Ammunition Regulation Policy Summary

Posted on December 1, 2013

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Without ammunition, firearms are no more dangerous than any blunt object, causing some scholars to refer to ammunition as the “actual agent of harm” in gun violence.1 While firearm sales are subject to various federal restrictions, however, ammunition sales are not. Under federal law, for example:

  • Firearms sellers must generally be licensed as dealers;2
  • People purchasing guns from licensed dealers must present ID and pass a background check;
  • Licensed dealers must retain records of gun sales;
  • Handgun sales across state lines must be processed by a local seller;3 and
  • High volume handgun sales are regulated4.

The absence of federal ammunition regulations drew national attention in the wake of the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, which left 12 people dead and 58 injured. While the shooter purchased his firearms at local gun stores, he ordered his ammunition cache – 3,000 rounds each of handgun and rifle ammunition and 350 shotgun shells, as well as a 100-round magazine – from online retailers over the course of several months prior to the shooting.5

Laws regulating the purchase and possession of ammunition help limit access by dangerous individuals. Law enforcement agencies in Sacramento and Los Angeles, California, for example, successfully used local ammunition recordkeeping ordinances to identify and prosecute criminals by comparing records of ammunition sales against records from California’s database identifying convicted felons and other prohibited people.

Between January 16 and December 31, 2008, the Sacramento ordinance led to the identification of 156 prohibited persons who had purchased ammunition (124 of whom had prior felony convictions), 48 search warrants and 26 additional probation or parole searches. In addition, the ordinance led to 109 felony charges, 10 federal court indictments, 37 felony convictions and 17 misdemeanor convictions. The law allowed law enforcement to seize a total of 84 firearms, including seven assault weapons, and thousands of rounds of ammunition.6

Similarly, the Los Angeles ordinance led to 30 investigations, 15 search warrants, nine arrests, and the confiscation of 24 handguns, 12 shotguns, and nine rifles that were illegally possessed between 2004 and the first half of 2006. It also resulted in 39 investigations in 2007, and at least 24 investigations in 2008. Id. at 10-11. A two-month study of Los Angeles’ ordinance found that prohibited purchasers accounted for nearly 3% of all ammunition purchasers over this period, acquiring roughly 10,000 rounds of ammunition. The study noted that a background check at the time of the transaction would have largely eliminated sales at retail outlets to these individuals.7 For further details, see the description of Sacramento’s ordinance below.

The lack of strong ammunition laws in the United States also substantially impedes efforts to stop ammunition trafficking to Mexico. As one report explained, “because rounds of ammunition, unlike firearms[,] can only be used once and have a relatively shorter life span, [drug trafficking organizations] engaging in fighting are often in constant need of more rounds. As such, ammunition poses just as much or more of a threat to Mexican authorities and civilians” as firearms.8

Americans support laws regulating ammunition sales. A survey conducted by Fox News in January 2013 found that 80% of respondents supported laws requiring background checks on purchasers of ammunition.9

In addition to the benefits of regulating the sale and possession of ammunition, safe storage of ammunition is an important way to help reduce suicide and unintentional firearm injury.  A 2005 study found that keeping a firearm unloaded and locked, with the ammunition stored separately, significantly decreased the risk of suicide and unintentional firearm injury and death involving both long guns and handguns.10

Moreover, certain types of ammunition, such as armor-piercing handgun ammunition, 50 caliber rounds and Black Talon bullets, pose a particular danger to the public and to law enforcement, and serve no legitimate sporting purpose.  Strict controls on the manufacture, transfer and possession of these types of ammunition can help promote public safety. Further details about particular types of ammunition are included in the state law section below.

Ammunition serialization is a law enforcement tool that could assist in solving gun-related crimes.  A system implementing ammunition serialization or coding would require manufacturers to stamp a unique microscopic code or serial number on all bullets and cartridge cases.11 At the time of purchase, the code or serial number would be recorded along with the purchaser’s information by a licensed dealer.  Later, when a bullet or cartridge case is found at a crime scene, the bullet or spent cartridge could be quickly traced back to the purchaser.  This would aid law enforcement investigations into shooting crimes and deter the use of guns in these crimes.

Microstamping laws, which require all firearms to be designed so that they each imprint a unique alpha-numeric code on the cartridge case when they are fired, are also an excellent law enforcement tool. California’s microstamping law went into effect on May 17, 2013. For more information, see our summary on Microstamping & Ballistic Identification.

