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California Gun Control Laws

California's gun control laws are among the most restrictive in the country, with a 10-day waiting period and limits on who may own a firearm. For instance, rifles may not be shorter than 16 inches and prospective handgun buyers must have a valid Handgun Safety Certificate.

In addition to restrictions on the purchase and ownership of firearms, California has placed limits on magazine capacity and on the ability to purchase ammunition. Make sure you study the law in California before purchasing a firearm, as a violation of the state's gun laws can lead to felony charges.

Relevant Statutes (Laws)

California Penal Code Amended laws (Penal Code)

Illegal Arms

  • Cane gun (Section 24410)
  • Wallet gun (Section 24710 - 24790)
  • Zip guns (Section 33600 PC)
  • Any firearm not immediately recognizable (Section. 24510)
  • Containers that camouflage firearms (Section 24310 PC)
  • Short-barreled shotgun or rifle (i.e., a barrel of less than 18 inches for shotgun, less than 16 inches for rifle, or less than 26 inches designed to fire a fixed shotgun shell or cartridge)
  • Multi-burst trigger activator
  • Any unconventional pistol
  • Any undetectable firearm
  • Assault weapons and .50 BMG rifles (Section 30605)

Waiting Period

There is a 10 day waiting period to purchase a firearm in California.

Who May Not Own

 Permanent Ban:
  • Those with any felony conviction or conviction of other offenses listed by the California Dept. of Justice
  • Any person adjudicated to be a mentally disordered sex offender
  • Any person who is subject to a restraining order, a protective order, or an injunction
  • Any person found incompetent to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of insanity for any crime
  • Anyone subject to an outstanding warrant for an offense involving firearm prohibitions
10-Year Ban: Anyone convicted of a misdemeanor violation of certain violent crimes, such as assault, battery, or domestic violence.5-Year Ban: Any person taken into custody as a danger to self or others who is assessed and admitted to a mental health facility (subject to a lifetime ban).

License Required?

Yes, you need a "firearm safety certificate" to purchase a gun in California.

Concealed Carry License Required?

You need a concealed weapons license to conceal carry a firearm.

Open Carried Allowed?

California prohibits open carry with a few narrow exceptions for residents in smaller counties.

Eligibility for a Concealed Carry License

In order to get a concealed carry license you must fulfill the following requirements:
  • You must be at least 21 years old.
  • You must pass a background check.
  • You must complete an eight-hour firearms training course that teaches California firearms laws and gun safety.
  • You must be a resident of or work in the state of California.
  • You must be of a good moral character.
  • You must show good cause to get the license.

Machine Gun Laws

It is illegal to own a machine gun in California unless you have a permit from the California Department of Justice.

Penalties for Illegal Firearm Possession

The following penalties apply if you illegally possess a firearm:
  • You can be sentenced to up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine or both if you:
    • Carry an assault weapon (you can also be charged with a felony if certain factors are met)
    • Carry a firearm without a permit
  • It is a felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison or $10,000 in fines or both if you possess a firearm:
    • With a felony conviction
    • While you're addicted to a narcotic drug
    • After being convicted of certain violent crimes

Penalties for Illegal Possession on or Near School Grounds

Section 626.9: Any person convicted of possessing a firearm within 1,000 feet of school grounds may be punished with a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

California Gun Control Laws: Related Resources

California Punishes Gun Crimes Severely. Don't Wait to Consult an Attorney.

If you find yourself charged with any gun control violation in California, you need help. An experienced California criminal defense attorney can answer questions that you may have and help you with the legal process.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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