision is hidden in the Democrats’ report that accompanies the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill for 2023. Gun Owners of America (GOA) sent an alert to Congress to warn that if the bill gets passed as written, it infringes on Second Amendment rights.
Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA), a minority member of the subcommittee that wrote the bill, told me exclusively that he opposes the report as it is written.
“We should not extend these background checks to the purchase of ammunition,” Cline said. “I was sent to Washington by my constituents to uphold and defend the Constitution, and we cannot allow these rights to be further stripped away. These types of onerous policies would create a false narrative and criminalize private gun ownership.”
If this funding bill gets passed, Congress directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report –within one year– on “how best to implement a requirement that background checks be conducted for all ammunition sales, including sales by Federal firearms licensees and private sellers.”
There is currently no federal law for background checks for ammunition. You can just buy it in the store or online over the counter —unless you live in the few states that have this law.
Cline added, “The Second Amendment is crystal clear: the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution to protect us from the government and gave individuals the Second Amendment to protect themselves.”
Gun rights activists
GOA is actively trying to get the provision removed.
“The appropriations packages are just pork, and Democrats often propose outrageous gun control measures in them,” Aidan Johnston, GOA’s Federal Affairs Director told me in an interview. “It’s left up to groups like us to highlight that to the public and to pro-Second Amendment representatives.”
The Democrats’ report says “unlike firearms, Federal law does not require a background check to prevent the illegal purchase of ammunition.” It reads:
The Committee recognizes that the devastating physical damage inflicted by a gunshot is the result of both the firearm used and the ammunition fired.
Johnston pointed to the Democrats' instructing the GAO to report on four specific issues that would then lead to legislation for ammunition to go through the same federal FBI’s National Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used for firearms purchase.
These are the four areas that the Government Accountability Office would study for the Democrats:
1. Universal background checks for ammo
DEMOCRATS REPORT: (1) how best to implement a requirement that background checks be conducted for all ammunition sales, including sales by Federal firearms licensees and private sellers;
To clarify, federal law for firearms requires an FBI background check through NICS for all sales from federal firearms licensees to ensure those prohibited from having a gun (like felons and drug addicts) are prevented from purchasing.
But Pres. Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and anti-gun groups have long fought for federal “universal background checks” which would require a NICS check for private gun sales. It would mean law-abiding people would have to go to a licensed gun dealer and pay for a background check just to buy a gun between people who know each other.
This legislation has failed to pass Congress multiple times but is in law in some states. There has been no evidence that “universal background checks” have reduced gun crime.
Now for ammunition, this law would force all buyers to go to a dealer and pay for an FBI background check. How many criminals do you think will buy ammunition legally this way?
2. The federal background check on ammo
DEMOCRATS REPORT: (2) whether, and if so, how, to include any funding required, the National Criminal Background Check System (NICS) could be expanded to include Federal background check requirements for ammunition purchases;
“A government study on how to implement ammunition background checks and how to use the NICS system to accomplish this goal is a massive infringement on gun owners' rights,” said Johnson.
“There are all kinds of problems with the NICS system and getting false positives. So applying that to ammunition will lead to a right delayed, which is a right denied.”
3. Copying other countries
DEMOCRATS REPORT: (3) how other countries with similar requirements have implemented such policies and their effectiveness at preventing unauthorized access to ammunition
Johnston pointed out that the U.S. looking at gun control laws in countries that don't have a Second Amendment could lead to copying laws that are unconstitutional in America.
4. States with ammo checks
DEMOCRATS REPORT: (4) what obstacles, if any, have State or local governments encountered in their efforts to implement background checks for ammunition purchasers.
There are some blue states with mandatory background checks for ammunition, such as California, New Jersey and most recently New York. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) forced through a law that went into effect on Sept. 1 that requires ammunition sellers to keep a database of the
date, name, age, occupation and residence of any person from whom ammunition is received or to whom ammunition is delivered, and the amount, caliber, manufacturer's name and serial number, or if none, any other distinguishing number or identification mark on such ammunition.
Chances on Capitol Hill
Government funding for this fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. To avert a government shutdown, Congress is currently negotiating a continuing resolution (CR)…