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For decades, federal law regulated firearms and ammunition similarly.  At present, however, federal law governing ammunition is limited to a prohibition on sales to and purchases by certain categories of persons, and a prohibition on the manufacture, importation and sale of armor-piercing ammunition.

Prohibited Purchasers:  Federal prohibited purchaser categories for firearms also apply to ammunition. For a list of these categories, see our  summary on Categories of Prohibited People.  Federal law does not require ammunition sellers to conduct background checks to determine if a prospective ammunition purchaser falls into a prohibited category, however.

Minimum Age:  Federal minimum age laws governing firearms also apply to ammunition used for those firearms.  For further details, see our summary on the Minimum Age to Purchase or Possess Firearms. Federal law does not require ammunition sellers to verify that a prospective purchaser is of legal age to purchase or possess ammunition.

Licensing:  Federal law requires any person engaged in importing or manufacturing ammunition to obtain a license from the Attorney General.12  Federal law also requires anyone engaged in the business of importing, manufacturing or selling firearms to obtain a license.13 For the information about the licensing of firearms dealers, see our summary on Dealer Regulations. Federal law does not require a license to sell, purchase, or possess ammunition.

Armor-Piercing Ammunition:  Federal law prohibits the manufacture, importation, sale or delivery of armor-piercing ammunition, with very limited exceptions.14  Licensed dealers are prohibited from “willfully” transferring armor-piercing ammunition.15  Federally licensed dealers, to the extent they may transfer armor-piercing ammunition, must keep a record of any transfer.16

Armor-piercing ammunition, sometimes referred to as metal-piercing ammunition, is ammunition that is designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor, including body armor commonly worn by police officers.  Under federal law, armor-piercing ammunition is defined as any projectile or projectile core that may be used in a handgun and that is constructed entirely from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium.17  In addition, armor-piercing ammunition is defined as a full jacketed projectile “larger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a handgun and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25 percent of the total weight of the projectile.”18

The Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986

The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 imposed a series of regulations on ammunition manufacturers, dealers and purchasers – including dealer licensing and recordkeeping requirements, as well as a ban on interstate mail-order sales – but most of these provisions were repealed by Congress in 1986 at the behest of the NRA.19  While none of these provisions has been reenacted by Congress, several proposals to regulate ammunition, including some which would require background checks, impose taxes on ammunition sales, or require sellers to report the sale of a certain volume of ammunition to single purchaser, have been introduced over the past several decades.20

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States have enacted a variety of laws regulating ammunition. The strongest laws, such as those in Connecticut, New York, and D.C., require a background check or license for the purchase or possession of ammunition, and impose licensing or other requirements on sellers of ammunition.  Additional states restrict access to ammunition by certain categories of dangerous people or people under a certain age. A larger number of states have enacted bans similar to the federal ban on armor-piercing ammunition, or regulate other specific kinds of unusually dangerous ammunition.

Description of State Laws Regulating Ammunition

1.         State Laws Requiring a Background Check or License before the Purchase or Possession of Ammunition:

New York enacted a groundbreaking law in 2013 that will require every “commercial transfer” of ammunition, including sales by firearms dealers and other ammunition vendors to individuals, to be preceded by a background check through a statewide license and record database. The law will become effective 30 days after the State Police certifies that the database is operational.21

D.C. generally prohibits the possession of ammunition unless the person is at a firearm safety class or possesses a registration certificate for a firearm. Licensed dealers may generally transfer ammunition only to the registered owner of a firearm of the same caliber or gauge as the ammunition, or to a nonresident of the District who provides proof that the weapon is lawfully possessed and is of the same gauge or caliber as the ammunition to be purchased.22

Four states (Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Jersey) require a license for all ammunition purchasers or possessors and require a background check before issuance of a license. Illinois requires residents to obtain a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card before they can lawfully purchase or possess ammunition.23 Massachusetts also requires a firearm permit or license to purchase or possess ammunition, with different types of licenses entitling the holder to purchase and possess different kinds of ammunition.24 New Jersey generally prohibits any person from acquiring any handgun ammunition unless the transferee possesses a permit and first exhibits the permit to the seller or transferor.25  In 2013, Connecticut enacted a law that authorizes a state agency to issue “ammunition certificates,” and prohibits the sale or transfer of ammunition unless the transferee presents a firearms purchase or carry permit or an ammunition certificate. Ammunition certificates are issued by the state after a background check, and must be renewed every five years.26

For further information about these and other laws requiring gun owners or purchasers to obtain a license, see our summary on Licensing Gun Owners & Purchasers.

