The ammunition used in guns is what renders firearms truly lethal—yet ammunition sales are not subject to the same federal regulations as the firearms themselves, and in most states can be bought online or in person with zero oversight. Ammunition background checks and other commonsense policies regulating the sale and transfer of ammunition are important ways to keep deadly power away from those who threaten the safety of others.

Background

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

Ammunition Largely Unregulated

While firearm sales are subject to various federal restrictions, however, ammunition sales are not. For example, the following federal firearms laws do not apply to ammunition:

  • 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 regulated.4

Mass Shootings

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

Local Laws

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.

Trafficking to Mexico

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

Public Support

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

Unusually Dangerous Ammunition

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.

Serialization and Microstamping

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.10 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.

Summary of Federal Law

For decades, federal law regulated firearms and ammunition similarly.11

While none of these provisions has been reenacted by Congress, several proposals to regulate ammunition, including some that 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. In the wake of the Aurora shooting, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) 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.12 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.13 Federal law also requires anyone engaged in the business of importing, manufacturing or selling firearms to obtain a license.14 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.15 Licensed dealers are prohibited from “willfully” transferring armor-piercing ammunition.16 Federally licensed dealers, to the extent they may transfer armor-piercing ammunition, must keep a record of any transfer.17

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.18 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.”19

Summary of State Law

Six states have enacted laws regulating ammunition sales and requiring purchasers to pass a background check in order to buy ammunition. Two states, California and New York, have passed laws requiring point-of-sale background checks on ammunition purchasers, in a manner similar to background checks conducted on firearm purchasers. Four other states, (Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Jersey) require individuals to obtain a relevant license or permit, after passing a background check, in order to purchase or possess ammunition.

Additional states restrict access to ammunition by certain categories of dangerous people or people under a certain age.

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

New York enacted a groundbreaking law in 2013 to require every “commercial transfer” of ammunition, including sales by firearms dealers and other ammunition vendors, 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 certify that the statewide database is operational.20

In November 2016, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 63, which will require ammunition sellers to conduct point of sale background checks beginning in July 2019.21 California’s law will generally require all ammunition sales, including mail order sales and sales between unlicensed parties, to be processed by or conducted through a licensed ammunition vendor who will conduct the background check.22

Four states (Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Jersey) require individuals to obtain a license to purchase or possess ammunition and require license applicants to pass a background check in order to qualify for the license. Illinois requires residents to obtain a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card before they can lawfully purchase or possess firearms or 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 person presents a valid firearms purchaser identification card or a permit to purchase a handgun.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

DC also 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.27

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.

State Laws Regulating Ammunition Sellers and/or the Sale of Ammunition

The following jurisdictions impose licensing or other requirements on sellers of ammunition:

California
District of Columbia
Maryland
Massachusetts
Minnesota
New Jersey (through administrative regulations)28
New York
Washington

Licensing requirements

As described above, California’s new law will generally require ammunition vendors to obtain a license in order to sell ammunition, starting in January 2018.29 Massachusetts requires anyone selling ammunition to obtain a license,30 and DC requires all persons who regularly engage in the business of selling ammunition to obtain a license.31 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.32 Washington requires firearms dealers to obtain a license to transfer firearms and ammunition,33 and Maryland requires any person engaging in the business of “loading or reloading small arms ammunition” to obtain a license.34

Record-keeping requirements

Beginning July 1, 2019, licensed ammunition vendors in California will be required to process ammunition sales and to report sale records to the state department of justice, which will maintain a database of ammunition sale records.35 DC 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.36 An administrative regulation in New Jersey requires ammunition sellers to create and maintain records of ammunition sales.37 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.38

Store display and accessibility restrictions

DC 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.39 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.40 California law will also prohibit licensed vendors from displaying ammunition in a manner that allows it to be accessible to the public without the assistance of an employee.41

Other Requirements: In California, licensed ammunition vendors will be required to report the loss or theft of any ammunition from their inventory to law enforcement,42 and employees will be required to pass a background check in order to handle or sell ammunition.43

