Here's How Prop. 63 Changes California Gun Laws

After a historic election on Nov. 8, Californians have voted to pass Proposition 63. The law will require those seeking to purchase ammunition to acquire a permit, and will also ban the possession of large-capacity rounds of ammunition. In addition, Prop. 63 makes the crime of stealing a gun, regardless of its value, a felony charge. And finally, the new law provides for a court process to better ensure that individuals who are barred from gun possession do not, in fact, end up owning and/or keeping guns.

Before voting, Californians had indicated that Prop. 63 would pass. In a Los Angeles Times poll taken the week before ballots were cast, 58 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for the gun control initiative. These results aligned with previous polls, making Prop. 63 one of the measures most likely to succeed.

In July 2016, the California legislature passed a law that already regulates the sale of ammunition. Both those wishing to purchase ammunition, and those who sell ammunition, must obtain a license from California's Department of Justice. And this license must be renewed on a yearly basis. The only change that Prop. 63 brings is that noncompliance with this permit requirement will now be treated as a misdemeanor.

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Perhaps the most thorny provision of Prop. 63 is the ban on large-capacity ammunition rounds. Back in 2000, California enacted legislation that prohibited any future manufacturing, selling, or possession of large-capacity magazines, defined as those capable of accepting more than ten rounds. But that law had an exception for any large-capacity round that citizens had purchased prior to 2000.

With Prop. 63, that loophole is gone. Ergo, any Californian in possession of large-capacity magazines is punishable, regardless of when those rounds were purchased. This is the type of so-called "overreach" that tends to get the attention of gun rights organizations, like the National Rifle Association (NRA).

In fact, the NRA advised Californians to vote "No" on Prop. 63, citing its limitation on ammunition sales between private citizens. For many who are active in the gun rights community, private sales between siblings and friends can be commonplace. The new requirement of a licensed ammunitions vendor is likely seen as an unnecessary, perhaps annoying, impediment.

The California Police Chiefs Association also opposed Prop. 63, but for different reasons. Issuing an official letter, the organization said:

[Prop. 63] reverses many of the exemptions that allow officers and police departments to continue purchasing ammunition freely for on-duty purposes, and creates a duplicative database that will be a costly and less effective way to monitor ammunition purchases ...

Those complications will have to get worked out now. With the passage of Prop. 63, California continues its role as the state with the strictest gun control laws.