Ammunition Regulation in California

See our Ammunition Regulation policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

California regulates the following aspects of ammunition, as described below:

  1. Sales and transfers of ammunition;
  2. Persons prohibited from possessing ammunition;
  3. Minimum age to possess ammunition;
  4. Ammunition at gun shows; and
  5. Certain kinds of unreasonably dangerous ammunition.

California also prohibits carrying ammunition onto school grounds, subject to certain limited exceptions.1

(1)  Sales and Transfers of Ammunition

In 2016, California voters passed Proposition 63, which will comprehensively regulate ammunition sales in the state once its various reforms become effective between 2017 and 2019.

Previously, California had adopted a groundbreaking 2009 law (AB 962) that sought to comprehensively regulate the sale of handgun ammunition by, among other things,regulating mail-order shipments of handgun ammunition and by requiring retail sellers of handgun ammunition to obtain a business license from DOJ and to keep records of their handgun ammunition sales. However, implementation of AB 962 was delayed due to litigation surrounding the definition of “handgun ammunition.”2

Proposition 63 will supersede AB 962 and will apply to all ammunition sales. More specifically:

  • Beginning January 1, 2018, individuals who sell more than 500 rounds of ammunition in any month will be required to obtain an annual state-issued business license3 and will be required to conduct ammunition sales at specified business locations or gun shows.4 The California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) will start accepting applications for ammunition vendor business licenses on July 1, 2017.5
  • DOJ will issue ammunition vendor licenses to individuals who provide specified documentation, including a certificate of eligibility verifying that they passed a background check.6 Individuals who are already licensed as firearms dealers by DOJ would automatically be deemed licensed ammunition vendors, provided that they comply with other legal obligations placed on ammunition sellers.7
  • Once licensed, ammunition vendors will be required to report the loss or theft of any ammunition from their inventory to law enforcement,8 and to obtain a certificate of eligibility from employees who handle or sell ammunition, verifying that they passed a background check.9
  • Beginning January 1, 2018, ammunition sales will generally have to be conducted by or processed through licensed vendors.10 Sales of ammunition by unlicensed sellers would have to be processed through a licensed ammunition vendor, in a manner similar to private party firearms transactions,11 and ammunition obtained over the Internet or from out of state would have to be initially shipped to a licensed ammunition vendor for physical delivery to the purchaser pursuant to a background check.12
  • Beginning July 1, 2019, licensed ammunition vendors will be required to record, maintain, and report to DOJ records of ammunition sales, in a manner similar to dealer’s records of sales (DROS) for firearms purchases.13 Proposition 63 will require that these records be kept confidential except for use by law enforcement for law enforcement purposes.14 DOJ will be required to maintain a database of ammunition sale records, similar to the DROS database for firearms.15
  • Beginning July 1, 2019, a licensed ammunition vendor will generally be prohibited from selling or transferring ammunition until first conducting a background check to verify that the person receiving the ammunition is legally eligible.16 If the vendor is a licensed firearms dealer, he or she can also sell ammunition in the same transaction as a firearm with only the firearm background check required.17
  • Proposition 63 will still authorize people to sell or share ammunition with their spouses, domestic partners, parents, grandparents, children, and grandchildren without going through a licensed vendor.18 It will also authorize people to freely share (but not sell) ammunition in person with friends and shooting partners, unless they have reason to believe that the ammunition would be illegally provided to a criminal or illegal user.19
  • Proposition 63 will also allow people to buy ammunition at a shooting range without undergoing a background check and without a sale record as long as they keep that ammunition inside the facility; if they want to bring ammunition to or from the facility, they could bring their own ammunition from home or undergo a background check at the shooting range.20

California currently prohibits people from supplying ammunition to any person they know or reasonably should know is prohibited from possessing ammunition.21 Prop 63 will also make it illegal for a person to supply ammunition to a straw purchaser with knowledge or cause to believe that the straw purchaser would subsequently provide that ammunition to a prohibited person.22 See Persons Prohibited from Possessing Ammunition below.

(2)  Persons Prohibited from Possessing Ammunition

California prohibits any person from owning, possessing, or having under his or her custody or control any ammunition or reloaded ammunition if the person falls into any of the categories of persons who are ineligible to purchase or possess firearms under state law.23 In addition, a person subject to an injunction as a member of a criminal street gang may not own, possess or have any ammunition under his or her custody or control.24

(3)  Minimum Age to Possess Ammunition

California prohibits the possession of live ammunition by persons under age 18, with certain enumerated exceptions.25

Sellers of ammunition are prohibited from selling any ammunition to a person under 18 years of age and may not sell handgun ammunition to a person under 21 years of age.26 However, a seller, agent or employee of a seller may avoid prosecution for a violation of this law by demonstrating that the minor presented identification indicating that he or she was actually old enough to make the purchase, and that the seller, agent or employee acted in reasonable reliance on this identification.27

(4)  Ammunition at Gun Shows

California prohibits ammunition from being displayed at gun shows except in closed containers, unless the seller is showing the ammunition to a prospective buyer.28 In addition, no person at a gun show in California, other than security personnel or sworn peace officers, can possess at the same time both a firearm and ammunition that is designed to be fired in the firearm. Vendors selling such items at the show are exempt.29

(5)  Unreasonably Dangerous Ammunition

California bans the manufacture, importation, sale, offer for sale, or knowing possession or transportation of handgun ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor.30 This ban applies to any ammunition (except a shotgun shell or ammunition primarily designed for use in rifles) that is designed primarily to penetrate a body vest or body shield, either by virtue of its shape, cross-sectional density, or coating, or because it has a projectile or projectile core constructed entirely of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium, or any equivalent material of similar density or hardness. KTW ammunition, among others, is subject to this ban.31

California also prohibits the possession, sale, offer for sale, or knowing transportation of a “destructive device,” defined to include “[a]ny projectile containing any explosive or incendiary material” or any other chemical substance including, but not limited to, that commonly known as tracer or incendiary ammunition (except tracer ammunition manufactured for use in shotguns), and any “explosive missile.”32 The state provides for the limited issuance of permits to possess or transport any destructive device, issued at the discretion of the California Department of Justice.33

California prohibits the manufacture, importation, keeping or offering for sale, transfer or possession of any “flechette dart” (dart capable of being fired from a firearm, that measures approximately one inch in length, with tail fins that take up approximately five-sixteenths of an inch of the body) or bullet that contains an explosive agent.34

In addition, California generally prohibits any person, firm or corporation from selling, offering for sale, possessing or knowingly transporting any fixed ammunition greater than .60 caliber. ((Cal. Penal Code § 18735.)

Notes
  1. Cal. Penal Code § 30310. California  also prohibits carrying or possessing ammunition in the State Capitol, any legislative office, any office of the Governor or other constitutional officer, or any hearing room in which any committee of the Senate or Assembly is conducting a hearing, or upon the grounds of the State Capitol, which is bounded by 10th, L, 15th, and N Streets in the City of Sacramento, if the area is posted with a statement providing reasonable notice. Cal. Penal Code § 171c(a)(2)(G). ⤴︎
  2. See the court’s order in Parker v. California, Case No. 10CECG02116 (Super. Ct. Fresno, Filed June 17, 2010). ⤴︎
  3. Cal. Penal Code § 30342. ⤴︎
  4. Cal. Penal Code § 30348. ⤴︎
  5. Cal. Penal Code § 30385. ⤴︎
  6. Cal. Penal Code §§ 30385, 30390, 30395. ⤴︎
  7. Cal. Penal Code § 16151(b). ⤴︎
  8. Cal. Penal Code § 30363. ⤴︎
  9. Cal. Penal Code § 30347. ⤴︎
  10. Cal. Penal Code § 30312. ⤴︎
  11. Cal. Penal Code § 30312. ⤴︎
  12. Cal. Penal Code §§ 30312, 30314. ⤴︎
  13. Cal. Penal Code § 30352. ⤴︎
  14. Cal. Penal Code § 30352(b). ⤴︎
  15. Cal. Penal Code § 30352. ⤴︎
  16. Cal. Penal Code §§ 30352(c), 30352(d), 30370. ⤴︎
  17. Cal. Penal Code § 30352(c)(2). ⤴︎
  18. Cal. Penal Code § 30312(c). ⤴︎
  19. Id.; Cal. Penal Code § 30306. ⤴︎
  20. Cal. Penal Code § 30352(e)(3). ⤴︎
  21. Cal. Penal Code § 30306. ⤴︎
  22. Cal. Penal Code § 30306. ⤴︎
  23. Cal. Penal Code § 30305(a). ⤴︎
  24. Cal. Penal Code § 30305(b)(1). ⤴︎
  25. Cal. Penal Code §§ 29650-29655. This prohibition does not apply if: 1) the minor has the written consent of a parent or legal guardian to possess live ammunition; 2) the minor is accompanied by a parent or legal guardian; or 3)the minor is actively engaged in, or is going to or from, a lawful, recreational sport, including, but not limited to, competitive shooting, or agricultural, ranching, or hunting activity, the nature of which involves the use of a firearm. ⤴︎
  26. Cal. Penal Code § 30300(a). Where ammunition may be used in both a rifle and a handgun, it may be sold to a person who is at least 18 years of age, but less than 21 years of age, if the vendor reasonably believes that the ammunition is being acquired for use in a rifle and not a handgun. Cal Penal Code § 30300(a)(2). ⤴︎
  27. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16300, 30300(b). ⤴︎
  28. Cal. Penal Code § 27315. ⤴︎
  29. Cal. Penal Code § 27330. ⤴︎
  30. Cal. Penal Code §§ 30315, 30320. ⤴︎
  31. Cal. Penal Code § 16660. ⤴︎
  32. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16460(a), 18710, 18730. ⤴︎
  33. Cal. Penal Code §§ 18900-18910. ⤴︎
  34. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16570, 30210. ⤴︎

Assault Weapons in California

See our Assault Weapons policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