State Laws Restricting Access to Ammunition by Certain Categories of People

The following jurisdictions limit access to ammunition by certain categories of people.44 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 firearms and a person subject to an injunction as a member of a criminal street gang45
Connecticut All the same categories as long guns46
Delaware All the same categories as firearms47
District of Columbia All the same categories as firearms48
Florida All the same categories as firearms49
Hawaii All the same categories as firearms50
Illinois All the same categories as firearms51
Louisiana Some of the same categories as firearms52
Maryland All the same categories as firearms53
Massachusetts All the same categories as firearms54
Michigan Some of the same categories as firearms55
Missouri Intoxicated people56
Nevada All the same categories as firearms57
New Jersey (handgun ammunition only) All the same categories as firearms58
New York (handgun ammunition only) All the same categories as handguns59
South Carolina Some of the same categories as firearms60
Tennessee Intoxicated people61
Texas Some of the same categories as firearms62
Virginia Some of the same categories as firearms63

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

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 …
Arizona64 18 All firearms
California65 21 Handguns
18 Long guns
Connecticut66 18 All firearms
Delaware67 18 All firearms
District of Columbia68 21 All firearms
Idaho69 16 All firearms
Illinois70 21 All firearms
Iowa71 21 Handguns
18 Long guns
Maine72 16 All firearms
Maryland73 21 Handguns or assault weapons
18 Long guns
Massachusetts74 21 Handguns or large capacity weapons
18 Long guns
Minnesota75 18 All firearms
New Hampshire76 16 All firearms
New Jersey77 21 Handguns
New York78 21 Handguns
16 All firearms
Rhode Island79 18 All firearms
Vermont80 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.

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.

Armor-Piercing Ammunition

The following states and DC 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.

Alabama81
California82
Connecticut83
District of Columbia84
Florida85
Hawaii86
Illinois87
Indiana88
Kansas89
Kentucky90
Louisiana91
Maine92
Michigan93
Mississippi94
Nevada95
New Jersey96
North Carolina97
Oklahoma98
Rhode Island99
South Carolina100
Texas101

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.

Other Unusually Dangerous Ammunition

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

  • Large Caliber Ammunition: DC prohibits the sale or possession of ammunition for a 50 caliber rifle.102 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.103 California prohibits any person, firm or corporation from selling, offering for sale, possessing or knowingly transporting any fixed ammunition greater than 60 caliber.104 For more information about large caliber firearms, see our summary on Fifty Caliber Weapons.
  • Exploding Ammunition:105 Eight states (California,106 Florida,107 Hawaii,108 Illinois,109 Iowa,110 Missouri,111 New York112 and Tennessee113 ) 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,114 Florida115 and Illinois116 ) 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.117 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.118
  • Hollow Nose or Dum-Dum Ammunition:119 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.120 These terms are not specifically defined under New Jersey law.

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”).121 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.”122 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.123 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.124 Sixteen other communities in California have enacted similar ordinances.

Key Legislative Elements

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

 

