Posted on January 2, 2012
Last updated February 24, 2012
** Please note that, effective January 1, 2012, many of California’s firearms laws were renumbered. Please review this disposition table for more information. **
In our publication Gun Laws Matter 2012: Understanding the Link Between Weak Laws and Gun Violence, the Law Center ranked each state based on a review of state laws in 29 different firearms-related policy areas. California ranked 1st out of 50 – having enacted the strongest gun violence prevention legislation in the nation. 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 handgun purchasers to obtain a license, after passing a written test;
- Regulates gun shows;
- Limits handgun purchases to one per person per month;
- Prohibits the sale of “unsafe handguns” not on the 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.
In 2009, 2,972 people died from firearm-related injuries in California. 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 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.
California Firearms Laws
For details about specific California firearms laws, choose a topic below, or see all of the firearms laws in this state.