With limited exceptions, California prohibits anyone from possessing an assault weapon unless he or she possessed the firearm prior to the date it was defined as an assault weapon and registered the firearm with the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) in the timeframe established by state law.1

California also prohibits any person from manufacturing, distributing, transporting, importing, keeping for sale, offering for sale, giving, or lending any assault weapon within the state.2 However, DOJ may, upon a finding of good cause, issue permits for the manufacture, sale, or possession of assault weapons to certain law enforcement agencies and officers and to approved individuals over the age of 18.3 DOJ must conduct a yearly inspection – or every five years if the person to be inspected has fewer than five permitted devices – of every person to whom a permit is issued, for security and safe storage practices, and to reconcile the inventory of assault weapons.4 Generally, no lawfully possessed assault weapon may be sold or transferred to anyone within California other than to a licensed gun dealer or to a police or sheriff’s department.5

California law lists certain firearms that have been deemed assault weapons, including all AK series and Colt AR-15 series.6 California’s Attorney General is required to promulgate a list specifying all such firearms.7 However, a firearm that meets any of the following descriptions is also an “assault weapon”:8

  • A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following: 1) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon; 2) a thumbhole stock; 3) a folding or telescoping stock; 4) a grenade or flare launcher; 5) a flash suppressor; or 6) a forward pistol grip;9
  • A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than ten rounds;
  • A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches;
  • A semiautomatic pistol that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following: 1) a threaded barrel, capable of accepting a flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer; 2) a second handgrip; 3) a shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel allowing the bearer to fire the weapon without burning his or her hand, except a slide that encloses the barrel; or 4) the capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip;
  • A semiautomatic pistol with a fixed magazine that has the capacity to accept more than ten rounds;
  • A semiautomatic shotgun that has both a folding or telescoping stock, and a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, thumbhole stock, or vertical handgrip;
  • A semiautomatic shotgun that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine; or
  • A shotgun with a revolving cylinder.

Antique firearms (i.e., firearms manufactured prior to 1899)10, and certain pistols that are designed expressly for use in Olympic target shooting events, are exempt from these provisions.11

California does not ban kits that allow a person to convert a lawful firearm into an assault weapon.

Any person owning a lawfully registered assault weapon may possess the firearm only under limited conditions, unless he or she obtains a permit for additional uses from DOJ.12 Those conditions include:

  • At the person’s residence, place of business, or other property owned by that person, or on property owned by another with the owner’s express permission;
  • While on certain target ranges and shooting clubs;
  • While on publicly owned land if specifically permitted by the managing agency of the land; or
  • While properly transporting the firearm between any of the places mentioned above, or to any licensed gun dealer for servicing and repair.13

California law includes a statement of the dangers posed by assault weapons:

The Legislature hereby finds and declares that the proliferation and use of assault weapons poses a threat to the health, safety, and security of all citizens of this state. The Legislature has restricted the assault weapons specified in Section 30510 based upon finding that each firearm has such a high rate of fire and capacity for firepower that its function as a legitimate sports or recreational firearm is substantially outweighed by the danger that it can be used to kill and injure human beings.14

California law provides that the possession of an assault weapon in violation of state laws is a public nuisance.15 As a result, any assault weapon possessed in violation of state laws must be destroyed, except upon finding by a court, or a declaration from DOJ, a district attorney, or a city attorney stating that the preservation of the assault weapon is in the interest of justice.16

The courts have rejected legal challenges to California’s assault weapons ban.17

See DOJ’s Assault Weapon FAQs page for further information.

Notes
  1. Cal. Penal Code § 30605. See generally Cal. Penal Code §§ 30600-30675, 30900-30965, 31000-31005. For state assault weapon regulations, see Cal. Code Regs. tit. 11, §§ 5459-5473, 5495, 5499. DOJ’s website also includes information about the development of these regulations. ⤴︎
  2. Cal. Penal Code § 30600. ⤴︎
  3. Cal. Penal Code §§ 31000, 31005. ⤴︎
  4. Cal. Penal Code § 31110 ⤴︎
  5. Cal. Penal Code §§ 30910, 31100. ⤴︎
  6. Cal. Penal Code § 30510. ⤴︎
  7. Cal. Penal Code § 30520. ⤴︎
  8. Cal. Penal Code § 30515. ⤴︎
  9. In 2016, California enacted a law to provide a statutory definition for the term “detachable magazine” in order to clarify that so-called “bullet button” weapons are restricted assault weapons. The bullet button loophole previously allowed firearm manufacturers to sell “California-compliant” assault weapons equipped with a bullet button that allowed a shooter to use a bullet, wearable magnet, or other instrument, instead of his or her finger, to depress the button that releases the weapon’s magazine.  Individuals who lawfully obtained these weapons prior to January 1, 2017, will be authorized to retain them if they timely register their weapons with DOJ. See Cal. Penal Code §§ 30515, 30680, 30900 (as amended by 2016 Cal. SB 880 and 2016 Cal. AB 1664). ⤴︎
  10. Cal. Penal Code § 16170(a). ⤴︎
  11. Cal. Penal Code § 30515(c). ⤴︎
  12. Cal. Penal Code §§ 30945, 31000. ⤴︎
  13. The person may also possess the assault weapon while attending an exhibition, display, or educational project about firearms which is sponsored by, conducted under the auspices of, or approved by a law enforcement agency or a nationally or state recognized entity that fosters proficiency in, or promotes education about, firearms. Id. ⤴︎
  14. Cal. Penal Code § 30505(a). ⤴︎
  15. The Attorney General, any district attorney, or any city attorney may, in lieu of criminal prosecution, bring a civil action or reach a civil compromise in any superior court to enjoin the possession of the assault weapon that is a public nuisance. Cal. Penal Code § 30800(a). ⤴︎
  16. Cal. Penal Code § 30800(c). Upon conviction of any misdemeanor or felony involving the illegal possession or use of an assault weapon, the assault weapon must be deemed a public nuisance and disposed of pursuant to Cal. Penal Code § 18005(c). Cal. Penal Code § 30800(d). ⤴︎
  17. See Kasler v. Lockyer, 2 P.3d 581 (Cal. 2000) (holding, inter alia, that the ban does not violate equal protection of the law because the statute does not burden a fundamental constitutional right to “bear arms,” as no such right exists under the California constitution). See also Silveira v. Lockyer, 312 F.3d 1052, (9th Cir. 2002) (rejecting federal constitutional challenges to the ban, holding, inter alia, that the Second Amendment only protects the collective right of the people to maintain well-regulated militias). Note, however, that the Supreme Court has subsequently held, in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to keep and bear arms, unconnected with service in a militia. The Court in Heller noted, nevertheless, that the Second Amendment is consistent with laws banning “dangerous and unusual weapons.” Id. at 2817. Since the Heller decision, several federal courts have upheld assault weapons bans that were challenged on Second Amendment grounds. For more information, see our Post-Heller Litigation Summary section. ⤴︎

Background Checks in California

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. This background check is intended to determine whether the purchaser falls into one of the categories of persons prohibited by law from purchasing or possessing firearms. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.

Prior to passage of Proposition 63 in 2016, California authorized, but did not require, the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to act as a point of contact for firearm background checks.1 Effective July 1, 2017, Proposition 63 will require DOJ to continue to serve as the point of contact for firearm purchaser background checks. Firearms dealers must therefore initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the California DOJ.

California law requires any prospective purchaser of (or transferee or person being loaned) a firearm to submit an application to purchase the firearm (also known as a “Dealer Record of Sale” or “DROS” form) through a licensed dealer to DOJ. The dealer must submit firearm purchaser information to DOJ on the date of the application through electronic transfer, unless DOJ makes an exception allowing a different format.2 The purchaser must present “clear evidence” of his or her identity and age to the dealer (either a valid California driver’s license or a valid California identification card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles).3 Dealers must obtain the purchaser’s name, date of birth, and driver’s license or identification number electronically from the magnetic strip on the license or ID card.4 This information cannot be supplied by any other means except as authorized by DOJ.5 Once this information is submitted, DOJ will check available and authorized records, including the federal NICS database, in order to determine whether the person is prohibited from possessing, receiving, owning, or purchasing a firearm by state or federal law.6

In addition to checking the federal NICS database, DOJ is required to examine its own records, as well as those records that it is authorized to request from the State Department of State Hospitals.7 If the person is prohibited from possessing firearms under state or federal law, DOJ must immediately notify the dealer and the local sheriff or chief of police in the city and/or county where the sale was made.8  Licensed dealers are prohibited from delivering a firearm to a purchaser or transferee if the dealer has been notified by DOJ that the person is prohibited from possessing firearms.9 If the person is prohibited from possessing firearms, the dealer must make available to the prohibited person a DOJ “Prohibited Notice and Transfer” form, stating that the person is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm and that the person may obtain from DOJ the reason for the prohibition.10

When a purchaser or transferee is specifically seeking to obtain a handgun, he or she must present documentation indicating California residency. Sufficient documentation includes a utility bill from within the last three months, a residential lease, a property deed, military permanent duty station orders indicating assignment within California, or other evidence of residency as permitted by DOJ.11

In addition to California’s mandatory ten-day waiting period,12 DOJ must also tell the dealer to delay the transfer of the firearm to the purchaser if DOJ is unable to determine, in any of the following scenarios, whether the purchaser is a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm: 1) the purchaser has been taken into custody and placed in a facility for mental health treatment or evaluation and may be a danger to self or others; 2) the purchaser has been arrested or charged with a crime that, if convicted, would make the person prohibited from possessing a firearm; or 3) the person may be attempting to purchase more than one firearm within a 30-day period.13 If DOJ is unable to obtain a final disposition under any of these scenarios within 30 days of the original submission of the purchaser’s information by the dealer, then DOJ must notify the dealer and the dealer may then, at the dealer’s discretion, transfer the firearm to the purchaser.14

Note that holders of a California entertainment firearms permit are exempt from the requirement of a background check, due to a loophole in federal law. For further information, see the Licensing of Gun Owners and Purchasers in California section.