2.         State Laws Regulating Ammunition Sellers and/or the Sale of AmmunitionThe following jurisdictions impose licensing or other requirements on sellers of ammunition:

California
District of Columbia
Maryland
Massachusetts
Minnesota
New Jersey (through administrative regulations)27
New York
Washington

Licensing requirements: Massachusetts requires anyone selling ammunition to obtain a license,28 and D.C. requires all persons who regularly engage in the business of selling ammunition to obtain a license.29 New York requires anyone engaged in the business of selling ammunition to register with the State Police, unless he or she already has a firearms dealer license.30 Washington requires firearms dealers to obtain a license to transfer firearms and ammunition,31 and Maryland requires any person engaging in the business of “loading or reloading small arms ammunition” to obtain a license.32

Record-keeping requirements: D.C. requires ammunition dealers to keep a record of all ammunition received into inventory and/or sold or transferred, including the brand and number of rounds of each caliber or gauge and the registration certificate number of the firearm for which the ammunition is purchased. The records are subject to inspection by the police department on demand. All transfers must be made in person, and the purchaser is also required to sign a receipt which is maintained by the dealer for one year.33  In 2009, California enacted a similar record-keeping law regarding sales of handgun ammunition,34 and an administrative regulation in New Jersey requires ammunition sellers to create and maintain records of ammunition sales.35 The law that New York enacted in 2013 also imposes a sales record-keeping requirement regarding all ammunition, and requires that records of ammunition sales be transmitted to the State Police, which may maintain these records for up to one year.36

Store display and accessibility restrictions:  D.C. prohibits licensed ammunition dealers from displaying any ammunition in windows visible from a street or sidewalk, and all ammunition must be kept in a securely locked place except when being shown to a customer.37 Minnesota prohibits the display of centerfire metallic-case handgun ammunition for sale to the public in a manner that makes the ammunition directly accessible to persons under age 18, unless the display is under observation of the seller or the seller’s employee or agent, or the seller takes reasonable steps to exclude underage persons from the immediate vicinity of the display.38 The California law mentioned above also prohibits vendors from displaying handgun ammunition in a manner that allows it to be accessible to the public without the assistance of an employee.39

Additional information on features of comprehensive laws regulating firearms dealers and ammunition sellers is contained in our summary on Dealer Regulations.

3.         State Laws Restricting Access to Ammunition by Certain Categories of People40

The following jurisdictions limit access to ammunition by certain categories of people. These laws vary in their approach, with some states only prohibiting someone from knowingly providing ammunition to these individuals, and other states generally prohibiting the purchase or possession of ammunition by these individuals.

 

State People whose access to ammunition is restricted
California All the same categories as firearms41
Connecticut All the same categories as long guns42
Delaware All the same categories as firearms43
District of Columbia All the same categories as firearms44
Florida All the same categories as firearms45
Hawaii All the same categories as firearms46
Illinois All the same categories as firearms47
Louisiana Some of the same categories as firearms48
Maryland All the same categories as firearms49
Massachusetts All the same categories as firearms50
Michigan Some of the same categories as firearms51
Missouri Intoxicated people52
Nevada All the same categories as firearms53
New Jersey (handgun ammunition only) All the same categories as firearms54
New York (handgun ammunition only) All the same categories as handguns55
South Carolina Some of the same categories as firearms56
Tennessee Intoxicated people57
Texas Some of the same categories as firearms58
Virginia Some of the same categories as firearms59

 

See our summary on Categories of Prohibited People for more information on the categories of people ineligible to purchase or possess firearms.

4.         State Laws Imposing a Minimum Age Regarding Ammunition:  The following jurisdictions impose a minimum age regarding ammunition.  These state laws generally have exceptions for minors who have the consent of a parent or guardian. Like the laws mentioned above, these laws vary in their approach, with some states only prohibiting someone from knowingly providing ammunition to underage individuals, and other states generally prohibiting the purchase or possession of ammunition by underage individuals.

 

State Minimum age for   purchase/possession of ammunition Applies to ammunition for …
Arizona60 18 All firearms
California61 21 Handguns
18 Long guns
Connecticut62 18 All firearms
Delaware63 18 All firearms
District of Columbia64 21 All firearms
Idaho65 16 All firearms
Illinois66 21 All firearms
Iowa67 21 Handguns
18 Long guns
Maine68 16 All firearms
Maryland69 21 Handguns or assault weapons
18 Long guns
Massachusetts70 21 Handguns or large capacity weapons
18 Long guns
Minnesota71 18 All firearms
New Hampshire72 16 All firearms
New Jersey73 21 Handguns
New York74 21 Handguns
16 All firearms
Rhode Island75 18 All firearms
Vermont76 16 All firearms

 

To compare this chart with similar laws restricting underage people from access to firearms, see our summary on the Minimum Age to Purchase or Possess Firearms.

