California Gun Laws
Subject/LawLong gunsHandgunsStatutesNotes
State permit required to purchase?PartialPartial§26500All firearm sales must be completed through a dealer. Firearm purchases require a Firearm Safety Certificate and proof of residency unless the individual purchasing the firearm is active duty military, honorably retired military, or a peace officer under Penal Code Section 830. Military reservists must provide proof of residency in order to purchase a firearm. The Firearms Safety Certificate can be purchased and completed at firearms dealers with DOJ instructors on the same day, differentiating it from a FOID or FID card system where one has to apply with the local police and await approval. Must be 21 to purchase any firearm.[16]
Firearm registration?YesYes§28150The California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) retains information about the purchaser and seller of all in-state firearm sales and transfers, and requires that any firearms imported into the state be reported to the DOJ.[17] Furthermore, the Attorney General is required by law to maintain a registry containing the fingerprints and identifying information of the transferee, and the unique identifying information of every firearm transferred in the state, pursuant to §11106.[18] All handgun serial numbers and sales are recorded by the state in the Department of Justice’s Automated Firearms System, along with those of many long guns. While there is no requirement for California residents to register handguns owned prior to 1991 with law enforcement, §12025 and §12031 enhance several misdemeanor offenses to felonies if the handgun is not on file in the Department of Justice’s Automated Firearms System. New residents must register handguns (purchased outside of California) with DOJ within 60 days. As of January 1, 2014, long gun serial numbers are also recorded, whereas previously only the sale was recorded. However, it is not required that owners of long guns purchased prior to 2014 register their firearms and it is not a crime to be in possession of an unregistered firearm.
Owner license required?NoNoNoneWhile the Firearm Safety Certificate is required for new purchases of firearms, ongoing possession of a firearm does not require a license or permit.[19] People moving into California are required, within 60 days, to file a New Resident Report of Firearm Ownership.[20][21] New residents are prohibited from importing assault weapons or any other weapons prohibited by California law regardless of whether they were lawfully acquired and possessed in the residents’ prior state of residence.[22] The ban on importing large-capacity magazines was ruled unconstitutional[23] but the ruling is on hold while the case is under appeal.[24]
Assault weapon law?YesYes§30500§30515Illegal to possess, import, or purchase assault weapons and .50 BMG rifles, unless such weapons were acquired by the owner prior to June 1, 1989. While California’s Assault Weapons Law does allow individuals who hold a Dangerous Weapons Permit to obtain, transport or possess defined assault weapons, the DOJ generally does not issue Dangerous Weapons Permits to ordinary citizens. Legally defined assault weapons and .50 BMG rifles listed by make and model by the DOJ must be registered. Their sale and transfer is prohibited. Military look-alike rifles that are not chambered for .50 BMG and are not on the DOJ roster are legal to purchase or possess, with some restrictions in configuration – known as “banned features”. Active-duty military members residing out of state and assigned to duty in California may bring personally-owned assault weapons into the state. The military member’s residence must be in a state that permits private citizens to own and possess assault weapons, and the firearms must be registered with the California Department of Justice prior to the servicemember’s arrival in California by submitting the registration form with a copy of the member’s Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders and an authorization letter from the installation commander.
With the passage of Senate Bill 880 and Assembly Bill 1135 in June 2016, the state’s assault weapon ban has been expanded to include all semi-automatic center-fire rifles and shotguns that have a “bullet button” detachable magazine; effectively repealing a prior law that made “bullet button” magazines required on all newly manufactured weapons with detachable magazines. The sale or transfer of such weapons will be prohibited, effective January 1, 2017. Those purchased prior to January 1, 2017 must be registered with the DOJ by the start of 2018. The definition of types of weapons that are banned has been expanded, the exact definitions should be reviewed at the California DOJ website.[25]
Magazine capacity restriction?YesYes§32310Section 32310 of the Penal Code states that any person who manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives, lends, buys, receives, or assembles any large-capacity magazine from a parts kit is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment. Thus, the offenses listed can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor at the discretion of the prosecutor.[26] Large-capacity is defined as being able to hold more than 10 rounds. In November 2016 California voters approved Proposition 63. The referendum outlaws the possession of such magazines, requires background checks for all ammunition sales and mandates the reporting of lost or stolen firearms.[27] Under Proposition 63, mere possession of a large-capacity magazine is punishable as a misdemeanor with a $100 fine or an infraction with a $100 fine. This prohibition applies to magazines acquired prior to January 1, 2000 that were previously considered “grandfathered.”