Voluntary background checks: Any person may request a voluntary determination, called a “firearms eligibility check,” from DOJ, stating whether he or she is eligible to possess a firearm.15 With few exceptions, no person or agency may require or request another person to obtain a firearms eligibility check.16 DOJ is authorized to charge a fee of $20 for conducting each check.17

Firearms in police custody: Any person claiming title to any firearm in the custody or control of a court or law enforcement agency who wishes to have the firearm returned must undergo a background check to determine if he or she is eligible to possess a firearm.18 If an individual does not seek return of a firearm, or if he or she fails to pass the background check, the person must relinquish the firearm and, if the firearm is an otherwise legal firearm and the person otherwise has the right to title of the firearm, he or she may relinquish it by selling it or transferring title to a licensed dealer.19

Private sales: With limited exceptions, all firearms transfers must be conducted through a licensed dealer.20 For more information, see the Private Sales in California section.

Notes
  1. Cal. Penal Code § 28220(b). ⤴︎
  2. Cal. Penal Code § 28205. ⤴︎
  3. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16400, 26815, 28215. Note that dealers are prohibited from transferring handguns to persons under age 21, or any other firearm to persons under the age of 18. Cal. Penal Code § 27510. ⤴︎
  4. Cal. Penal Code § 28180. ⤴︎
  5. Id. ⤴︎
  6. Cal. Penal Code § 28220(a). ⤴︎
  7. Cal. Penal Code § 28220(a). ⤴︎
  8. Cal. Penal Code § 28220(c). ⤴︎
  9. Cal. Penal Code § 26815(d). ⤴︎
  10. Id. ⤴︎
  11. Cal. Penal Code § 26845. ⤴︎
  12. Cal. Penal Code §§ 26815(a), 27540(a). ⤴︎
  13. Cal. Penal Code § 28220(f)(1)(A). If this occurs, the dealer must then provide the purchaser with information about the manner in which the purchaser may contact DOJ regarding this delay. Cal. Penal Code § 28220(f)(1)(B). ⤴︎
  14. Cal. Penal Code § 28220(f)(4). If DOJ is able to ascertain a final disposition within 30 days, then it must either notify the dealer that the purchase may immediately go through, or it must notify the dealer and local law enforcement that the person is prohibited from possessing a firearm, depending on the final result. Cal. Penal Code § 28220(f)(3). ⤴︎
  15. Cal. Penal Code § 30105. ⤴︎
  16. Cal. Penal Code § 30105(h). ⤴︎
  17. Cal. Penal Code § 30105(b). ⤴︎
  18. Cal. Penal Code § 33850. ⤴︎
  19. Cal. Penal Code §§ 33850(b), 33870(a). ⤴︎
  20. See Cal. Penal Code § 27545 et seq. ⤴︎

Child Access Prevention in California

See our Child Access Prevention policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

California makes someone criminally liable for keeping a loaded firearm where he or she knows or reasonably should know that a child (a person under age 18)1 is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the child’s parent or guardian, where the child actually does gain access to the firearm and either carries it to a public place, brandishes it in a threatening manner, or if someone is injured as a result of the child gaining access to the firearm.2 The penalty imposed is significantly greater if someone dies or suffers great bodily injury as a result of the child gaining access to the firearm.3

A person is also criminally liable for keeping a loaded or unloaded handgun on his or her premises, where he or she knows or reasonably should know a child is likely to gain access to it without the permission of the child’s parent or legal guardian, if the child does gain access and carries the handgun off the premises.4

Moreover, a person is criminally liable for keeping any firearm, loaded or unloaded, on his or her premises where he or she knows or reasonably should know a child is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the child’s parent or legal guardian, if the child does gain access to it and carries the firearm to any preschool or school grades K-12 or to any school-sponsored event, activity, or performance.5

In addition, under a California law enacted in 2013, a person is criminally liable in any of the circumstances described above, where the person obtaining access to the firearm is an individual prohibited from possessing a firearm pursuant to state or federal law.

Lastly, criminal liability is also imposed if a person negligently stores or leaves, on premises within the person’s custody or control, a loaded firearm in a location where the person knows, or reasonably should know, that the child is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the child’s parent or legal guardian (it is not necessary that the firearm actually be carried away or otherwise used by the child). No liability is imposed in this situation if reasonable action is taken to secure the firearm against access by a child.6

These laws do not apply if any of the following is true:

  • The firearm was kept in a locked container or in a location that a reasonable person would believe to be secure;
  • The firearm was locked with a locking device that rendered the firearm inoperable;
  • The person had no reasonable expectation, based on objective facts and circumstances, that a child was likely to be present on the premises;
  • The child obtained the firearm as a result of an illegal entry into any premises by any person;
  • The firearm was carried on the person or within such a close proximity to the person that he or she could readily retrieve and use the firearm as if carried on the person;
  • The person was a peace officer or a member of the armed forces or national guard and the child obtained the firearm during, or incidental to, the performance of the person’s duties; or
  • The child obtained the firearm in a lawful act of self-defense or defense of another person.7

A parent or guardian is generally civilly liable for damages resulting from the discharge of a firearm by that person’s child or ward where the parent or guardian either permitted the minor to have the firearm, or left the firearm in a place accessible to the minor. These damages are capped at $30,000 per victim, and $60,000 total.8

For the warnings that firearms dealers must post regarding preventing children from gaining access to firearms, see our Dealer Regulations in California section.

For more information about firearm locking devices required in California, see our Locking Devices in California section.

Notes
  1. Cal. Penal Code § 25000. ⤴︎
  2. Cal. Penal Code § 25100(b). This section references Cal. Penal Code § 417, which prohibits the drawing or exhibiting of a firearm in a rude, angry, or threatening manner, or unlawfully using a firearm in a fight or quarrel. ⤴︎
  3. Cal. Penal Code §§ 25100(a), 25110. ⤴︎
  4. Cal. Penal Code § 25200(a). ⤴︎
  5. Cal. Penal Code § 25200(b). ⤴︎
  6. Cal. Penal Code § 25100(c). ⤴︎
  7. Cal. Penal Code §§ 25105, 25205. California law also includes the statement that “[i]t is the Legislature’s intent that a parent or guardian of a child who is injured or who dies as the result of an accidental shooting must be prosecuted only in those instances in which the parent or guardian behaved in a grossly negligent manner or where similarly egregious circumstances exist.” Cal. Penal Code §§ 25115 and 25210. In such cases, no arrest may occur until at least seven days after the accidental shooting, and law enforcement officials are encouraged “to delay the arrest of a parent or guardian of a seriously injured child while the child remains on life-support equipment or is in a similarly critical medical condition.” Cal. Penal Code §§ 25120, 25215. ⤴︎
  8. Cal. Civil Code § 1714.3. ⤴︎

Concealed Weapons Permitting in California

See our Concealed Weapons Permitting policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

California prohibits a person from carrying a loaded, concealed firearm in public unless the person has been issued a concealed weapons license.1 Even without a license, a person may carry a loaded, concealed firearm in public if the person reasonably believes that he or she is in grave danger because of circumstances forming the basis of a current restraining order issued by a court, and the court that issued the restraining order found that the defendant poses a threat to the gun owner’s life or safety.2 Restrictions on the carrying of concealed firearms in public do not apply to peace officers, whether active or honorably retired.3

California is a “may-issue” state, meaning that local law enforcement has discretion when issuing carrying concealed weapons (“CCW”) licenses. A license may be issued only after findings that: 1) the applicant is of good moral character and, after a background check, is found to be not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing, receiving, owning, or purchasing a firearm; 2) good cause exists for the issuance of a license; 3) the applicant has completed a firearms safety course (see below); and 4) the applicant meets the appropriate residency requirement.4 The initial fee for a concealed weapons license is $44.5 The licensing authority of any city, city and county, or county may charge an additional fee, equal to the actual costs for processing the application, including any required notices, and excluding fingerprint and training costs, not to exceed $100.6

In 2011, California enacted a law requiring the local licensing authority to provide written notice to an applicant upon making a determination of good cause. If good cause is found, the notice must inform the applicant to proceed with the safety training requirements (see below for details), and, if the licensing authority determines that good cause does not exist, the notice must state the reasons why that determination was made.7

The licensing authority must also give written notice to the applicant indicating if the application is approved or denied. This notice must be given within 90 days of the initial application for a new license or a license renewal, or 30 days after receipt of the applicant’s criminal background check from DOJ, whichever is later. If the license is denied, the notice must state which requirement was not satisfied.8

A CCW license may include any reasonable restrictions or conditions which the issuing authority deems warranted, including restrictions as to the time, place, manner, and circumstances under which the person may carry a firearm. Any such restrictions must be indicated on the license itself.9 However, no licensing authority may require an applicant to obtain liability insurance or pay any additional fees not otherwise authorized by law as a condition of the application for a license.10 The license must specify the particular firearm the person is authorized to carry, giving the name of the manufacturer, the serial number, and the caliber, as well as the licensee’s name, occupation, residence and business address, age, height, weight, color of eyes and hair, and the reason for desiring a license to carry the weapon.11

A California CCW license may be granted to residents of a city by the local police department, or to residents of a county, or a city within the county, by the county sheriff.12 A local police department and the sheriff of the county in which the city is located may also enter into an agreement to delegate review of all CCW applications within the city to one of the two law enforcement agencies.13 Any person who spends “a substantial period of time” in his or her principal place of employment or business in the county also may apply to that county sheriff for a concealed weapons license.14 A CCW license generally lasts two years and is valid throughout the state, however, a license issued based on the applicant’s place of employment or business may be valid no longer than 90 days and only in the county where it was issued.15

The city or county that has issued a CCW license must revoke the license if, at any time, either the city or county is notified by the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) or otherwise determines that a licensee is prohibited from possessing firearms.16 If DOJ determines that a licensee is prohibited from possessing firearms, DOJ must immediately notify the city or county of the determination.17 The licensee must be immediately notified of the revocation in writing.18