5.         State Laws Regulating Certain Types of Unreasonably Dangerous Ammunition

Many states regulate the sale, purchase, possession, use, manufacture, importation and/or transportation of certain types of ammunition that pose particular threats to public safety and serve no reasonable hunting, target shooting, or self-defense purpose.

a.         Armor-Piercing Ammunition:  The following states and D.C. ban the manufacture, transfer, purchase, and/or possession of armor-piercing or metal-piercing ammunition, commonly defined as ammunition made of specific materials and designed to be fired in a handgun and to penetrate metal or armor, including body armor commonly worn by police officers.

Alabama77
California78
Connecticut79
District of Columbia80
Florida81
Hawaii82
Illinois83
Indiana84
Kansas85
Kentucky86
Louisiana87
Maine88
Michigan89
Mississippi90
Nevada91
New Jersey92
North Carolina93
Oklahoma94
Rhode Island95
South Carolina96
Texas97

Additional states criminalize, or provide enhanced sentences for, the use or possession of armor-piercing ammunition in the commission or attempted commission of crimes, or criminalize the discharge, but not the sale or possession, of armor-piercing ammunition.

b.         Other Unusually Dangerous Ammunition

As described below, certain states have enacted laws prohibiting the following kinds of unusually dangerous ammunition:

  • Large Caliber Ammunition: D.C. prohibits the sale or possession of ammunition for a 50 caliber rifle.98 Connecticut bans distribution, transportation or importation into the state, keeping or offering for sale, or giving away of any incendiary 50 caliber bullet, defined as a 50 caliber bullet designed for or generally recognized as having a specialized capability to ignite upon impact.99 California prohibits any person, firm or corporation from selling, offering for sale, possessing or knowingly transporting any fixed ammunition greater than 60 caliber.100 For more information about large caliber firearms, see our summary on Fifty Caliber Weapons.
  • Exploding Ammunition:101  Eight states (California,102 Florida,103 Hawaii,104 Illinois,105 Iowa,106 Missouri,107 New York108 and Tennessee109 ) prohibit the manufacture, transfer, purchase, and/or possession of bullets or projectiles that are designed to explode, segment or detonate upon impact with a target.
  • Flechette Ammunition:  Three states (California,110 Florida111 and Illinois112 ) prohibit the manufacture, transfer, purchase, and/or possession of flechette ammunition, which are shells that expel two or more pieces of solid metal wire, or two or more solid dart-type projectiles.
  • Dragon’s Breath & Bolo Shell Ammunition:  Three states, Florida, Illinois and Iowa, prohibit the manufacture, transfer, purchase, and/or possession of dragon’s breath ammunition.  Dragon’s breath ammunition is a type of shotgun shell that contains exothermic pyrophoric mesh metal as the projectile and that is designed for the sole purpose of throwing or spewing a flame or fireball to simulate a flamethrower.113 Florida and Illinois also prohibit the sale or possession of bolo shells. A bolo shell is another type of shotgun shell that expels as projectiles two or more metal balls connected by solid metal wire.114
  •  Hollow Nose or Dum-Dum Ammunition:115 New Jersey prohibits hollow nose or dum-dum ammunition, which are terms associated with bullets designed to expand on impact.  New Jersey generally prohibits possession of any hollow nose or dum-dum bullet except in one’s home.116  These terms are not specifically defined under New Jersey law.

6.         Other State Laws Regulating Ammunition:  Various other state laws regulating ammunition are discussed throughout this website.  Most state laws addressing firearms fail to address ammunition.  Where state ammunition laws do exist, however, these laws often mirror states laws regarding firearms.  For example, our summary on Domestic Violence and Firearms details laws that restrict access to ammunition by certain domestic abusers. As detailed in our summary on Local Authority to Regulate Firearms, many state laws limiting local authority to regulate firearms also limit local authority to regulate ammunition.

