OLR Research Report

March 21, 2007




By: Zachary Schurin, Legislative Fellow

You asked us to describe the restrictions that federal law and select states place on ammunition sales, purchases, and possession. You specifically wanted to know if a permit is required to buy ammunition in any state.


Federal law imposes several restrictions on the transfer and possession of firearm ammunition. The law prohibits the possession of ammunition by convicted felons, controlled substance users, and anyone subject to a domestic violence restraining order, among others, and it prohibits transferring ammunition to such persons as well. It prohibits the sale or transfer of (1) long gun ammunition to anyone under age 18 and (2) handgun ammunition to anyone under age 21. It also strictly regulates armor-piercing handgun bullets.

Some states restrict or regulate ammunition purchase and possession. Delaware and Illinois, bar some of the same groups barred by federal law from receiving or possessing ammunition. Iowa prohibits people below a certain age from receiving or possessing ammunition.

Both Illinois and Massachusetts require people to display a firearm identification card when purchasing ammunition. The card is comparable to a permit. Applicants must meet specified criteria to be eligible for a card, including a criminal history record check requirement.

Some states limit the types of ammunition and magazines that can be legally sold. At least 11 states, including Connecticut, ban the sale or possession of armor-piercing bullets (see Attachment I). At least six states (but not Connecticut) outlaw the sale of large-capacity magazines. Although the statutory definitions differ, typically these are magazines that can hold 10 or more rounds of ammunition (see Attachment II).


Miscellaneous Restrictions

Federal law prohibits ammunition sale or transfer to, and possession by, anyone who:

1. is under indictment for a crime punishable by more than one year imprisonment or convicted of a felony,

2. is a fugitive from justice,

3. is an unlawful user of a controlled substance,

4. is addicted to a controlled substance,

5. has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution,

6. is an illegal alien,

7. has been dishonorably discharged from the military, and

8. has renounced his or her U.S. citizenship (18 USC 922(d) and (g)).

Subjects of Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

Federal law also prohibits anyone from transporting, receiving, or possessing ammunition if he is the subject of a domestic violence order restraining him from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or the partner's child. The subject of the order is barred from purchasing firearms or ammunition if a judge (or other hearing officer) determines that the subject poses “a credible threat to the physical safety of the intimate partner or child” (18 USC 922(d)(8)B)). Before making this determination, the court or officer must give the person a hearing opportunity.

The law also prohibits anyone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime from purchasing or possessing ammunition (18 USC 922(d) and (g)).

Minimum Age Restrictions

Federal law regulates the sale of ammunition to young people. It bars licensed manufacturers or dealers from selling long gun ammunition to anyone who they believe is under age 18. Also they may not sell handgun ammunition to anyone they reasonably believe is under age 21 (18 USC 922(b)(1)).



Delaware law prohibits anyone convicted of the illegal sale or possession of a narcotic from purchasing, possessing or controlling ammunition (Del. Code. Ann. 1448(a)(3)).

It also prohibits the following individuals from purchasing, possessing, or controlling ammunition:

1. anyone ever convicted of a violent felony,

2. anyone ever committed to a mental institution (unless the person obtains a medical certificate stating that they no longer suffer from mental disorder),

3. anyone under age 25 who has been adjudicated as a juvenile delinquent,

4. anyone who is the subject to a Family Court protection from abuse order,

5. anyone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, and

6. anyone under criminal indictment (Del. Code. Ann. 1448(a)(3)).


Illinois prohibits the possession of ammunition by anyone who:

1. has been convicted of a misdemeanor other than a traffic offense,

2. has been adjudicated a juvenile delinquent,

3. is a narcotics addict,

4. has been a patient in a mental hospital in the past five years, or

5. is mentally retarded (Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-3.1.).


Massachusetts prohibits the possession of ammunition by anyone who:

1. is an illegal alien,

2. is a minor under age 18 (exemptions for minors age 15 or older with the consent of a parent or guardian),

3. has been adjudicated as a youthful offender,

4. has ever been confined to a mental institution (unless a medical certificate is obtained stating that the person no longer suffers from mental illness),

5. is a drug addict or habitual drunkard,

6. is the subject of a protection order, or

7. is subject to an outstanding arrest warrant in any state (Mass. Gen. L. ch. 140 129B).