CCW Safety Training

For new license applicants, the course of training may be any course acceptable to the licensing authority, must not exceed 16 hours, and must include instruction on at least firearm safety and the law regarding the permissible use of a firearm. Alternatively, the licensing authority may require a community college course certified by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, up to a maximum of 24 hours, but only if required uniformly of all license applicants without exception.19

CCW Duration and Renewal

Subject to certain limited exceptions, a California CCW license is valid for up to two years from the date of issuance or renewal.20 License renewal applicants must fulfill all the same requirements for the original issuance of the license.21 However, license renewal applicants may fulfill the course requirements through any course of training approved by the city or county that is at least four hours long and that provides instruction on at least firearm safety and the law regarding the permissible use of a firearm.22 The city or county issuing the license may require additional psychological testing of a renewal applicant only if there is compelling evidence to indicate that a test is necessary.23 The city or county may not require the applicant to provide additional information other than that necessary to complete the original application or to clarify information provided in the original application.24

Disclosure and Use of CCW Information

Cities and counties in California must maintain certain records regarding CCW applications and licenses and forward this information to the DOJ.25 The application and record of a CCW license are public documents unless they contain information by which the county sheriff or municipal police chief can demonstrate that the public interest served by not making such records public clearly outweighs the public interest in their disclosure.26 Nevertheless, certain information contained in the applications for CCW licenses and the records of CCW applicants may not be disclosed to the public. Such information includes:

  • Records of state summary criminal information contained in CCW license records of a sheriff or municipal police department;
  • Records of the sheriff’s investigation of the qualification and fitness of a CCW applicant;27
  • Information contained in CCW applications by the sheriff of a county or a municipal police chief indicating when or where the applicant is vulnerable to attack, or concerning the applicant’s medical or psychological history or that of members of his or her family;28 and
  • The home address and telephone number of prosecutors, public defenders, peace officers, judges, court commissioners, and magistrates.29

The California Department of Justice used to produce an annual report disclosing the number of CCW licenses in each California county. The most recent report lists the number of CCW licenses that existed in each county each year from 1987 through 2007. At the end of 2007, there were a total of 40,296 CCW licenses in all of California. A report released by the United States Government Accountability Office in 2012, estimated a total of 35,000 CCW license holders in California as of September 1, 2011.30

Reciprocity of Other States’ CCW Licenses

Concealed weapons license holders from other states may not carry their concealed firearms in California.

Notes
  1. Cal. Penal Code §§ 25400(a), 25655. Firearms carried openly in belt holsters are not considered “concealed” within the meaning of this section. Cal. Penal Code § 25400(b). ⤴︎
  2. Cal. Penal Code § 25600(a). A person may also carry a concealed firearm in a locked container to or from a motor vehicle. Cal. Penal Code § 25610(a)(2). For additional exceptions, see Cal. Penal Code §§ 25505-25655. ⤴︎
  3. Cal. Penal Code § 25450. ⤴︎
  4. Cal. Penal Code §§ 26150, 26155. Additional concealed weapons license application and background check requirements, as well as license denial, suspension or disqualification standards, are detailed under Cal. Penal Code §§ 26150-26225. ⤴︎
  5. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 11, § 4006(b). ⤴︎
  6. Cal. Penal Code § 26190(b). If, on an initial application, the licensing authority requires psychological testing for the license applicant, the applicant must be referred to a licensed psychologist used by the licensing authority for the psychological testing of its own employees. Cal. Penal Code § 26190(f). The applicant may be charged for the actual cost of the testing, not to exceed $150, and, if additional psychological testing is required, that cost to the applicant cannot exceed $150. Id. ⤴︎
  7. Cal. Penal Code § 26202. ⤴︎
  8. Cal. Penal Code § 26205. ⤴︎
  9. Cal. Penal Code § 26200. ⤴︎
  10. Cal. Penal Code § 26190(g). ⤴︎
  11. Cal. Penal Code § 26175(i). Licensees may apply to amend their licenses to include authority to carry additional specified firearms or to alter the conditions or restrictions of the license. Cal. Penal Code § 26215(a). ⤴︎
  12. Cal. Penal Code §§ 26150, 26155. ⤴︎
  13. Cal. Penal Code § 26155(c). ⤴︎
  14. Cal. Penal Code § 26150(a)(3). A city or county may be considered an applicant’s “principal place of employment or business” only if the applicant is physically present in the jurisdiction during a substantial part of his or her working hours for purposes of that employment or business. Cal. Penal Code § 17020. ⤴︎
  15. Cal. Penal Code § 26220. ⤴︎
  16. Cal. Penal Code § 26195(b)(1). ⤴︎
  17. Cal. Penal Code § 26195(b)(2). ⤴︎
  18. Cal. Penal Code § 26195(b)(3). ⤴︎
  19. Cal. Penal Code § 26165. Pursuant to a law California enacted in 2011, an applicant must not be required to pay for any training courses prior to a determination of good cause. Id. ⤴︎
  20. Cal. Penal Code § 26220(a). An amendment to a license does not extend the original expiration date of the license, and an application to amend a license does not constitute an application for renewal. Cal. Penal Code § 26215(c), (d). ⤴︎
  21. Cal. Penal Code § 26175. ⤴︎
  22. Cal. Penal Code § 26165(c). ⤴︎
  23. Cal. Penal Code § 26190(f). ⤴︎
  24. Cal. Penal Code § 26175(g). ⤴︎
  25. Cal. Penal Code § 26225. ⤴︎
  26. Cal. Govt. Code § 6255. ⤴︎
  27. Cal. Govt. Code § 6254(f). ⤴︎
  28. Cal. Govt. Code § 6254(u)(1). For additional explanation on the disclosure and use of concealed weapons permit information, see the California Attorney General’s opinion concerning public disclosure of records, 62 Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen. 595 (1979). ⤴︎
  29. Cal. Govt. Code § 6254(u)(2)-(3). ⤴︎
  30. See United States Government Accountability Office, States’ Laws and Requirements for Concealed Carry Permits Vary across the Nation, 36, July, 2012, available at http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592552.pdf. ⤴︎

Dealer Regulations in California

See our Dealer Regulations policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Firearms dealers in California are subject to various statutory requirements, as described below. These requirements concern:

(1) Dealer licensing;

(2) The transfer of firearms and ammunition;

(3) The posting of warnings;

(4) The reporting of lost or stolen firearms;

(5) The storage of firearms;

(6) Employee background checks; and

(7) The reporting of acquired firearms.

For further information beyond that provided below, see California Department of Justice (“DOJ”)’s FAQs for Licensed Dealers.

Local governments in California have authority to regulate firearms dealers and ammunition sellers. The Law Center has drafted a model ordinance for use by California cities and counties that regulates firearms dealers and ammunition sellers. For more information, please contact the Law Center directly and see our section entitled Local Authority to Regulate Firearms in California.

(1) Licensing Requirements

Federal law requires firearms dealers to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (“ATF”), although resource limitations prevent the ATF from properly overseeing all its licensees. Any person who sells, transfers, or loans firearms in California must also be licensed pursuant to state law.1 There are several exceptions to this requirement, including those for:

  • Persons who are selling firearms pursuant to court orders or acting pursuant to operation of law;2
  • The “infrequent” sale, lease, or transfer of firearms;3
  • The sale, lease, or transfer of used long guns at gun shows (subject to several conditions);4
  • Sales, deliveries, or transfers between wholesalers, importers and manufacturers, and between dealers and wholesalers, importers or manufacturers;5
  • Firearm loans that take place at a shooting range for the purpose of shooting at targets;6 and
  • The loan of a firearm to a gunsmith for service or repairs.7

In order to become a California firearms dealer, a person must:

  • Have a valid federal firearms license from ATF;
  • Have any regulatory or business license(s) required by local government;
  • Have a valid seller’s permit issued by the State Board of Equalization;
  • Have a Certificate of Eligibility (“COE”) issued by DOJ demonstrating that DOJ has checked its records and determined that the applicant is not prohibited from acquiring or possessing firearms;8
  • Have an annual license granted by the duly constituted licensing authority of any city, county, or city and county (if the local jurisdiction does not have a dealer licensing system, the dealer must obtain and provide to DOJ a letter to this effect from the local licensing authority9); and
  • Be on DOJ’s centralized list of all persons licensed to sell firearms.10

With limited exceptions for gun shows and non-profit events, California requires firearms dealers to conduct business only in the buildings designated in the license.11

Dealers are required to renew their business licenses every year.12

(2) Transfer of Firearms & Ammunition

For laws requiring dealers to conduct a background check on prospective firearm purchasers, see the Background Checks in California section. For laws requiring dealers to report firearm transactions to the DOJ, and to maintain records of firearms transactions, see the section entitled Retention of Sales / Background Check Records in California.

A California firearms dealer may not deliver a firearm:

  • During the state’s ten-day waiting period, or while DOJ has placed the sale on hold (see the Waiting Periods in California section for more details);
  • Unless unloaded and securely wrapped, or unloaded and in a locked container;
  • Unless the purchaser, transferee, or person being loaned the firearm presents clear evidence of the person’s identity and age to the dealer;
  • Whenever the dealer is notified by DOJ that the person is prohibited by state or federal law from processing, owning, purchasing, or receiving a firearm.13

Dealers are also required to:

In addition, firearms dealers are prohibited from delivering a firearm to a purchaser or transferee unless that person:

  • Presents a Firearm Safety Certificate (“FSC”) or a Handgun Safety Certificate (“HSC”) which is not yet expired;16 and
  • Performs a safe handling demonstration with the firearm being purchased (see the Licensing of Gun Owners or Purchasers in California section for more information on these requirements).