SELECTED LOCAL LAW 

Sacramento, California

In 2007, the City of Sacramento enacted an ordinance requiring sellers of ammunition to record information about each ammunition purchaser, including his or her thumbprint, and to electronically transmit this information to the Sacramento Police Department (“SPD”).117  SPD cross-references the information in these records with information in a state database identifying people prohibited from possessing firearms.  In August 2008, SPD issued a report regarding implementation of this ordinance, stating that SPD “has successfully utilized the information obtained to arrest numerous persons for firearms violations and seize dozens of illegally possessed weapons.”118  The report also noted that the ordinance “does not prevent or delay a sale of ammunition at the point of sale,” and the electronic system for transfer of purchaser information has proven to be secure, effective and reliable.119 Then, in January 2009, SPD compiled yearlong data regarding the effects of the ordinance.   SPD found that, in 2008, the ordinance led to the identification of 156 persons illegally purchasing ammunition, including 124 convicted felons, the seizure of 84 firearms, and numerous criminal convictions.120 Sixteen other communities in California have enacted similar ordinances.

50 State Summary

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The features listed below are intended to provide a framework from which policy options may be considered.  A jurisdiction considering new legislation should consult with counsel.

  • Ammunition dealers are required to conduct a background check on all purchasers to ensure that ammunition is not sold to prohibited persons (New York)
  • License is required for purchase and possession of ammunition (Illinois, Massachusetts, and D.C.), and possession of ammunition is limited to the caliber of firearm the person is licensed to possess (D.C.)
  • All ammunition sellers are required to be licensed firearms dealers (Massachusetts)
  • Ammunition sellers are required to maintain records of all ammunition sales, and make such information available to law enforcement (New York and D.C.)
  • Ammunition sellers are required to take security precautions to reduce the risk of theft (Minnesota and D.C)
  • People prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms are also prohibited from purchasing or possessing ammunition (8 states and D.C.)
  • Minimum age of 21 is imposed for purchase or possession of handgun ammunition; (7 states and D.C.) minimum age of 18 is imposed for purchase or possession of long gun ammunition (10 states and D.C.)
  • Manufacture, transfer, purchase and possession of specific types of unreasonably dangerous ammunition are prohibited (24 states and D.C.)
  • Ammunition must be stored in a locked container separate from firearms when not in use in the home

 