[28] Importation, manufacture, lending, assembling a large-capacity magazine from a parts kit, or buying a large-capacity magazine remains chargeable as a felony or a misdemeanor.[29]On June 29, 2017, a federal judge blocked the enforcement of Proposition 63’s ban on the possession of large-capacity magazines, pending the outcome of litigation concerning the ban. Magazines that would have been subject to the Proposition 63 ban are legal for private citizens to keep until the injunction is either lifted and/or the ban is upheld by the courts.[30][31] On March 29, 2019, the entire large-capacity magazine law was blocked permanently by the district court; this includes the ban on possession, in addition to the ban on manufacturing, importing, selling, etc.[23][32] Following a stay request from Attorney General, Judge Benitez allowed the ban on manufacture, import, and sale of large-capacity magazines to be enforced while keeping in place the injunction against the enforcement of the ban on possession of previously legal large-capacity magazines, including all purchases made between the entry of the Court’s injunction on March 29, 2019 and April 5, 2019, 5:00 p.m.[33]
License required for concealed carry?N/AYes§26150“May issue,” depending on jurisdiction. County sheriff’s or local Police Chief’s discretion, many counties are de facto “no-issue”, while others are “shall-issue” in practice. CCW permits valid statewide. Out-of-state permits not valid in California. California’s may-issue law has been held constitutional by an en banc panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of this holding.[34]
Open carry allowed?PartialPartial§26350Long guns and handguns may be openly carried in unincorporated rural areas where firearm discharge is not prohibited by local ordinance. In a county with a population of less than 200,000 residents, a permit to carry a handgun “loaded and exposed” may be issued by the county sheriff, valid only in the issuing county. A person may also open carry if he or she “reasonably believes that any person or the property of any person is in immediate, grave danger and that the carrying of the weapon is necessary for the preservation of that person or property.”[35]
Vehicle carry?NoYes§25610A valid California Concealed Weapons License is required to carry a concealed handgun in a motor vehicle. Otherwise, handguns and assault rifles must be unloaded and locked in a case during transport. Long guns not classified as assault rifles may be transported in a vehicle without being locked in a case, but must be unloaded.
State preemption of local restrictions?YesYes§53701 Government CodeMost but not all local restrictions preempted.
Castle doctrine law?YesYesCalifornia never requires a duty to retreat whether in your own home or not. The state acknowledges a legal presumption that an intruder poses a deadly threat if in your own home or property that is owned and controlled by yourself.
NFA weapons restricted?YesYes§12220, §12020, §12020Possession of automatic weapons or short-barreled shotguns or rifles prohibited without DOJ “Dangerous Weapons Permit”; permission rarely granted outside of film industry. Suppressors (aka silencers) prohibited. Destructive devices are prohibited unless are designated as curios & relics, in which case a collectors permit can be obtained. The only AOWs that are permitted are smoothbore pistols and firearms with a combination of a smoothbore and rifle barrel. C&R short-barreled rifles and C&R short-barrled shotguns permitted.
Peaceable journey laws?NoNoCalifornia courts have ruled that large-capacity magazines (LCM) that are disassembled or LCM parts are legal to possess. Otherwise federal rules are observed.
Waiting period?YesYes§26815(a)[2], §26950-27140 [3], §27540(a) [4],§27600-27750 [5]California has a ten (10) day waiting period for all firearm purchases, transfers, and private sales which must be conducted through a federal and state firearm license holder. That is, upon purchase, the purchaser must wait 10 days after the purchase before the firearm is released to the owner.On August 25, 2014, the California’s 10-day waiting period for gun purchases was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California which found that “the 10-day waiting periods of Penal Code [sections 26815(a) and 27540(a)] violate the Second Amendment” as applied to members of certain classifications (notably holders of concealed carry permits) and “burdens the Second Amendment rights of the Plaintiffs”.[36] On December 14, 2016 this ruling was overturned by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.[37] The plaintiffs’ petition for an en banc rehearing was denied April 4, 2017; on February 20, 2018 the Supreme Court certiorari petition was denied, meaning that the waiting period remains in effect.[38]
Background checks required for private sales?YesYes§ 27545Private party transfers of firearms must be conducted through a licensed dealer, who is required by federal law to conduct a background check and keep a record of the sale.
Red flag law?YesYesThe police or a person’s family member can ask a judge to confiscate the firearms of a person who appears to pose a threat to themselves or others for up to one year.[39] Such orders from out-of-state are also recognized. As of September 1, 2020, eligible petitioners will be expanded to include an employer, coworker, and school teacher or employee, and the maximum allowable duration will be extended to 5 years.[40]

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