Finally, firearms dealers are prohibited from delivering a handgun to a purchaser or transferee unless that person:

  • Submits documentation indicating that he or she is a California resident;17

DOJ may require firearms dealers to charge each purchaser a fee of up to $14, which may be increased as necessary to fund DOJ for costs associated with DOJ’s firearms-related regulatory and enforcement activities involving the sale, purchase, possession, loan or transfer of firearms.18 DOJ has set the current fee at $19.19 As of January 1, 2014, only one fee may be charged for a single transaction on the same date for the taking title or possession of any number of firearms.20

The packaging and any descriptive materials that accompany any firearm manufactured in California, or sold or transferred by a dealer, including private transfers conducted through a dealer, must bear a label containing the following warning statement in both English and Spanish:

WARNING

Children are attracted to and can operate firearms that can cause severe injuries or death. Prevent child access by always keeping guns locked away and unloaded when not in use. If you keep a loaded firearm where a child obtains and improperly uses it, you may be fined or sent to prison.21

A yellow triangle containing an exclamation mark must appear immediately before the word “Warning” on the label.22

Dealers who sell long gun safes that do not meet certain standards are also required to attach warnings regarding those long gun safes. See the Locking Devices in California section for further information.

All licensed firearms dealers must process private party transfers of long guns upon request. Licensed dealers who sell, transfer, or stock handguns must also process private party handgun transactions.23

Proposition 63, passed by California voters in 2016, will also require ammunition sellers to obtain an ammunition vendor business license and to conduct background checks on their purchasers in a manner similar to firearm sales. Licensed firearms dealers will automatically be deemed licensed ammunition vendors, provided that they comply with the legal obligations placed on ammunition sellers.24 See the Ammunition Regulation in California section for further information.

For other laws applicable to both licensed and private firearm sales, please see the Private Sales in California section.

(3) Posted Warnings

California firearms dealers must conspicuously post certain specified warnings regarding, among other things:

The warnings must be posted in block letters not less than one inch in height.27

(4) Reporting of Lost or Stolen Firearms

Dealers must report the loss or theft of any firearm within 48 hours of discovery to the appropriate law enforcement agency in the city, county, or city and county in California where the dealer’s business premises are located.28 After passage of Proposition 63, dealers are now also required to report the loss or theft of ammunition to local law enforcement.29

(5) Storage of Firearms

Subject to very narrow exceptions, all firearms in the inventory of a licensed California firearms dealer must be kept at the dealer’s licensed location.30

Any time a dealer is not open for business, he or she must secure all firearms stored at the licensed place of business using one of the following methods for each particular firearm:

  • Store the firearm in a “secure facility” that is a part of, or that constitutes, the licensee’s business premises;31
  • Secure the firearm with a hardened steel rod or cable of at least one-eighth inch in diameter through the trigger guard of the firearm. The steel rod or cable must be secured with a hardened steel lock that has a shackle. The lock and shackle must be protected or shielded from the use of a bolt cutter and the rod or cable must be anchored in a manner that prevents the removal of the firearm from the premises; or
  • Store the firearm in a locked fireproof safe or vault in the licensee’s business premises.32
  • Proposition 63 will also require dealers who sell ammunition to sell or display the ammunition in a manner that ensures it remains inaccessible to a purchaser without the assistance of the dealer or employee.33

The licensing authority in an unincorporated area of a county or within a city may impose stricter security requirements than those specified above.34

A dealer may not display a handgun or imitation handgun, or placard advertising the sale or other transfer of a handgun or imitation handgun, in any part of the premises where it can readily be seen from the outside.35

(6) Employee Background Checks

After January 1, 2018, Proposition 63 will require that any agent or employee who handles, sells, or delivers firearms in the course of a gun dealer’s business must obtain and provide to the dealer a certificate of eligibility (COE) from DOJ verifying that he or she has passed a background check and is eligible to handle and possess firearms.36 DOJ will be required to notify the dealer in the event that the agent or employee having a COE is or becomes prohibited from possessing firearms.37

A dealer must prohibit any agent or employee who the dealer knows or reasonably should know is within a class of persons prohibited from possessing firearms from coming into contact with any firearm that is not secured.38

The city or county where the dealership is located may also:

  • Conduct an additional background check on the dealer’s agents or employees;
  • Prohibit employment based on criminal history that does not appear as part of obtaining a COE, provided that the local jurisdiction may not charge a fee for the additional criminal history check; or
  • Enact an ordinance imposing additional conditions on dealers with regard to agents.39

If the city or county in which the dealer operates requires a background check of dealer’s agents or employees, an agent or employee must obtain a COE from DOJ demonstrating his or her eligibility to possess firearms.40

(7) The Reporting of Acquired Firearms

As of January 1, 2014, dealers must report the acquisition of any firearm to DOJ on the date the firearm is received.41 However, this reporting requirement does not apply to firearms that the dealer receives from wholesalers, federally licensed importers, manufacturers, or out-of-state dealers.42

Notes
  1. Cal. Penal Code § 26500. ⤴︎
  2. Cal. Penal Code § 26505. The phrase “operation of law” includes, but is not limited to, any of the following: 1) the executor or administrator of an estate, if the estate includes firearms; 2) a secured creditor when the firearms are possessed as collateral for, or as a result of, a default under a security agreement; 3) a levying officer; 4) a receiver, if the receivership estate includes firearms; 5) a trustee in bankruptcy, if the bankruptcy estate includes firearms; 6) an assignee for the benefit of creditors, if the assignment includes firearms; 7) a transmutation of property between spouses; 8) firearms received by the family of a deceased police officer or deputy sheriff from a local agency; or 9) the transfer of a firearm by a law enforcement agency to the person who found the firearm as the finder of the firearm. Cal. Penal Code § 16960. ⤴︎
  3. Cal. Penal Code § 26520. “Infrequent” is defined, for handguns, as less than six transactions per calendar year and, for long guns, as “occasionally and without regularity.” Cal. Penal Code § 16730. ⤴︎
  4. Cal. Penal Code  § 26525. ⤴︎
  5. Cal. Penal Code §§ 26530, 26560. ⤴︎
  6. Cal. Penal Code  § 26545. ⤴︎
  7. Cal. Penal Code § 26587. For a complete list of exceptions to this requirement, see Cal. Penal Code §§ 26505-26590. ⤴︎
  8. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 11, § 4031(g). For regulations pertaining to the issuance of a COE, see Cal. Code Regs. tit. 11, §§ 4036-4041. ⤴︎
  9. Cal. Penal Code § 26705. ⤴︎
  10. Cal. Penal Code § 26700(f). See Cal. Code Regs. tit. 11, §§ 4016-4024 for regulations regarding DOJ’s centralized list of all persons licensed to sell firearms. For more information about the use of this list, see “Shipments into California” under the Trafficking in California section. ⤴︎
  11. Cal. Penal Code § 26805. ⤴︎
  12. A COE term must not exceed one year. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 11, § 4039. In addition, the term of a centralized list placement is from January 1 through December 31. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 11, § 4021(a). To remain in compliance with the law, dealers must renew these licenses each year. ⤴︎
  13. Cal. Penal Code § 26815. ⤴︎
  14. Cal. Penal Code § 26865. A copy of the booklet is also available on DOJ’s website, at: http://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/firearms/pdf/cfl2013.pdf?. ⤴︎
  15. Cal. Penal Code § 23635. ⤴︎
  16. Cal. Penal Code §§ 26840, 27540, 31615. With specified exceptions, any loan of a handgun also requires that the recipient have a valid FSC or HSC. Cal. Penal Code § 27540. ⤴︎
  17. Cal. Penal Code § 26845. Valid proof of residency includes, but is not limited to, a utility bill from the past three months, a residential lease, a property deed, or military permanent duty station orders indicating assignment within this state. The dealer is required to retain a copy of the residency documentation as proof of compliance. Cal. Penal Code § 26845. ⤴︎
  18. Cal. Penal Code § 28225. ⤴︎
  19. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 11, § 4001. ⤴︎
  20. Cal. Penal Code § 28240(b). ⤴︎
  21. Cal. Penal Code §§ 23635, 23640. ⤴︎
  22. Cal. Penal Code § 23640. If the firearm is sold or transferred without accompanying packaging, the warning label must be affixed to the firearm itself. Id. The warning must be displayed “in conspicuous and legible type in contrast by typography, layout, or color with other printed matter on that package or descriptive materials…” Id. ⤴︎
  23. Cal. Penal Code § 28065. ⤴︎
  24. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16151(b). ⤴︎
  25. Cal. Penal Code § 26835(d). ⤴︎
  26. For the complete text of the required warnings, see Cal. Penal Code § 26835. The federal regulation that requires the transfer of a firearm to take place within 30 days of the background check exists at 27 C.F.R. § 478.102(c). ⤴︎
  27. Cal. Penal Code § 26835. ⤴︎
  28. Cal. Penal Code § 26885. ⤴︎
  29. Cal. Penal Code §§ 23885(b). ⤴︎
  30. Cal. Penal Code § 26885. ⤴︎
  31. A “secure facility,” as defined by Cal. Penal Code § 17110, means a building that meets all of the following specifications:
    (A) All perimeter doorways must be equipped with one of the following: (i) A windowless steel security door equipped with both a dead bolt and a doorknob lock. (ii) A windowed metal door that is equipped with both a dead bolt and a doorknob lock. If the window has an opening of five inches or more measured in any direction, the window must be covered with steel bars of at least one-half inch diameter or metal grating of at least nine gauge affixed to the exterior or interior of the door. (iii) A metal grate that is padlocked and affixed to the licensee’s premises independent of the door and doorframe.
    (B) All windows are covered with steel bars.
    (C) Heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and service openings are secured with steel bars, metal grating, or an alarm system.
    (D) Any metal grates have spaces no larger than six inches wide measured in any direction.
    (E) Any metal screens have spaces no larger than three inches wide measured in any direction.
    (F) All steel bars must be no further than six inches apart. Cal. Penal Code § 17110. ⤴︎
  32. Cal. Penal Code § 26890. ⤴︎
  33. Cal. Penal Code § 30350. ⤴︎
  34. Cal. Penal Code § 26890(b). ⤴︎
  35. Cal. Penal Code § 26820. ⤴︎
  36. Cal. Penal Code § 26915. ⤴︎
  37. Cal. Penal Code § 26915(b). Local jurisdictions in California may require the agents or employees of a firearms dealer to go through a background check, in which case each agent or employee must obtain a COE from DOJ demonstrating his or her eligibility to possess firearms. Cal. Penal Code § 26915(c). ⤴︎
  38. Cal. Penal Code § 26915(e). A firearm is properly secured from a restricted employee or agent if the firearm is: 1) Inoperable because it is secured by a firearms safety device listed on DOJ’s roster of approved devices under Cal. Penal Code § 23655; 2) Stored in a locked gun safe or long gun safe which meets the standards for DOJ-approved gun safes under Cal. Penal Code § 23650; 3) Stored in a distinct locked room or area in the building that is used to store firearms that can only be unlocked by a key, a combination, or similar means; or 4) Secured with a hardened steel rod or cable that is at least one-eighth of an inch in diameter through the trigger guard of the firearm. The steel rod or cable must be secured with a hardened steel lock that has a shackle. The lock and shackle must be protected or shielded from the use of a bolt cutter and the rod or cable must be anchored in a manner that prevents the removal of the firearm from the premises. Cal. Penal Code § 26915(g). The dealer must also prohibit the agent or employee from accessing any key, combination, code, or other means to open any of the locking devices listed in § 26915(g). Cal. Penal Code § 26915(e). ⤴︎
  39. Cal. Penal Code § 26915 (c), (d), (f). ⤴︎
  40. Cal. Penal Code § 26915(c). ⤴︎
  41. Cal. Penal Code § 26905(a). Prior to January 1, 2014, this requirement applied only to handguns. ⤴︎
  42. Cal. Penal Code § 26905(b). All other exceptions to this requirement are listed in this subsection. ⤴︎

