Grades K through 12: California prohibits any person from possessing a firearm in a place that person knows, or reasonably should know, is a school zone. “School zone” is defined as an area in, or on the grounds of, a public or private school providing instruction in kindergarten or grades one to twelve, inclusive, or within a distance of 1,000 feet from the grounds of the public or private school. However, a person may possess a firearm in a school zone:
- By written permission of the school district superintendent, his or her designee, or equivalent school authority;
- Within a place of residence or place of business or on private property, if that location is not part of the school grounds and the possession of the firearm is otherwise lawful;
- When the firearm is an unloaded handgun and is in a locked container or within the locked trunk of a motor vehicle;
- For the lawful transportation of any other firearm, other than a handgun, in accordance with state law;
- When the person possessing the firearm 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 against another person or persons who has or have been found to pose a threat to his or her life or safety. This exception does not apply in certain circumstances involving a mutual restraining order;
- When the person is a licensed gun dealer, manufacturer, importer, or wholesaler, or a member of an authorized military or civilian organization when parading, and the gun is unloaded;
- When the person is a guard or messenger of a common carrier or bank who, within the course of his or her employment, transports or delivers money or other valuables; or
- When the person is a duly appointed peace officer, honorably retired police officer, or security guard authorized to carry a concealed firearm under state law.
Concealed weapons license holders are also exempt from this prohibition and may carry handguns in schools or school zones. Nor do these restrictions apply to existing shooting ranges at public or private schools or university or college campuses.
See the Non-Powder Guns in California section for information about non-powder guns in schools.
The principal or superintendent of a school or school system must immediately suspend, and recommend the expulsion of, any pupil that he or she determines has possessed a firearm, or sold or furnished a firearm to others, either at school or at a school activity off school grounds, provided that another employee of the school district has verified the pupil’s possession of a firearm. However, a pupil may obtain prior written permission to possess a firearm from a certificated school employee, if the principal or a designee of the principal concurs.
The superintendent or principal of a school is also authorized to suspend and recommend for expulsion any pupil who possesses an imitation firearm. An “imitation firearm” is any replica of a firearm that is so substantially similar in physical properties to an existing firearm that a reasonable person would consider it a firearm.
With limited exceptions, no person may carry ammunition or reloaded ammunition onto school grounds.
Colleges and universities: California prohibits any person from bringing or possessing a firearm, loaded or unloaded, upon the grounds of a public or private university or college campus, or any buildings owned or operated for student housing, teaching, research, or administration by a public or private university or college, which are contiguous or are clearly marked university property. Universities and colleges must post prominent notices at primary entrances on non-contiguous school property stating that firearms are prohibited on that property. Possession of a firearm on university or college property is allowed if the university or college president or an equivalent authority has granted permission in writing. Concealed weapons licensees are also exempt from this prohibition.
See our Guns in Schools policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.