  1. George E. Tita et al., The Criminal Purchase of Firearm Ammunition, 12 Inj. Prev. 308, 308 (Oct. 2006), at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2563465/pdf/308.pdf. []
  2. Unfortunately, most of the federal restrictions
    for firearms sales by licensed dealers do not also apply to sales by private
    sellers. See our summary on Universal Background Checks & the Private Sale
    Loophole for more information on this dangerous loophole. []
  3. Under federal law, a handgun purchased over the Internet or via mail-order from a seller in a different state must be shipped to a dealer in the purchaser’s home state. A person may purchase or otherwise acquire a rifle or shotgun, in person, at a licensee’s premises in any state, provided the sale complies with state laws applicable in the state of sale and the state where the purchaser resides. A person may borrow or rent a firearm in any state for temporary use for lawful sporting purposes. 18 U.S.C § 922(a)(3), (5), (b)(3). []
  4. Federal law requires federally licensed dealers to report multiple sales of handguns to ATF and other specified law enforcement agencies. 18 U.S.C. § 923(g)(3). []
  5. See Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, America’s Ammunition Crisis: Few Laws Exist to Prevent Purchases by Dangerous People Online and in Stores, July 30, 2012, at http://smartgunlaws.org/americas-ammunition-crisis-few-laws-exist-to-prevent-purchases-by-dangerous-people-online-and-in-stores/. []
  6. For further details see the description of Sacramento’s ordinance as a “Selected Local Law” above. []
  7. The Criminal Purchase of Firearm Ammunition, supra note 1, at 310. []
  8. Colby Goodman & Michel Marizco, U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico: New Data and Insights Illuminate Key Trends and Challenges, in Shared Responsibility: U.S.-Mexico Policy Options for Confronting Organized Crime 198 (Eric L. Olson, David A. Shirk & Andrew Selee eds., 2010) , at http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/Shared%20Responsibility%2012.22.10.pdf. []
  9. Dana Blanton, Fox News poll: Twice as Many Favor More Guns over Banning Guns to Reduce Crime, FoxNews.com (Jan. 18, 2013), at http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/01/18/fox-news-poll-twice-as-many-favor-more-guns-over-banning-guns-to-reduce-violent/. []
  10. David C. Grossman et al., Gun Storage Practices and Risk of Youth Suicide and Unintentional Firearm Injuries, 293 JAMA 707, 711, 712-13 (Feb. 2005), at http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=200330. []
  11. James P. Sweeney, Lockyer Wants Handgun Ammo Branded, San Diego Union-Tribune, Oct. 6, 2004, at A-1.  See also Jeremiah Marquez, Calif. AG Wants ID Codes on Handgun Ammo, Associated Press Online, Oct. 8, 2004. []
  12. 18 U.S.C. § 923(a). []
  13. Id. []
  14. 18 U.S.C. §§ 921(a)(17), 922(a)(7), (8); 27 C.F.R. § 478.37.  Specific exceptions exist for armor-piercing ammunition that is manufactured for certain federal and state government divisions, exportation, or testing.  18 U.S.C. §§ 921(a)(17)(C), 922(a)(7), 922(a)(8); 27 C.F.R. § 478.37.  The Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) may also exempt certain armor-piercing ammunition primarily intended for sporting or industrial purposes.  27 C.F.R. § 478.148. []
  15. See 27 C.F.R. § 478.99. []
  16. 18 U.S.C. § 922(b)(5). []
  17. 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(17); 27 C.F.R. § 478.11. []
  18. Id.  The Attorney General is required to furnish information to each licensed dealer defining which projectiles are considered armor-piercing ammunition as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(17)(B).  18 U.S.C. § 923(k).  The federal definition of armor-piercing ammunition, which is based on its content and weight, rather than on the ammunition’s actual performance against body armor, has been criticized because it fails to halt the manufacture and sale of all types of ammunition that can penetrate body armor.  Violence Policy Center, Sitting Ducks:  The Threat to the Chemical and Refinery Industry From 50 Caliber Sniper Rifles 20 (Aug. 2002), available at http://www.vpc.org/studies/duckcont.htm.  See also Violence Policy Center, Vest Buster:  The .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum – The Gun Industry’s Latest Challenge to Law Enforcement Body Armor 25 (June 2004), available at http://www.vpc.org/graphics/S&W500%20final.pdf.  The existing ban on armor-piercing ammunition can be made more effective by adopting performance standards that require ammunition to be tested for its ability to penetrate bullet-resistant vests and body armor, as opposed to the existing standard based on the bullet’s content.  Sitting Ducks, supra.  International Association of Chiefs of Police, Taking a Stand:  Reducing Gun Violence in Our Communities 27 (Sept. 2007). []
  19. Gun Control Act of 1968, Pub. L. No. 90-618, 82 Stat. 1213; Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, 99 Pub. L. No. 308, 100 Stat. 449 (1986).  Recordkeeping continues to be required for transfers of armor-piercing ammunition. []
  20. In the mid-1990s, Congress, led by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and then-Representative Charles Schumer, debated several proposals to regulate ammunition. The most far reaching of these bills would have reinstated the ban on mail-order sales of ammunition, brought ammunition under the Brady Act (requiring background checks at the time of transfer), limited the number of rounds a person could own, required ammunition dealer licensing with high licensing fees, placed strict sales restrictions on specific types of handgun ammunition disproportionately used in crime, and imposed high taxes on all ammunition.  To date, none of these proposals has been adopted. For more information about these proposals, see Brendan J. Healey, Plugging the Bullet Holes in U.S. Gun Law: An Ammunition-Based Proposal for Tightening Gun Control, 32 J. Marshall L. Rev. 1 (Fall 1998), at http://www.saf.org/LawReviews/Healey1.htm; Scott D. Dailard, The Role of Ammunition in a Balanced Program of Gun Control: A Critique of the Moynihan Bullet Bills, 20 J. Legis. 19 (1994), at http://www.saf.org/LawReviews/Dailard1.htm. In the wake of the Aurora shooting, Senator Frank Lautenberg and Representative Carolyn McCarthy introduced legislation to restore federal regulation of ammunition sales. The Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act would require ammunition dealers to be licensed and to maintain ammunition sales records. Under the proposal, dealers would also be obligated to report large volume sales and buyers would be required to present photo identification when purchasing ammunition. Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, America’s Ammunition Crisis: Few Laws Exist to Prevent Purchases by Dangerous People Online and in Stores, July 30, 2012, at http://smartgunlaws.org/americas-ammunition-crisis-few-laws-exist-to-prevent-purchases-by-dangerous-people-online-and-in-stores/. After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Senator Richard Blumenthal introduced legislation requiring ammunition purchasers to pass background checks, in addition to reinstating the currently-repealed ammunition provisions of the Gun Control Act of 1968. []