Design Safety Standards for Handguns in California

See our Design Safety Standards for Handguns policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

California law prohibits any person from manufacturing, importing into California for sale, offering for sale, giving or lending any “unsafe handgun.”1 In general, an unsafe handgun is any handgun that lacks an appropriate safety, that does not meet the state’s firing requirement, or that does not meet the state’s drop safety requirement.2 However, handguns sold through private or secondary sales are not required to comply with these requirements.3

California’s handgun firing requirement is a test in which the manufacturer provides three unmodified handguns, of the make and model for which certification is sought, to an independent testing laboratory certified by the Attorney General.4 The laboratory must fire 600 rounds of certain ammunition from each gun, stopping at specified intervals.5 A handgun model passes the test if each of the three test guns:

• Fires the first 20 rounds without a malfunction that is not due to ammunition that fails to detonate;6 and

• Fires the full 600 rounds with no more than six malfunctions that are not due to ammunition that fails to detonate, and without any crack or breakage of an operating part of the handgun that increases the risk of injury to the user.7

Following the handgun firing requirements, the same certified independent testing laboratory must subject the same three handguns to a series of six drop tests each, with a primed case (no powder or projectile) inserted into the chamber.8 The handgun model passes this test if each of the three test guns does not fire the primer.9

The California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) publishes and maintains a roster listing all handguns that have been tested by a certified testing laboratory, determined not to be unsafe handguns, and that may be sold in California.10

DOJ may retest up to five percent of handgun models listed on the roster annually.11 The Attorney General must remove from the roster any model that fails retesting.12 DOJ also maintains a list of handguns removed from the state roster.

An “unsafe handgun” also includes:

• Any center-fire semiautomatic pistol that is not already listed on the roster as of January 1, 2006, and does not have either a chamber load indicator,13 or a magazine disconnect mechanism;14

• Any rimfire semiautomatic pistol that is not already listed on the roster as of January 1, 2006, and does not have a magazine disconnect mechanism, if it has a detachable magazine;15 and

• Any center-fire semiautomatic pistol that is not already listed on the roster as of January 1, 2007, and does not have both a chamber load indicator or, if it has a detachable magazine, a magazine disconnect mechanism.16

Due to a law that became effective January 1, 2010, new models of semiautomatic pistols sold in California are required to have microstamping technology integrated into the pistol design, or the handgun will be deemed an “unsafe handgun.”17 However, this requirement has been challenged by the gun lobby in federal court and the outcome of this litigation is still pending.

For more information on this groundbreaking technology, see our Microstamping/Ballistic Identification in California section.

For more information on the pending lawsuit challenging the microstamping requirement, please contact the Law Center directly.

Notes
  1. Cal. Penal Code § 32000(a). This requirement does not apply to firearms listed as “curios or relics,” as defined in Section 478.11 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations, or to the sale or purchase of a handgun by certain peace officers and various state and federal agencies, including police departments, the Department of Justice, and military forces, for use in the discharge of their official duties. Cal. Penal Code § 32000(b). ⤴︎
  2. Cal. Penal Code § 31910. Pistols designed expressly for use in Olympic target shooting events that would normally fall within the definition of “unsafe handgun” under § 31910 are exempt from state handgun testing requirements. Cal. Penal Code § 32105(a)-(b). DOJ is required to maintain a program that exempts any qualifying new models of competitive handguns from state testing requirements and/or assault weapon regulation. Cal. Penal Code § 32105(c). USA Shooting, the national governing body for international shooting competition in the United States, or any other organization that DOJ deems relevant, may recommend handgun models for DOJ evaluation. Id. Furthermore, the state handgun testing requirements do not apply to the sale, loan, or transfer of any semiautomatic pistol that is to be used solely as a prop during the course of a motion picture, television, or video production by an authorized participant in such production while engaged in making that production or event, or by an authorized employee or agent of the entity producing that production or event. Cal. Penal Code § 32110(h). ⤴︎
  3. Cal. Penal Code §§ 27545, 32110(a). ⤴︎
  4. Cal. Penal Code § 31905. For detailed DOJ regulations regarding laboratory certification and handgun testing procedures, see Cal. Code Regs. tit. 11, §§ 4047-4075. ⤴︎
  5. The laboratory must stop after each series of 50 rounds has been fired for five to ten minutes to allow the weapon to cool, stopping after each series of 100 rounds has been fired to tighten any loose screws and clean the gun, and stopping as needed to refill the empty magazine or cylinder to capacity before continuing. Cal. Penal Code § 31905(b)(1). The ammunition used must be of the type recommended by the handgun manufacturer, or if none is recommended, any standard ammunition of the correct caliber in new condition that is commercially available. Cal. Penal Code § 31905(b)(1). ⤴︎
  6. “Malfunction” means a failure to properly feed, fire, or eject a round, or failure of a pistol to accept or reject a manufacturer-approved magazine, or failure of a pistol’s slide to remain open after a manufacturer-approved magazine has been expended. Cal. Penal Code § 31905(c)(1), (e). ⤴︎
  7. Cal. Penal Code § 31905(c)(2). ⤴︎
  8. Cal. Penal Code § 31900. ⤴︎
  9. Cal. Penal Code § 31900(d). ⤴︎
  10. Cal. Penal Code § 32015(a). ⤴︎
  11. Cal. Penal Code § 32020. Three samples of each handgun model chosen must be retested using ammunition recommended by the manufacturer that is commercially available and in new condition. Cal. Penal Code § 32020(b). ⤴︎
  12. Cal. Penal Code § 32020(d). ⤴︎
  13. Cal. Penal Code § 31910(b)(4). A “chamber load indicator” is a device that plainly indicates that a cartridge is in the firing chamber. Cal. Penal Code § 16380. A device satisfies this definition if it “is readily visible, has incorporated or adjacent explanatory text or graphics, or both, and is designed and intended to indicate to a reasonably foreseeable adult user of the pistol, without requiring the user to refer to a user’s manual or any other resource other than the pistol itself, whether a cartridge is in the firing chamber.” Id. ⤴︎
  14. A “magazine disconnect mechanism” is a mechanism that prevents a semiautomatic pistol that has a detachable magazine from operating to strike the primer of ammunition in the firing chamber when a detachable magazine is not inserted in the semiautomatic pistol. Cal. Penal Code § 16900. ⤴︎
  15. Cal. Penal Code § 31910(b)(6). ⤴︎
  16. Cal. Penal Code § 31910(b)(5). Pursuant to Cal. Penal Code § 32010, any pistols which do not possess the required chamber load indicator and magazine disconnect mechanism cannot be submitted for testing to be added to DOJ’s roster of handguns available for sale in California. ⤴︎
  17. Cal. Penal Code § 31910(b)(7). ⤴︎

Disarming Prohibited Persons in California

California has adopted clear, mandatory, and enforceable relinquishment requirements for individuals subject to domestic violence protective orders, civil protective orders, and gun violence restraining orders. For more information, see “Relinquishment of Firearms by Persons Subject to Protective Order” in the Domestic Violence & Firearms in California section and “Relinquishment of Guns for all GVROs” in the “California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order Law” section.

Relinquishment of Firearms by People Convicted of Firearm-Prohibiting Crimes

Prior to the passage of Proposition 63 in 2016, California had enacted no clear mechanism to ensure individuals convicted of firearm-prohibiting crimes relinquish any firearms in their possession after their conviction.

Under existing law, when a criminal defendant is convicted of a firearm-prohibiting offense, the court must provide the defendant with a form supplied by the state Department of Justice, notifying the defendant that he or she is prohibited from possessing firearms.1 This law requires that the defendant also receive a form to “facilitate the transfer of [his or her] firearms,” but does not otherwise provide any clear or enforceable procedures, time limits, or proof of compliance requirements to ensure that the defendant actually relinquishes his or her firearms after conviction. The California Department of Justice has attempted to fill this gap by developing a standard notification form called the “Bureau of Firearms Form 110: General Notice of Firearm Prohibition and Power of Attorney for Firearms Relinquishment, Sale, or Transfer for Storage.”2 This form does provide standard procedures and time limits for relinquishment of firearms by prohibited persons, but does not require proof of compliance.

