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California Gun Control Laws

Last updated 1/8/2020

As most people know, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution preserves an individual's right to possess firearms:

"A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

However, California 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.

California Gun Control Law Basics

The basics of California gun control laws are listed in the table below. See Gun Laws in FindLaw's Product Liability section to learn more.

Code Sections

California Penal Code

Amended laws (Penal Code)

Illegal Arms
  • Cane gun (Section. 24410)
  • Wallet gun (Section. 24710 - 24790)
  • Any firearm not immediately recognizable (Section. 24510)
  • 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; zip gun; any bullet with an explosive agent
  • Multi-burst trigger activator
  • Any unconventional pistol
  • Any undetectable firearm
  • Assault weapons and .50 BMG rifles (Section 30605)
Waiting Period 10 days
Who May Not Own

Lifetime 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 found incompetent to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of insanity for any crime.

10-Year Ban: Anyone convicted of a misdemeanor violation of certain violent crimes, such as assault and battery or domestic violence.

5-Year Ban: Any person taken into custody as a danger to self or others, is assessed and admitted to a mental health facility (subject to a lifetime ban).

Law Prohibiting Firearms On or Near School Grounds Felony. Any person convicted of possessing a firearm within a 1,000 feet of school grounds may be punished with sentences of two, three, or five years. (Section 626.9)

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.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

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