Posted on January 1, 2015
** Please note that, as of January 1, 2012, many of California’s firearms laws were renumbered. Please review this disposition table for more information. **
Among other things, California:
- Requires all gun sales to be processed through a licensed dealer, requiring a background check;
- Requires gun dealers to obtain a state license;
- Bans most assault weapons and .50 caliber rifles, and prohibits the sale or transfer of large capacity ammunition magazines;
- Requires all firearms purchasers to obtain a Firearm Safety Certificate, after passing a written test;
- Regulates gun shows in a comprehensive manner;
- Limits handgun purchases to one per person per month;
- Prohibits the sale of “unsafe handguns” not on the state’s roster of approved handguns;
- Imposes a ten-day waiting period prior to the sale or transfer of a firearm;
- Maintains permanent records of firearm sales;
- Gives local law enforcement discretion to deny a license to carry a concealed weapon; and
- Gives local governments authority to regulate firearms and ammunition, although the state legislature has expressly removed this authority in certain areas.
In addition, in 2007, California became the first jurisdiction in the nation to require handgun microstamping and, in 2014, was the first to enact a Gun Violence Restraining Order law to help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
In 2013, California had the 9th lowest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. Even with this relatively low ranking, that still meant 3,026 deaths from firearms for that single year. Firearms also injure a huge number of people in California each year. For example, in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 3,081 people were treated in emergency departments for non-fatal gunshot wounds in California.
Based on data published by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, California consistently ranks among the top ten suppliers of guns recovered after being used in crimes in other states. However, when population is taken into account, California is the fifth lowest supplier of guns recovered from crimes in other states. In addition, California is the fourth largest supplier (among the states) of crime guns to Mexico when population is taken into account. Note, however, that California supplies crime guns to Mexico at less than one-third the rate of Arizona, the nation’s top supplier of crime guns to Mexico.
Municipalities across California have enacted a variety of gun violence prevention ordinances to make their communities safer. For more information on local ordinances in California, download our publication Communities on the Move 2000: How California Communities Are Addressing the Epidemic of Handgun Violence.
We are currently in the process of updating this page to reflect laws enacted in 2015. In the meantime, please contact the Law Center directly for questions about new 2015 laws.
California Firearms Laws
For details about specific California firearms laws, choose a topic below, or see all of the firearms laws in this state.