Notes
  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 Challengesin 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. 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. ⤴︎
  11. 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. ((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). ⤴︎
  12. 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 (D-CT) also 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. ⤴︎
  13. 18 U.S.C. § 923(a). ⤴︎
  14. Id. ⤴︎
  15. 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. ⤴︎
  16. See 27 C.F.R. § 478.99. ⤴︎
  17. 18 U.S.C. § 922(b)(5). ⤴︎
  18. 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(17); 27 C.F.R. § 478.11. ⤴︎
  19. 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). ⤴︎
  20. N.Y. Penal Law § 400.03. ⤴︎
  21. Cal. Penal Code §§ 30352(c), 30352(d), 30370. ⤴︎
  22. Id. ⤴︎
  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. §§ 29-38n – 29-38p. ⤴︎
  27. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2505.02, 7-2506.01. ⤴︎
  28. N.J. Admin. Code Title 13, Chapter 54. ⤴︎
  29. Cal. Penal Code § 30385. ⤴︎
  30. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, §§ 122B, 124. ⤴︎
  31. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2504.01 – 7-2504.08. ⤴︎
  32. N.Y. Penal Law §§ 265.00(24), 400.03. ⤴︎
  33. 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. ⤴︎
  34. Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 11-105(b)(1), (d). ⤴︎
  35. Cal. Penal Code § 30352. ⤴︎
  36. 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. ⤴︎
  37. N.J. Admin. Code § 13:54-3.14. ⤴︎
  38. N.Y. Penal Law § 400.03. ⤴︎
  39. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.07. ⤴︎
  40. Minn. Stat. § 609.663. ⤴︎
  41. Cal. Penal Code § 30350. ⤴︎
  42. Cal. Penal Code § 30363. ⤴︎
  43. Cal. Penal Code § 30347. ⤴︎
  44. 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. ⤴︎
  45. Cal. Penal Code § 30305. ⤴︎
  46. Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 29-38n – 29-38p. ⤴︎
  47. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11 § 1448. ⤴︎
  48. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2505.02, 7-2506.01. ⤴︎
  49. Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 790.23 – 790.235. ⤴︎
  50. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 134-7. ⤴︎
  51. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/2, 65/8. ⤴︎
  52. 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. ⤴︎
  53. Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-133.1 (effective Oct. 1, 2013). ⤴︎
  54. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, §§ 129B, 129C, 131, 131A, 131E. ⤴︎
  55. 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). ⤴︎
  56. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 571.060. ⤴︎
  57. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 202.362(1). ⤴︎
  58. N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2C:58-3, 2C:58-3.3. ⤴︎
  59. 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. ⤴︎
  60. S.C. Code § 16-23-500. South Carolina has stronger criteria for the possession of handguns. See S.C. Code Ann. § 16-23-30. ⤴︎
  61. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1303(a)(2). ⤴︎
  62. Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 46.06(a)(3) – (4). ⤴︎
  63. 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). ⤴︎
  64. Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 1-215(22), 13-3109. ⤴︎
  65. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16300, 29650-29655, 30300. ⤴︎
  66. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-38n. ⤴︎
  67. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 1445(4). ⤴︎
  68. 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. ⤴︎
  69. Idaho Code Ann. § 18-3308. ⤴︎
  70. 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. ⤴︎
  71. Iowa Code § 724.22(1)-(5). ⤴︎
  72. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-a, § 554(1)(B). ⤴︎
  73. Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-134(d). ⤴︎
  74. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 130. ⤴︎
  75. Minn. Stat. § 609.66. ⤴︎
  76. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 644:15. ⤴︎
  77. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:58-3.3c. ⤴︎
  78. 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. ⤴︎
  79. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-13-3(a), 11-47-31(a), 11-47-32. ⤴︎
  80. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 4007. ⤴︎
  81. Ala. Code § 13A-11-60. ⤴︎
  82. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16660, 30315, 30320. ⤴︎
  83. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53-202l. ⤴︎
  84. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2501.01(13A), 7-2505.02, 7-2507.06(a)(3). ⤴︎
  85. Fla. Stat. § 790.31. ⤴︎
  86. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 134-8. ⤴︎
  87. 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-2.1, 5/24-2.2. ⤴︎
  88. Ind. Code Ann. § 35-47-5-11. ⤴︎
  89. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6301(a)(6). ⤴︎
  90. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 237.060(7), 237.080. ⤴︎
  91. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 40:1810 – 40:1812. ⤴︎
  92. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § 1056. ⤴︎
  93. Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.224c. ⤴︎
  94. Miss. Code Ann. § 97-37-31. ⤴︎
  95. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 202.273. ⤴︎
  96. N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2C:39-3(f), 2C:39-9(f)(1). ⤴︎
  97. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-34.3. ⤴︎
  98. Okla. Stat. tit. 21, §§ 1289.19 – 1289.22. ⤴︎
  99. R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-20.1. ⤴︎
  100. S.C. Code Ann. § 16-23-520. ⤴︎
  101. Tex. Penal Code §§ 46.01(12), 46.05(a)(6). ⤴︎
  102. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2501.01(13A), 7-2505.02, 7-2507.06(a)(3). ⤴︎
  103. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53-202l. ⤴︎
  104. Cal. Penal Code § 18735. ⤴︎
  105. 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. ⤴︎
  106. 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. ⤴︎
  107. Fla. Stat. § 790.31. ⤴︎
  108. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 134-8. ⤴︎
  109. 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-1(a)(11); 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-3.1(a)(6). ⤴︎
  110. Iowa Code §§ 724.1-724.3. ⤴︎
  111. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 571.020. ⤴︎
  112. N.Y. Penal Law § 265.01(7). ⤴︎
  113. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1304(b). ⤴︎
  114. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16570, 30210. ⤴︎
  115. Fla. Stat. § 790.31. ⤴︎
  116. 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-2.1, 5/24-2.2. ⤴︎
  117. See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 790.31; Iowa Code §§ 724.1-724.3, 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-2.1, 5/24-2.2. ⤴︎
  118. See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 790.31(1)(e); 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-2.1, 5/24-2.2. ⤴︎
  119. 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. ⤴︎
  120. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-3(f). ⤴︎
  121. Sacramento, Cal., City Code, Chapters 5.64, 5.66. ⤴︎
  122. 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. ⤴︎
  123. Id. ⤴︎
  124. 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. ⤴︎