In November 2016, California voters passed Proposition 63 to close this gap and make California the first state in the nation to require all prohibited criminal offenders to provide proof that they sold or transferred their firearms after conviction. Beginning January 1, 2018, Proposition 63 will require courts to order people convicted of firearm-prohibiting crimes to relinquish their firearms and to provide these defendants with a standard Relinquishment Form at the time of conviction.  The form will, among other things:

o          Inform defendants that they are required to relinquish all firearms within specified time periods by selling or transferring the firearms to a licensed firearms dealer, or by transferring them to local law enforcement.

o        Inform defendants that they are required to declare any firearms that they possessed at the time of conviction and to name a lawful, consenting designee or law enforcement agency to relinquish those firearms on the defendants’ behalf, if applicable.

o          Require the defendant or designee to file the completed relinquishment form with the court-assigned probation officer, along with receipts from the law enforcement agency or licensed dealer who took possession of the defendant’s firearms, verifying that the offender relinquished all firearms prior to sentencing, as required.

Proposition 63 will require an assigned probation officer to report to the court regarding whether the offender properly relinquished all firearms indicated on the relinquishment form or by California’s automated firearm sale records database (AFS).  Courts will generally be required to verify that relinquishment occurred before final disposition of the defendant’s case.  If the court finds probable cause that the defendant failed to relinquish all firearms, as required, the court will order the search for and removal of the defendant’s firearms at any location where the judge has probable cause to believe the defendant’s firearms are located.

This relinquishment process will implement best practices from California’s domestic violence protective order and gun violence restraining order laws by providing clear and mandatory procedures to all prohibited criminal offenders, by expressly requiring proof of relinquishment, and by requiring further enforcement action if the offender illegally retains his or her weapons after conviction.

Relinquishment of Firearms by People with Firearm-Prohibiting Mental Health Conditions

California law requires law enforcement to confiscate weapons found to be under the possession or control of any person who has been detained or apprehended for examination of his or her mental condition, or who is prohibited from possession of firearms by reason of a mental disorder.3 Law enforcement must, upon confiscation, retain custody of the firearm, issue a receipt describing the firearm, and notify the individual of the procedure for return of the firearm.4 Upon release from a mental health facility, the health facility personnel must notify the individual of the procedure for the return of a confiscated firearm.5 Health facility personnel also must notify the confiscating law enforcement agency of the release of the detained individual, and must document that the facility provided notice regarding the procedure for return of any confiscated firearm.6 California law also authorizes the issuance of a search warrant when the property to be seized includes a firearm owned by, or in the possession of, a person who has been detained for examination of his or her mental condition, or who is prohibited from possession of firearms by reason of a mental disorder.7

Recovering Illegally Owned Weapons

California law requires the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to maintain a “Prohibited Armed Persons File,”8 also known as the “Armed Prohibited Persons System” (“APPS”). APPS is a database that tracks persons who owned lawfully purchased firearms but then illegally retained their firearms after falling into a prohibited category.9 Established in 2007, APPS cross-references criminal, domestic violence restraining order and mental health history records, among other prohibited category data, with firearm sale records to identify those persons who have subsequently become prohibited from owning or possessing firearms.10

The information contained in APPS can only be made available to certain public and private entities – primarily law enforcement agencies – to actively identify persons armed yet prohibited from possessing firearms.11 DOJ is required to provide investigative assistance to local law enforcement agencies to better ensure the investigation of individuals who are armed and prohibited from possessing a firearm.12 In 2011, California enacted a law authorizing DOJ to utilize the fees that firearms purchasers must pay to DOJ during the purchase of any firearm (known as Dealer Record of Sale, or “DROS” fees) for the enforcement of APPS.13

In 2013, the California Legislature also appropriated $24 million from the DROS Special Account of the General Fund to DOJ in order to address the APPS backlog. In addition, no later than March 1, 2015, and each year thereafter, DOJ must report the following information to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee:

  • The degree to which the backlog in APPS has been reduced or increased;
  • The number of agents hired for enforcement of APPS; and
  • The number of firearms recovered due to enforcement of the APPS.14

As of July 1, 2015, APPS enforcement efforts had successfully recovered 11,561 illegally owned firearms, including 456 assault weapons, and well over 1,000,000 rounds of illegally owned ammunition in just two years.15

For more information on persons prohibited from possessing firearms in California, see our Prohibited Persons Generally page.

Notes
  1. Cal. Pen. Code § 29810. ⤴︎
  2. BOF Form 110 is available at: http://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/firearms/forms/poafirearmsdecl.pdf. ⤴︎
  3. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8102. ⤴︎
  4. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8102(a)-(b)(1). ⤴︎
  5. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8102(b)(2). ⤴︎
  6. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8102(b)(3). The administrative procedures regarding the return of a firearm after an individual’s release from a mental health facility are detailed under Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8102(c)-(h). ⤴︎
  7. Cal. Penal Code § 1524(a)(10). ⤴︎
  8. Cal. Penal Code § 30000(a). ⤴︎
  9. Cal. Penal Code §§ 30000, 30005. ⤴︎
  10. Id. ⤴︎
  11. Cal. Penal Code § 30000(b), this section references Cal. Penal Code § 11105(b), (c). ⤴︎
  12. Cal. Penal Code § 30010. ⤴︎
  13. Cal. Penal Code § 28225 (referring to the “possession” of firearms). ⤴︎
  14. Cal. Penal Code § 30015. ⤴︎
  15. See SB 140 Supplemental Report of the 2015-16 Budget Package, Armed Prohibited Persons System (Jan. 1, 2016), available at http://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/publications/sb-140-supp-budget-report.pdf. ⤴︎

Domestic Violence & Firearms in California

See our Domestic Violence and Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Firearm Prohibitions for Misdemeanants

California prohibits the purchase and possession of firearms by certain violent misdemeanants, such as those convicted of assault, battery, or stalking, without regard to the victim’s relationship to the offender.1

In addition, California authorizes courts to prohibit defendants from purchasing or possessing firearms in cases where the defendant is charged with, but not yet convicted of, a domestic violence misdemeanor.2

Firearm Prohibitions for Persons Subject to Domestic Violence Restraining and Protective Orders

A person subject to any one of the following types of court orders is prohibited from owning, possessing, purchasing, receiving, or attempting to purchase or receive a firearm or ammunition while the order is in effect:3

  • A temporary restraining order or injunction issued to a victim of harassment;4
  • A temporary restraining order or injunction issued to an employer on behalf of an employee;5
  • A temporary restraining order or injunction issued to a postsecondary educational institution on behalf of a student;6
  • A domestic violence protective order whether issued ex parte, after notice and hearing, or in a judgment;7
  • A protective order for an elderly or dependent adult who has suffered abuse, whether the order was issued ex parte, after notice and hearing, or in a judgment, provided that the case does not involve solely financial abuse;8
  • An emergency protective order related to stalking;9 or
  • A protective order relating to a crime of domestic violence or the intimidation or dissuasion of victim or witness.10

Under California law, individuals may seek a domestic violence protective order, prohibiting the purchase or possession of firearms, against:

  • A spouse or former spouse;
  • A former or current dating partner;
  • Any person who is presently or has in the past resided with the individual; or
  • Any family member, even if the abuser has never resided with the individual.11

Prior to a hearing on the issuance or denial of a protective order, the court must ensure that a search is conducted to determine if the subject of the proposed order has a registered firearm.12 Each protective order must state that the person is prohibited from owning, possessing, purchasing, receiving, or attempting to purchase or receive, a firearm while the protective order is in effect.13

California also prohibits subjects of domestic violence protective orders from owning or possessing ammunition.14

Relinquishment of Firearms by People Subject to Protective Orders

Upon being served with a domestic violence protective order in California, the respondent must relinquish his or her firearm by surrendering it immediately upon request of any law enforcement officer, or within 24 hours if no request is made.15 This same 24-hour rule and procedure also applies for all other protective orders listed above except those related to stalking. The law enforcement officer or gun dealer must issue a receipt, which the person must file with both the court and with the law enforcement agency that served the protective order, within 48 hours of being served with the order (failure to do so constitutes a violation of the protective order).16 During the period of the relinquishment order, a respondent is entitled to make one sale of all firearms that have been surrendered to a law enforcement agency.17 The application forms for domestic violence protective orders adopted by the Judicial Council and approved by the California Department of Justice must require the petitioner to describe the number, types, and locations of any firearms presently known by the petitioner to be possessed or controlled by the respondent.18

California law authorizes the issuance of a search warrant when the property to be seized is a firearm that a person who is subject to a protective order has failed to relinquish as required by law.19 A search warrant may also be issued when the property to be seized is a firearm at the scene of, or at premises occupied or under the control of a person arrested in connection with, a domestic violence incident involving a threat to human life or a physical assault.20

A person subject to a protective order related to stalking must relinquish his or her firearms to the local law enforcement agency for that jurisdiction, or sell those firearms to a licensed gun dealer within a time period specified in the order.21. The protective order must include a description of this requirement including the expiration date for relinquishment. Proof of surrender or sale of a firearm must be filed with the court within the specified time.22

Relinquishment of Firearms by Individuals Convicted of Domestic Violence Crimes

Proposition 63, passed by California voters in November 2016, requires defendants convicted of firearm-prohibiting crimes, including domestic violence offenses, to provide proof that they sold or transferred their firearms within specified timeframes after conviction. It also requires assigned probation officers and courts to verify that the defendant complied with this requirement before final disposition of the defendant’s case and authorizes the court to issue search warrants to recover illegally retained firearms from defendants who fail to comply. These new provisions will become effective on January 1, 2018.