  21. N.Y. Penal Law § 400.03. []
  22. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2505.02, 7-2506.01. []
  23. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/2(a)(2), (b) 65/4, 65/8. []
  24. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, §§ 129B, 129C, 131, 131A, 131E. []
  25. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:58-3.3. []
  26. Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 29-38k – 29-38n. []
  27. N.J. Admin. Code Title 13, Chapter 54. []
  28. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, §§ 122B, 124. []
  29. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2504.01 – 7-2504.08. []
  30. N.Y. Penal Law §§ 265.00(24), 400.03. []
  31. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 9.41.010, 9.41.110(3). A 1994 opinion by the Washington Attorney General concluded that a person who sells ammunition but does not also deal in firearms is not defined as a “dealer,” and thus is not required to obtain a license under Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.110.  1994 Op. Att’y Gen. Wash. No. 22 (Dec. 13, 1994), 1994 Wash. AG LEXIS 71. []
  32. Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 11-105(b)(1), (d). []
  33. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2504.01 – 7-2504.08, 7-2505.02. D.C. also prohibits the manufacture of ammunition.  D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.01. []
  34. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16300, 30306, 30312, 30347-30362. A California Court of Appeals invalidated this law in November 2013 on the grounds that its definition of “handgun ammunition” was unconstitutionally vague. Parker v. California, 221 Cal. App. 4th 340 (Cal. Ct. App. 2013). []
  35. N.J. Admin. Code § 13:54-3.14. []
  36. N.Y. Penal Law § 400.03. []
  37. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.07. []
  38. Minn. Stat. § 609.663. []
  39. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16300, 30306, 30312, 30347-30362. []
  40. Federal law provides the minimum standards for the purchase or possession of ammunition.  The transfer or possession of ammunition in all states is still governed by federal law, unless a state has adopted stricter standards. []
  41. Cal. Penal Code § 30305. []
  42. Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 29-38g – 29-38n. []
  43. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11 § 1448. []
  44. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2505.02, 7-2506.01. []
  45. Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 790.23 – 790.235. []
  46. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 134-7. []
  47. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/2, 65/8. []
  48. La. Rev. Stat. § 14:95.1.2. Louisiana prohibits the transfer of ammunition to a felon who is prohibited from possessing a firearm under Louisiana law. []
  49. Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-133.1 (effective Oct. 1, 2013). []
  50. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, §§ 129B, 129C, 131, 131A, 131E. []
  51. Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 750.223(3), 750.224f.  Michigan has stronger criteria for a person to obtain handgun purchase license.  Mich. Comp. Laws § 28.422(3). []
  52. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 571.060. []
  53. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 202.362(1). []
  54. N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2C:58-3, 2C:58-3.3. []
  55. N.Y. Penal Law §§ 265.05, N.Y. Penal Law § 270.00(5), 400.00.  New York prohibits a firearms dealer from selling any ammunition designed exclusively for use in a handgun to a person not authorized to possess a handgun. N.Y. Penal Law § 270.00(5).  As noted above, however, an entity may engage in the business of selling ammunition without a firearms dealer license, so long as it registers with the State Police. []
  56. S.C. Code § 16-23-500. South Carolina has stronger criteria for the possession of handguns.  See S.C. Code Ann. § 16-23-30. []
  57. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1303(a)(2). []
  58. Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 46.06(a)(3) – (4). []
  59. Va. Code § 18.2-308.2. Virginia also prohibits the purchase or possession of firearms by additional categories. Va. Code §§ 18.2-308.1:1 – 18.2-308.1:5, 18.2-308.2 – 18.2-308.2:01(b). []
  60. Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 1-215(22), 13-3109. []
  61. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16300, 29650-29655, 30300. []
  62. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-38k. []
  63. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 1445(4). []
  64. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2502.03(a)(1), 7-2502.06(a), 7-2505.02(d). People ages 18 to 20 may obtain a registration certification for a firearm, and therefore become eligible to possess ammunition, in certain limited circumstances.  See D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.03. []
  65. Idaho Code Ann. § 18-3308. []
  66. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/2, 65/4. People ages 18 to 20 may obtain a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card, and therefore become eligible to possess ammunition, in certain limited circumstances.  See 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/4. []
  67. Iowa Code § 724.22(1)-(5). []
  68. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-a, § 554(1)(B). []
