Ammunition Background Checks: A New Regulatory Front for Lawmakers

By: Jackson Tarkowski, Staff Writer

Photo Courtesy of 

In recent years, several states have begun to implement more stringent laws regarding the safety and handling of firearms. New York has been a member of the vanguard in implementing these stronger measures and they have recently joined California as the only states taking a new regulatory direction.[1] It is common practice around the country to use point-of-sale background checks for the purchase of the firearms, but California and New York are now using the checks for a different reason – to regulate the purchase of ammunition.[2]

On September 13th of this year, the Concealed Carry Improvement Act (“the Act”) went into effect in New York State.[3]State lawmakers stiffened ammunition regulation and other areas of state firearm law in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in N.Y. State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen.[4] In Bruen, the New York law requiring applicants to show “proper cause” to be permitted for the ownership of firearms was ruled to be unconstitutional.[5] In response, New York took a tougher stance on the regulation of ammunition by requiring every individual who makes a purchase to a complete background check by the New York State Police before they can take possession of it.[6] There are several conditions which would prevent an individual from making a purchase. Some key provisions are if a person has: a conviction of a felony or is under indictment for a felony, has been adjudicated as mentally defective or has been committed to a mental institution, has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or is subject to an order of protection preventing the harassment, stalking or threatening of an intimate partner or child of such partner, or is an addict of a controlled substance.[7]

Before the Act went into effect, it was met with a last minute legal challenge to the Supreme Court from a pair of gun shops who argued that the law would deprive gun owners of their Second Amendment Rights.[8] In an emergency docket, the Court denied blocking the implementation of the Act and turned down the opportunity to reinstate a federal court ruling which has struck down some parts of the Act.[9] The case is currently on appeal, and the district judge’s ruling is on hold while the legal challenge progresses through the lower courts.[10]

In October, there was a second challenge presented to the Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of certain provisions of the Act.[11] With that second denial, it appears that the Court wishes for the issue to be adjudicated in the lower courts before they consider the issue. In a statement after the first denial, one of the Justices noted that the Act presented “novel and serious questions under both the First and Second Amendments” which gives credence to the Court waiting for the case to come to them on appeal, rather than them taking it up on their own accord.[12]

California enacted their point-of-sale ammunition background checks in 2016, and now with New York joining them, this could create a new area for lawmakers who wish to expand regulations of firearms.[13] Pennsylvania has long been a state with greater Second Amendment protections compared to others, but legislation has recently been re-introduced in the state senate to also create universal background checks for the purchase of ammunition.[14] While the bill is unlikely to pass in its current form, it signals that these types of background checks could be a new area of regulation which both lawmakers and courts will grapple with. However, what remains to be seen is whether New York and California are trailblazers or just mere anomalies.



[3] Id

[4] 142 S. Ct. 2111 (2022). 

[5] Id. at 2115. 



[8] Id


[10] Id





Comments are closed.