Institute for Legal, Legislative and Educational Action
Proposed Pennsylvania House Bill 586, introduced on March 20, 2023, proposes significant changes to ammunition regulations that would impact law-abiding gun owners in the state. The bill, which was introduced by 12 state Democrats, including prime sponsor Representative Stephen Kinsey, seeks to give the Commissioner of Pennsylvania State Police and the Secretary of Revenue the power to enforce the new rules and collect a tax on ammunition to fund the changes.
The bill would create an “encoded ammunition database,” which would contain comprehensive records of all ammunition sold or purchased, including details from the manufacturer, seller, and purchaser. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade organization for the shooting sports industry, has raised concerns about exactly this type of database in a recent Bullet Serialization Fact Sheet [embeded below], noting that it could have negative implications for public safety and law enforcement.
The bill has several provisions, including a requirement that all ammunition sold in Pennsylvania must be encoded with multiple serial numbers. This means that a manufacturer must add individual serial numbers to all ammunition provided for retail sale in a manner yet to be established by the Pennsylvania State Police commissioner. Each bullet would have a unique serial number located at its base, inside the cartridge casing, and outside the box of ammunition.
In a related article that alerted us to this crazy bill, Riley Bowman, Vice President of ConcealedCarry.com pointed out that this could pose significant challenges for producers and negatively impact ammunition produced for law enforcement, even though they are exempt from this bill. He noted that ammo producers are already struggling to keep up with demand, and the time required to produce a single round of ammunition could increase from seconds to minutes.
The bill also requires anyone who possesses non-encoded ammunition to dispose of it by January 1, 2024. Is what they are proposing that millions and millions of rounds of ammunition be shot in less than a year by Pennsylvania gun owners?
It fails to mention how this would impact hand-loaded ammunition. How would hobby reloaders even accomplish the serialization and eventual reporting of that data to the state? The bill ignores other issues, such as recycled brass or collected casings.
Additionally, all ammunition manufacturers would be required to provide their name and address, the serial numbers found on every bullet, casing, and box, and any other information that the commissioner deems necessary. The purchaser would be required to provide detailed personal information to the seller, including the date of purchase, the purchaser’s name, date of birth, driver’s license number, or other number issued by the federal government or state of Pennsylvania, and the serial numbers of all ammunition bought by the purchaser. The retailer would then be required to provide this information to the commissioner for the encoded ammunition database and maintain a copy of all records submitted for at least three years.
The Firearms Policy Coalition called it Ammunition Registration. FPC noted that: “… the bill requires that a “tax of five cents per round of ammunition …imposed on the sale at retail or use of encoded ammunition in this Commonwealth.” What’s the tax for, you ask? Believe it or not, that money would go towards funding a police-run ammunition database. FPC sees this for what it is.”
The bill outlines punishments for potential violators, including a misdemeanor charge for sellers who do not provide the required information and a misdemeanor charge for individuals who intentionally destroy or render unreadable the encoded information on ammunition. Manufacturers who violate the bill’s provisions would be subject to a civil fine imposed by the commissioner.
While the bill’s proponents claim that it would help law enforcement, opponents argue that it would hurt their ability to obtain ammunition for defensive use and training. It could also negatively affect law enforcement officer performance and safety.
The bill poses a significant threat to the right to keep and bear arms in Pennsylvania. The cost of producing serialized ammunition using unproven technology is guaranteed to raise the price of ammunition far above what most people can afford. This could fundamentally strip away the right to self-defense from everyone except for the most wealthy among us.
Nationally, ammunition serialization has received a lot of attention in the past, with versions of the “Ammunition Accountability Act” appearing in 18 state legislatures in 2008. However, none of these bills passed.
Pennsylvania House Bill 586 proposes significant changes to ammunition regulations that will negatively impact law-abiding gun owners in the state. The bill’s provisions, including the requirement for serialized ammunition, the creation of an encoded ammunition database, and increased responsibilities and punishments for manufacturers, sellers, and purchasers, will lead to increased costs, decreased availability of ammunition, and potential legal consequences for innocent individuals.
The bill’s supporters and sponsors argue that it would make it easier to track down criminals and prevent them from obtaining ammunition. Still, gun owners know the real purpose behind this legislative nightmare is to add additional burdens on lawful gun owners while failing to address actual ways of reducing crime rates. As the bill moves through the legislative process, it is likely to face significant debate and scrutiny from both sides of the political spectrum. Ultimately, it will be up to you to let your Pennsylvania lawmakers know how you feel about ammunition registration, so act now.
Bullet Serialization Fact Sheet ~ National Shooting Sports Foundation