Sacramento, CA - Ammunition store owners in California had to choose between closing their stores, or operating without a newly-required license, on Tuesday.
Vendor licenses are now required for individuals who sell more than 500 rounds of ammunition in any month.
Those vendors must obtain an ammunition vendor license, and then are only allowed to have ammunition sales at specified business locations.
Additionally, firearms dealers must now obtain a U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) certificate of eligibility from employees who handle ammunition, which verifies that they passed a background check.
California DoJ spokeswoman Jennifer Molina told KCRA that every vendor who had completed their paperwork and paid fees for the new licenses by Dec. 21, 2017, would have receive their licenses by Jan. 1.
But that didn’t happen.
When Foothill Ammo owner Chris Puehse opened his Cameron Park store on Tuesday, he broke the new law.
“I did all my paperwork. I paid the fees. They’ve had time to figure this out. This is not my problem,” Puehse said.
He said that the missed deadline by the California DoJ "caused him a lot of stress,” and that he couldn’t afford to close.
“I have a family to feed, I have a mortgage to pay, I got a lease on my store, I got to stay in business,” he said.
Puehse’s license arrived at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, but he opened before its arrival and began selling ammo.
Fortunately, he didn’t have to worry about getting in trouble with his local law enforcement.
El Dorado County Sheriff John D'Agostini said that he won't enforce the law, and doesn’t believe store owners should have to pay for the state’s tardiness.
“That’s unacceptable, that’s harm to them, I can’t enforce it, nor will I allow the state to come in and enforce it when it’s unenforceable at this time,” Sheriff D'Agostini said.
Sam Paredes, executive director of the non-profit organization Gun Owners of California, told KCRA that he believed the state DOJ had "purposely missed the deadline."
Firearms Policy Coalition spokesman Craig Deluz said that to his knowledge, none of the roughly 230 ammunition stores that applied for licenses had been issued them by Jan. 1.
The missed deadline caused all 131 Walmart stores in California to stop selling ammunition.
Walmart spokeswoman Delia Garcia said an administrative delay at the state level forced Walmart to temporarily halt sales.
Store employees posted signs on shelves where the ammo was located, advising customers that ammo was unavailable and that sales would resume when the license was received, according to The Sacramento Bee.
She said Walmart received its licenses midafternoon Tuesday and was “in the process of making them available to our stores so that they can resume normal sales as quickly as possible.”
The state's delays only affected ammunition retailers who don’t also sell firearms. Walmart doesn’t sell firearms at its California stores.
Major ammunition retailers that also sell firearms, including Big 5 Sporting Goods and Bass Pro Shops, said they weren’t affected by the processing delay.
Licensed gun dealers are automatically considered licensed ammunition vendors, according to the new laws of Proposition 63, and don't have to apply for the separate ammunition licenses.