California Gun Laws
Last Updated on January 6, 2021
California has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States. Several new laws were added in 2020 as part of the state’s gun control measures. If you own a gun or want to purchase a firearm, it is crucial that you understand California gun laws.
Let’s look at five of the most commonly asked questions about California gun laws and the answers to those questions.
Are People Prohibited From Possessing or Owning a Gun in California?
Even though the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution gives us the right to bear arms, states can enact laws restricting gun rights. For example, the state prohibits some people from owning or possessing a firearm.
People who cannot possess or buy a gun in California include:
- Individuals with two or more convictions for brandishing a weapon
- Convicted felons who have not had their gun rights restored
- Individuals who suffer from mental illnesses
- Narcotic addicts
- Anyone under the age of 18 years (except for BB guns with parental consent)
- Individuals convicted of certain crimes involving domestic violence
There may be other instances in which a person is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm. For example, California’s red flag law that went into effect in 2020 allows a judge to issue restraining orders to remove guns from potentially dangerous people upon a petition by an employer, co-worker, or teacher.
Most people who do not fall into one of the above categories can legally purchase a gun in California if they are:
- Over the age of 21 years or meet one of the exemptions
- Has a Firearm Safety Certificate
- Meets the other requirements for purchasing a gun
There is a 10-day waiting period before the seller can transfer the firearm to the purchaser.
Can I Carry a Concealed Gun in California?
It is illegal to carry a concealed weapon in California unless you have a Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) license. According to California Penal Code §25400, it is a crime to knowingly carry a firearm on your body, in your personal belongings, or in your car within reach.
If you are charged with carrying a concealed weapon, several potential defenses might be available. For example, the weapon must be a firearm that is capable of being concealed. You could also argue that you were not aware that the weapon was present.
The penalty for a conviction of carrying a concealed weapon depends on whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor charges carry up to one year in county jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
The charges could increase to a felony if:
- You have a prior felony conviction
- The firearm was stolen
- You have a prior conviction for a firearm offense
- You are prohibited by law from possessing a firearm
- You are in an active criminal gang
Felony convictions for illegally concealing a firearm can result in up to three years in jail and a fine up to $10,000.
Where Are Guns Prohibited in California?
There are six places where firearms are prohibited, even for individuals with concealed carry permits:
- Government buildings
- Public transit facilities
- Passenger vessel and airport terminals
- Public buildings and meetings open to the public
- The Governor’s mansion
Depending on the circumstances, possession of a firearm in a prohibited location could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
The penalties vary depending on the location. For example, violating the Gun-Free School Zone Act could result in a prison sentence of up to seven years. A violation of the code prohibiting firearms in public transit facilities is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Can I Restore Gun Rights After a Criminal Conviction?
Felony convictions and certain misdemeanor convictions result in losing your right to own and possess a firearm. Felonies usually result in the loss of your gun rights for life, unless you can have the felony reduced to a misdemeanor or receive a pardon from the Governor.
A few misdemeanor offenses could result in a lifetime loss of gun rights. Most misdemeanors that result in the loss of gun rights have a 10-year ban. A criminal attorney can review the charges against you to determine if you could lose your gun rights or have your gun rights restored.
What Are the Most Common California Weapons Charges Involving Guns?
California has numerous weapons offenses involving firearms.
Some of the most common firearms charges include:
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Illegal possession of a concealed weapon
- Manufacturing, selling, or possession of dangerous weapons
- Brandishing a firearm
- Illegal discharge of a firearm
- Possession of a weapon by a prohibited person
- Firing or shooting into an occupied building
- Possession of an assault weapon
- Improper handling of a gun in a vehicle
Understanding the charges against you and your options for fighting those charges can help you choose the best defense strategy for your situation. Fighting weapons charges can be easier when you have experienced legal counsel at your side to advocate for your legal rights and best interests.