State Law Background
Among other things, California:
- Requires all gun sales to be processed through a licensed dealer, requiring a background check;
- Requires gun dealers to obtain a state license;
- Bans most assault weapons and .50 caliber rifles, and prohibits the sale, transfer, manufacture, and possession of large capacity ammunition magazines;
- Requires all firearms purchasers to obtain a Firearm Safety Certificate, after passing a written test;
- Regulates gun shows in a comprehensive manner;
- Limits handgun purchases to one per person per month;
- Prohibits the sale of “unsafe handguns” not on the state’s roster of approved handguns;
- Imposes a ten-day waiting period prior to the sale or transfer of a firearm;
- Maintains permanent records of firearm sales;
- Gives local law enforcement discretion to deny a license to carry a concealed weapon; and
- Gives local governments authority to regulate firearms and ammunition, although the state legislature has expressly removed this authority in certain areas.
In addition, in 2007, California became the first jurisdiction in the nation to require handgun microstamping and, in 2014, was the first to enact a Gun Violence Restraining Order law (also known as a Firearms Restraining Order) to help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
In 2016, California voters also adopted a comprehensive package of gun safety reforms through Proposition 63 (“The Safety for All Act of 2016”). Among other major reforms, Proposition 63 will make California the first state in the nation to require a point-of-sale background check on ammunition purchasers and the first to require all individuals convicted of firearm-prohibiting crimes to verify with the courts that they relinquished their firearms after conviction.
In 2014, California had the 8th lowest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. Even with this relatively low ranking, California still suffered 2,935 deaths from firearms in that single year. Additionally, in 2014, at least 5,724 others were hospitalized or treated in emergency rooms for non-fatal gunshot wounds in California.
According to data published by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, California, California has the fifth lowest rate of crime guns exported to other states. California is the fourth largest supplier (among the states) of crime guns to Mexico per capita, but supplies such crime guns at less than one-third the rate of Arizona, the nation’s top supplier of crime guns to Mexico.
Municipalities across California have enacted a variety of gun violence prevention ordinances to make their communities safer. For more information on local ordinances in California, download our publication Communities on the Move 2000: How California Communities Are Addressing the Epidemic of Handgun Violence.
California Firearms Laws
For details about specific California firearms laws, choose a topic below, or see all of the firearms laws in this state.