Los Angeles minimally regulates handgun ammunition sales, says Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton. Purchasers are required to show a driver’s license and leave their name, address, and thumbprint. There is only random, cursory background checking later. A study by the Rand Corp. last year found that felons and others who can’t legally possess guns managed to buy more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition in L.A. retail stores over a two-month period. One legislator wants California to become the first state to seriously regulate handgun ammunition. His bill to require instant background checks of all purchasers by 2011 has been approved by one committee.
Handgun ammo vendors would have to register with the state, keep bullets locked up behind the counter, require an ID from purchasers, and sell only face to face. No Internet transactions. The gun lobby objected that keeping bullets locked up – to prevent thefts – would be inconvenient and inhibit comparison shopping. It’s not certain whether any of California’s current laws could have headed off Seung-hui Cho’s murderous rampage at Virginia Tech. There is one possibility: if a person is committed to a mental facility, even just overnight, and found to be suicidal or homicidal, he is barred from buying a gun for five years. There are 1.3 million Californians in a database who fit that description.