  69. Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-134(d). []
  70. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 130. []
  71. Minn. Stat. § 609.66. []
  72. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 644:15. []
  73. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:58-3.3c. []
  74. N.Y. Penal Law §§ 265.05, N.Y. Penal Law § 270.00(5), 400.00. New York prohibits a firearms dealer from selling any ammunition designed exclusively for use in a handgun to a person not authorized to possess a handgun. N.Y. Penal Law § 270.00(5).  A person under age 21 is not authorized to possess a handgun. N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00.  As noted above, however, an entity may engage in the business of selling ammunition without a firearms dealer license, so long as it registers with the State Police. []
  75. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-13-3(a), 11-47-31(a), 11-47-32. []
  76. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4007. []
  77. Ala. Code § 13A-11-60. []
  78. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16660, 30315, 30320. []
  79. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53-202l. []
  80. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2501.01(13A), 7-2505.02, 7-2507.06(a)(3). []
  81. Fla. Stat. § 790.31. []
  82. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 134-8. []
  83. 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-2.1, 5/24-2.2. []
  84. Ind. Code Ann. § 35-47-5-11. []
  85. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6301(a)(6). []
  86. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 237.060(7), 237.080. []
  87. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 40:1810 – 40:1812. []
  88. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § 1056. []
  89. Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.224c. []
  90. Miss. Code Ann. § 97-37-31. []
  91. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 202.273. []
  92. N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2C:39-3(f), 2C:39-9(f)(1). []
  93. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-34.3. []
  94. Okla. Stat. tit. 21, §§ 1289.19 – 1289.22. []
  95. R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-20.1. []
  96. S.C. Code Ann. § 16-23-520. []
  97. Tex. Penal Code §§ 46.01(12), 46.05(a)(6). []
  98. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2501.01(13A), 7-2505.02, 7-2507.06(a)(3). []
  99. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53-202l. []
  100. Cal. Penal Code § 18735. []
  101. Exploding bullets, sometimes referred to as “frangible” bullets, are designed to explode, segment or detonate upon impact with a target.  See GlobalSecurity.org, Military Munitions, Frangible Ammunition, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/frangible.htm (last visited Dec. 9, 2013). []
  102. California Penal Code §§ 16460(a), 18710, 18730. California prohibits the possession, sale, offer for sale, or knowing transportation of a “destructive device,” defined to include “[a]ny projectile containing any explosive or incendiary material” and any “explosive missile.” California Penal Code §§ 18900-18910 provide for the limited issuance of permits to possess or transport any destructive device, issued at the discretion of the California Department of Justice. []
  103. Fla. Stat. § 790.31. []
  104. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 134-8. []
  105. 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-1(a)(11); 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-3.1(a)(6). []
  106. Iowa Code §§ 724.1-724.3. []
  107. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 571.020. []
  108. N.Y. Penal Law § 265.01(7). []
  109. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1304(b). []
  110. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16570, 30210. []
  111. Fla. Stat. § 790.31. []
  112. 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-2.1, 5/24-2.2. []
  113. See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 790.31; Iowa Code §§ 724.1-724.3, 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-2.1, 5/24-2.2. []
  114. See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 790.31(1)(e); 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-2.1, 5/24-2.2. []
  115. Hollow nose, or hollow point, bullets have a cavity in the nose of the projectile, which causes the bullet to expand once it hits a target and inflict greater damage than a bullet without such a point.  Black Talon bullets are a notorious type of hollow point bullet that, despite much media attention, have not been regulated.  Black Talon rounds are distinct from other hollow point bullets because they possess a special barbed configuration designed to deploy on impact with a target and expand the size of wound tracts to maximize tissue trauma.  Firearms Tactical Institute, Winchester Black Talon Revisited, Tactical Briefs #12 (Dec. 1998), at http://www.firearmstactical.com/briefs12.htm.  Although Black Talons do not fit under the federal definition of armor-piercing ammunition, publicity about their dangers, including their use in the 101 California Street shooting in San Francisco in 1993, drove the manufacturer, Winchester, voluntarily to pull the bullets from the civilian market and market Black Talons exclusively to law enforcement.  Winchester is not legally barred from selling Black Talons on the civilian market, however.  Judy Pasternak, Column One; Taking Aim at Exotic Bullets; Lawmakers Move to Regulate the Ammunition Industry, as the Market Grows for Vicious Rounds Like Blammo Ammo. But Some Gun Experts & Police Say Such Controls Could be Duds, L.A. Times, Jan. 11, 1994, at A1, at http://articles.latimes.com/1994-01-11/news/mn-10677_1_ammunition-industry. []
  116. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-3(f). []
  117. Sacramento, Cal., City Code, Chapters 5.64, 5.66. []
  118. Sacramento Chief of Police Rick Braziel et al., Report to Council, Ammunition Sales Records Study (Aug. 12, 2008), at  http://sacramento.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=8&clip_id=1590&meta_id=155275. []
  119. Id. []
  120. These statistics were obtained from Captain Jim Maccoun, Office of Technical Services, Sacramento Police Department on January 27, 2009.  For the statistics for the period between January 16 and June 29, 2008, see id. []