Removal of Firearms and Incident Reporting by Law Enforcement

Every California law enforcement agency must establish a system for recording all domestic violence-related calls, and must include a written incident report for each call noting, among other things, whether a weapon was involved.23 Any deadly weapon discovered by an officer at the scene of a domestic violence incident is subject to confiscation.24 Law enforcement officers of any state or local agency who are at the scene of a domestic violence incident involving a threat to human life or a physical assault must take temporary custody of any firearm in plain sight or discovered pursuant to a consensual or other lawful search for the protection of the officers or other persons present.25

Confiscated firearms must be held for at least 48 hours.26 With limited exceptions, if a firearm is not retained for use as evidence related to criminal charges stemming from the domestic violence incident or is not retained because it was illegally possessed, it must be made available to its owner or lawful possessor 48 hours after the seizure or as soon thereafter as possible, but no later than five business days after the owner or person in lawful possession of the firearm demonstrates that he or she has undergone the proper background check.27

Notes
  1. Cal. Penal Code § 29805. ⤴︎
  2. Cal. Penal Code § 136.2(a)(1)(G)(I)-(II), (d)(1)-(3). ⤴︎
  3. See Cal. Penal Code § 29825(a). ⤴︎
  4. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 527.6. Harassment is defined as unlawful violence, a credible threat of violence, or a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and must actually cause substantial emotional distress to the person. Id. ⤴︎
  5. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 527.8. An employer may seek a restraining order on behalf of employees where an employee has suffered violence or a threat that can reasonably be construed to be carried out or to have been carried out at the workplace. Id. ⤴︎
  6. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 527.85. A postsecondary educational institution may seek a restraining order on behalf of a student where a student has suffered a credible threat of violence made off the school campus or facility from any individual, which can reasonably be construed to be carried out or to have been carried out at the school campus or facility, if the student consents. “Postsecondary educational institution” is defined to mean a private institution of vocational, professional, or postsecondary education. Id. ⤴︎
  7. Cal. Fam. Code §§ 6218, 6389. See also § 6304 (requiring notice of the firearm prohibition if both parties are in court). ⤴︎
  8. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15657.03. ⤴︎
  9. Cal. Penal Code § 646.91. ⤴︎
  10. Cal. Penal Code § 136.2. Although Cal. Penal Code §§ 136.2 and 646.91 do not mention ammunition, a separate provision of California law prohibits any person from possessing ammunition if the person is ineligible to purchase or possess firearms under state law. Cal. Penal Code §§ 29825, 30305. ⤴︎
  11. Cal. Family Code §§ 6211, 6218, 6389. ⤴︎
  12. Cal. Family Code § 6306. ⤴︎
  13. Cal. Penal Code § 29825(d); Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 527.9(d). ⤴︎
  14. Cal. Penal Code § 30305. ⤴︎
  15. Cal. Fam. Code § 6389. If no request is made by a law enforcement officer, the relinquishment must occur within 24 hours of being served the order, either by surrender to a law enforcement officer or sale to a licensed gun dealer. The court may grant an exemption from the relinquishment requirements for a particular firearm if the respondent can show that it is necessary as a condition of continued employment and that the current employer is unable to reassign the respondent to another position where a firearm is unnecessary. Cal. Fam. Code § 6389(h). If the respondent declines to relinquish possession of any firearm based on the assertion of the right against self-incrimination, as provided by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the court may grant use immunity for the act of relinquishing the firearm as required. Cal. Fam. Code § 6389(d). ⤴︎
  16. Cal. Fam. Code § 6389(c)(2); Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 527.9(a),(b), (d); see also Cal. Penal Code §§ 136.2(d), 29825(d); Cal. Civ. Proc. Code §§ 527.6(t)(2), 527.8(r)(2); 527.85(r)(2); Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15657.03(t)(2). ⤴︎
  17. The agency must give possession of the firearms to the dealer who presents a bill of sale, within five days of presentment of the bill of sale. Cal. Fam. Code § 6389(i); Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 527.9(g). If the firearm remains in the possession of law enforcement, the law enforcement agency must return possession of any surrendered firearm to the respondent within five days after the expiration of the relinquishment order, unless certain conditions apply, such as the issuance of another successive restraining order. Cal. Fam. Code § 6389(g); Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 527.9(e). ⤴︎
  18. Cal. Fam. Code § 6389(c)(3). ⤴︎
  19. Cal. Penal Code § 1524(a)(11). ⤴︎
  20. Cal. Penal Code § 1524(a)(9). ⤴︎
  21. Cal. Penal Code § 29825(d) (referencing Cal. Penal Code § 29830. ⤴︎
  22. Id. ⤴︎
  23. Cal. Penal Code § 13730(a). Law enforcement officers responding to incidents of domestic violence must write a report about each incident on an agency-created domestic violence report form, and must include notations of whether the officer or officers responding to the domestic violence call found it necessary, for the protection of the peace officer or other persons present, to inquire whether a firearm or other deadly weapon was present, and whether that inquiry disclosed the presence of a deadly weapon. Cal. Penal Code § 13730(c)(3). ⤴︎
  24. Id. (referencing Cal. Penal Code § 18250). ⤴︎
  25. Cal. Penal Code § 18250. If any school or university peace officers initially take custody of a firearm, they are required to deliver the firearm within 24 hours to the city police department or county sheriff’s office in the jurisdiction where the university or school is located. Cal. Penal Code § 18260. ⤴︎
  26. Cal. Penal Code § 18265(a). The confiscating officer must give the owner or person who possessed the firearm a receipt describing the firearm. Cal. Penal Code §§ 18255, 33800. ⤴︎
  27. Cal. Penal Code § 18265(b) (referencing § 33850 et seq., which requires that the person claiming ownership or possession of a firearm in the custody of a court or law enforcement agency submit to a background check to determine whether he or she is eligible to possess a firearm). This five-day deadline may be extended if a law enforcement agency has reasonable cause to believe that the return of a firearm would endanger the victim or the person reporting the assault or threat. Cal. Penal Code § 18400. In such situations, the agency must advise the owner of the weapon, and within 60 days of the date of seizure, initiate a petition in superior court to determine if the weapon should be returned. Id. For details concerning the hearing process to determine if a firearm should be returned following a domestic violence incident, see §§ 18400-18420. ⤴︎

Fifty Caliber Rifles in California

See our Fifty Caliber Rifles policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

California generally prohibits the manufacture, distribution, transportation, importation, keeping or offering for sale, giving, or lending of any .50 BMG rifle without a California Department of Justice (“DOJ”)-issued permit.1 Such permits may only be issued, upon a finding of good cause, to certain law enforcement agencies and officers or to individuals over the age of 18.2 DOJ must conduct a yearly inspection – or every five years if the person has fewer than five permitted devices – of every person to whom a permit is issued for security and safe storage practices, and to reconcile the inventory of assault weapons.3 A .50 BMG rifle is any centerfire rifle that can fire a .50 BMG cartridge and that is not already an assault weapon or machine gun.4

The state also prohibits the possession of a .50 BMG rifle unless it is registered in the name of the possessor.5 Any person in lawful possession of a .50 BMG rifle must have registered it with DOJ within the registration period (January 1, 2005 to April 30, 2006).6 As the registration period has expired, .50 BMG rifles cannot generally be registered with DOJ. For more details, see the DOJ’s information page on this topic.

Any person owning a lawfully registered .50 BMG rifle may possess the firearm only under limited conditions, unless he or she obtains a permit for additional uses from DOJ.7 Those conditions include:

  • At the person’s residence, place of business, or other property owned by that person, or on property owned by another with the owner’s express permission;
  • While on certain target ranges and shooting clubs;
  • While on publicly owned land if specifically permitted by the managing agency of the land; or
  • While properly transporting the firearm between any of the places mentioned above, or to any licensed gun dealer for servicing and repair.8

California law includes a statement of the dangers posed by the .50 BMG rifle:

The Legislature hereby finds and declares that the proliferation and use of .50 BMG rifles…poses a clear and present terrorist threat to the health, safety, and security of all residents of, and visitors to, this state, based upon findings that those firearms have such a high capacity for long distance and highly destructive firepower that they pose an unacceptable risk to the death and serious injury of human beings, destruction or serious damage of vital public and private buildings, civilian, police and military vehicles, power generation and transmission facilities, petrochemical production and storage facilities, and transportation infrastructure.…9

California law provides that the possession of a .50 BMG rifle in violation of state laws is a public nuisance.10 Any .50 BMG rifle deemed a public nuisance must be destroyed, except upon finding by a court, or a declaration from DOJ, a district attorney, or a city attorney stating that the preservation of the .50 BMG rifle is in the interest of justice.11

California also prohibits any person, firm or corporation from possessing any:

  • Weapon greater than .60 caliber which fires fixed ammunition (other than a shotgun (smooth or rifled bore) that conforms to the definition of “destructive device” under 27 C.F.R. § 479.11); or
  • Rocket, rocket-propelled projectile, or similar device of a diameter greater than .60 inch, or any launching device for such rocket or projectile.12

See DOJ’s Frequently Asked Questions page for more information on the regulation of .50 BMG rifles.

 

Notes
  1. Cal. Penal Code § 30600. ⤴︎
  2. Cal. Penal Code §§ 31000, 31005. ⤴︎
  3. Cal. Penal Code § 31110 ⤴︎
  4. Cal. Penal Code § 30530(a). A .50 BMG rifle does not include any antique firearm (meaning any firearm manufactured before January 1, 1899, per Cal. Penal Code § 16170), nor any “curio or relic” as defined in Section 478.11 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations. ⤴︎
  5. Cal. Penal Code § 30610. ⤴︎
  6. Cal. Penal Code § 30905. Any person who has previously registered his or her .50 BMG rifle as an assault weapon is not required to register that firearm again. Cal. Penal Code § 30965. ⤴︎
  7. Cal. Penal Code § 30945. ⤴︎
  8. The person may also possess the .50 BMG while attending an exhibition, display, or educational project about firearms which is sponsored by, conducted under the auspices of, or approved by a law enforcement agency or a nationally or state recognized entity that fosters proficiency in, or promotes education about, firearms. Cal. Penal Code § 30945(e). ⤴︎
  9. Cal. Penal Code § 30505. ⤴︎
  10. The Attorney General, any district attorney, or city attorney may, in lieu of criminal prosecution, bring a civil action in any superior court to enjoin the possession of the .50 BMG rifle that is a public nuisance. Cal. Penal Code § 30800(a). The court may impose a fine for any .50 BMG rifle deemed a public nuisance. Cal. Penal Code § 30800(b). ⤴︎
  11. Cal. Penal Code § 30800(c). ⤴︎
  12. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16460(a)(3), (4), 18710. ⤴︎