Blumenthal wants background checks on ammunition buyers

Washington -- If the federal government can require background checks for gun buyers, why can't there be the same checks on ammunition buyers?

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Tuesday he plans to introduce a bill later this month that would require instant background checks for the sale of bullets. He also said the bill is only the first gun-control proposal he aims to introduce "in the coming weeks and months."

"There is no rational reason why a person can walk into a store, fill their shopping cart with hundreds of rounds of ammo, pay up, and walk out without so much as giving their name. This proposal would close this ludicrous loophole," Blumenthal said.

Background checks would be conducted by the FBI's National Instant Background Check System, which already checks the background of gun buyers. The FBI has conducted about 100 million such checks this year and, according to Blumenthal, barred the sale of a gun to 700,000 people identified as felons, domestic abusers or mentally ill.

"These numbers show background checks have an effect," said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Blumenthal's bill would also require sellers of ammunition to report to local, state and federal law enforcement officials when someone buys more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition or when a large quantity of ammunition is stolen.

In addition, Blumenthal's bill would also ban some bullets that are currently not included on a federal ban on armor-piercing ammunition, including Teflon-coated bullets and incendiary ammunition.

Law enforcement groups have been seeking this ban.

Blumenthal's ammunition legislation is the latest in a number of bills proposed by Democrats who aim to toughen the nation's gun laws.  Vice President Joe Biden is also working with a panel to come up with a comprehensive approach to new gun control measures.

But all attempts to tighten the nation's gun laws will be met with stiff resistance from the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups that have lately had steady victories in Congress and state legislatures.

Gun rights groups say new controls proposed by lawmakers would not stop another mass shooting like one in Newtown last month that touched off the gun control campaign.

"They are going to extremes," said Robert Crook, the executive director of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen.

Crook said Blumenthal's legislation would punish the nation's hunters but do nothing to stop crime.

"All it's going to do is put restrictions on the good guys," Crook said.

Crook said gun owners who purchase bullets have already undergone background checks when they purchased their guns.

But gun-control advocates, including Blumenthal, say there's a current loophole in the law that allows purchasers at gun shows and from individual sellers to avoid background checks.

Crook also said hunters are likely to cross a 1,000-bullet threshold quickly, especially those who target practice.

"There are people who shoot 60,000 or 70,000 rounds a year," he said.

Blumenthal and other Democrats have introduced their gun control proposals before Biden and his White House panel came out with their recommendations.

The Biden group is considering asking Congress to reinstate an expired ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and impose universal background checks for firearm buyers and tougher penalties for carrying guns through schools. It is also considering using the White House's executive authority to track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database and strengthen mental health checks for gun buyers.

Blumenthal said he spoke to Biden about the ammunition bill and it "may be included and may not be included" in a package of legislation the White House is expected to seek later this month.

Blumenthal predicted there would be "one strong, unified push" for gun control, but also said there may be an advantage for Congress to consider his bill on its own.

"This may be a common-sense enforcement tool that gains wider support (than other bills)," Blumenthal said.

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