A number of states place age restrictions on ammunition transfers. In Iowa, for example, it is illegal to sell, loan, or give pistol ammunition to anyone under age 21 and long-gun ammunition to anyone under the age of 18 without the express consent of the minor's parent or guardian (Iowa Code 742.22 et seq.). The law allows state law enforcement officials to bring charges against people who violate these provisions.



Illinois law requires buyers, with some exceptions, to show a firearm identification card (FOID) when purchasing firearms or ammunition (Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3). This applies to almost all ammunition purchases, including those between private parties. (The exemptions include law enforcement officers and out-of-state buyers purchasing ammunition at gun shows).

FOID cards are similar to drivers' licenses. They prominently display the card-holder's photograph, along with their address, Social Security number, and signature (Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/6). To obtain a FOID, Illinois residents must send an application to the Illinois State Police and pass a national criminal history record check.


Like Illinois, Massachusetts requires gun and ammunition purchasers to display a firearm identification card (referred to as a “FID”) when buying ammunition and prohibits anyone who does not have a card from possessing ammunition (Mass. Gen. L. ch. 140 129C). There are two types of FIDs class A cards for large firing capacity guns and their corresponding ammunition purchases, and class B cards for smaller capacity firearms and ammunition. Class A FIDs are available only to applicants over age 21 who may legally buy ammunition under federal law. Class B FIDs are available to applicants over age 18 who may legally buy ammunition under federal law (Mass. Gen. L. ch. 140 129B).

Anyone wanting a FOID card must apply to the appropriate licensing authority (generally, the police chief) and submit documentation that he or she received the basic firearms safety certificate required by law. The applicant must submit to fingerprinting and undergo state and national criminal history record checks. Within 40 days from the date of the application, the licensing authority must issue the FOID unless the applicant is prohibited from buying firearms or ammunition (Mass Gen L. ch. 140 129B).

Attachment I: States Prohibiting Armor-Piercing Ammunition


Nature of Prohibition

Statutory Reference


Illegal to sell or possess (class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, $15,000, or both. Enhanced penalties for use of armor-piercing ammunition in commission of another felony.)

Ala. Code 13A-11-60


An enhanced penalty of up to 10 years for possession of armor-piercing ammunition during the commission of a felony and while armed with a firearm.

Cal. Penal Code 12022.2


Illegal to distribute, transport or sell first time offense is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and $2,000 fine (repeat offense is a class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine).

CGS 53a-202l


Illegal to manufacturer, sell, transfer, or possess (class C felony maximum prison term of eight years, fine of $10,000, or both)

Indiana Code 35-47-5-11

New Hampshire

Class B felony if used in commission of a misdemeanor or felony (punishable by up to seven years in prison).

N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. 159:18

New Jersey

Possession is a fourth-degree crime punishable by up to six months in prison.

N.J. Stat. Ann. 2C:39-3(f)

New York

Possession with intent to use is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison.

N.Y. Penal Law 265.01(8)


Manufacture, sale, distribution and use are prohibited felonies punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

Mich. Comp. Laws 750.224c


Manufacture, sale and possession are prohibited misdemeanors punishable by up to 30 days in prison and a fine up to $500.

Miss. Code Ann. 97-37-31


Illegal to manufacture, sell, import, or advertise for sale (violations are felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, or both).

Okla. Stat. tit. 21, 1289.19


Illegal to manufacture, possess or sell (class E felony punishable by two years in prison; use in commission of another crime qualifies as class D felony punishable by up to four years in prison).

Tenn. Code Ann. 39-17-1304


Illegal to manufacture, possess, or sell (class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a $4,000 fine).

Texas Penal Code Ann. 46.05

Attachment II: States Prohibiting Large-Capacity Magazines


Magazine Round Restriction

Statutory Reference


No more than 10

Cal. Penal Code 12020(a)(2),(b)(c)25


(applies to handguns only)

No more than 10

Hawaii Rev. Stat. 134-8(c)


No more than 20

Md. Code Ann. Crim. Law 4-305


No more than 10

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140 121, 131M

New Jersey*

No more than 15

N.J. Stat. Ann. 2C: 39-9(h), 2C: 39-1(y), 2C: 39-3(j)

New York*

No more than 10

N.Y. Penal Law 265.00 (23), 265.02(8)

* Prohibition applies to any firearm.