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SLO County gun shops see decline in ammo sales as CA background check law takes effect

Posted at 6:55 PM, Aug 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-08 22:54:09-04

Owners of gun shops across San Luis Obispo County say the new California law requiring background checks for ammunition purchases is bad for business, but a report from the state attorney general claims some of those lost sales include prospective customers with felony records.

Attorney General Xavier Baccera said in court filings made public this week that the new law, which took effect July 1, has prevented 100 felons from purchasing ammunition.

But the report also states that 11,000 people who had no legal reason not to purchase ammunition were prevented from doing so on the first round of the eligibility check.

"What they're doing is killing a small business," said Jerome Zalusky, owner of Uncle Ed's Outfitters in Atascadero.

The simple eligibility check costs $1 and requires the customer's name, date of birth, current address and driver's license number. If the initial check fails, the person can submit to a more intensive check that costs $19 and can take three days to complete.

Zalusky, who has owned his shop for 16 years, said sales are currently in a slump due to the new ammo law.

"We were probably doing two to five ammunition sales a day," Zalusky said. "We are down substantially, like 5 percent of that in sales for the month."

Owners of gun shops from Grover Beach to Atascadero tell the same story of declines in ammo sales and upset customers.

The manager of The Outdoorsman in Arroyo Grande said ammunition sales have declined by about 50 percent over the last month.

First Defense Firearms in Los Osos not only bleeds money from lost sales but the shop also covers the $1 cost for each eligibility check, according to a store employee.

Minutes before he sat down for an interview Thursday, Zalusky had to tell a prospective customer that she was denied when he ran her information for the simple eligibility check.

"The people got frustrated and left," Zalusky said. "We lost that sale."

The woman said she wanted bullets to shoot rattlesnakes on her ranch but the background check system couldn't validate her address, according to Zalusky.

A prospective buyer may also be denied during the initial check if they've never before registered a firearm with the state.

Gov. Gavin Newsom supported the new law during a press conference this week in regards to the recent mass shootings that claimed more than 30 lives in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH.

Though the law took effect in July under Gov. Gavin Newsom, it was actually passed in 2016 via Proposition 63.

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) took a twin bill to the floor after a similar ordinance took effect in his district.

"We all agree we should try to keep ammo out of the hands of dangerous people and criminals," McCarty said. "Thousands of rounds of ammunition, drugs, cash confiscated because we went after felons who were purchasing ammo."

But gun shop owners believe the law misses the intended target.

"I don't believe the intention was to keep ammunition out of the hands of gang-bangers and people like that because they're not going to go through us anyway," Zalusky said.

The state estimates that there will be 13.2 million ammunition purchases or transfers each year and that 13 million of those will be made by people who are eligible under the standard background check.

California has about 4.5 million registered gun owners

A federal judge is expected to decide later this month whether the law is a violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.