Closing the Terror Gap in American Gun Laws

Posted on Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

Paris vigil
Last week, the world watched in horror as Paris came under attack–129 killed in coordinated mass shootings and bombings across the city. Our hearts are with the victims, their families, and those who survived the attack, and we stand with the people of the world in calling for an end to the kind of senseless violence that terrorized Paris and the global community this weekend.

As gun law experts, we know universal background checks and more effective mental health screenings will help prevent many of the headline-grabbing shootings we’ve seen in the last several years—these are effective, powerful ways to curb gun violence in our communities. But, it’s also important that we consider our nation’s security in the aftermath of the Paris attacks by looking at gaps in our gun laws–specifically concerning acts of terrorism.

One such weakness, the “terror gap,” persists because a hole in federal legislation does not bar those on the terrorist watchlist from purchasing firearms. Unlike felons, the dangerously mentally ill, and certain drug abusers, federal law does not prohibit known or suspected terrorists from purchasing guns. Though 82% of NRA members and 86% of non-NRA gun owners support such legislation, only one state (New Jersey in 2013) has taken appropriate steps to address the terror gap. This failure to act has resulted in drastic consequences:

To be clear, Friday’s attacks were not the result of weak national gun laws; with some of the most progressive gun laws in the world, France’s annual death rate from firearms is drastically lower than that of the United States. But illegal trafficking from nearby countries increases the availability of deadly weapons and makes it easier for terrorists to carry out acts of violence.

Within our own borders, weak gun laws in most states make it easy for deadly firearms to fall into the wrong hands. And this fact is far from a secret—a senior al-Qaeda leader even lauded how simple it is to obtain firearms in America, releasing a video message to urge followers to buy guns in states without universal background checks.

Acts of terrorism like the ones we witnessed last week and many of the strategies for combatting them are different in kind from the gun violence we see in American communities on a daily basis, but both situations are amplified by overwhelmingly easy access to deadly weapons. Trafficking may be what enables deplorable acts of terrorism like what we saw in Paris, but with effective legislation to close the terror gap, we can take important steps to ensure a safer, more secure environment for everyone.

Calling For a New Approach to Gun Violence Research

Posted on Wednesday, November 11th, 2015


With 100,000 Americans shot every year—and 30,000 dying from those wounds—gun violence is undoubtedly a major health crisis in the United States. To outline the leading causes of injury death by age, we highlighted instances of gun violence in this chart to show just how pervasive the issue is—and how urgently we need reforms and smart gun laws to protect communities from tragedy.

CDC CHART FINAL Click to enlarge.

Ranking in the top 10 for injury deaths for all ages except babies under the age of 1, we know guns threaten us at every single stage in our lives.
Compiled using data from the Centers for Disease Control, the chart not only reveals the destructive nature of gun violence, but also shows just how instrumental the CDC’s research is in understanding the health issues that plague the United States. We’re proud to stand with California representative Mike Honda, who recently introduced a bill calling for an end to the CDC’s ban on gun violence research, to offer Americans a data-driven approach to ending this epidemic. We desperately need to support efforts toward transparency in determining what threatens our safety—especially when one of those threats is as preventable as gun violence.

We’ve broken down the chart into some key takeaways:

  • Ranking in the top five causes of death for Americans between the ages of 5 and 44, firearm homicide is an overwhelming threat at almost every age.
  • Firearm suicide—the third leading cause of death for children ages 10–14—remains in the top four causes of death for all subsequent age groups. With guns, the decision to take one’s own life is almost always irreversible—even if the person making that decision is only in the fourth grade.
  • Tragically, unintentional firearm deaths rank 10th and ninth for children ages 5–9 and 10–14, respectively. With guns in the home, children or toddlers looking for their toys and playing with their siblings can find deadly weapons instead—and kill themselves or their siblings without knowing the consequences that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Gun locks, safe storage practices and child access prevention laws can help prevent these senseless shootings.

This year, for the first time, firearm deaths are expected to take more lives in the 15–24 age group than motor vehicle accidents. The continual string of tragic school shootings and violence among young adults reminds us on a daily basis just how suddenly a promising life can end and how devastating it is that more and more young people are dying as a result of completely preventable gun violence.

Though we may only hear about shootings in the media when extreme or shocking mass shootings occur, the facts show that gun violence is a lethal threat to American lives each and every day. We need to implement smart gun laws that reverse the trend of horrific gun violence in the United States—not only through common sense solutions such as universal background checks and ammunition regulations, but by supporting government agencies, such as the CDC, designed to ensure our safety by taking on challenges to our public health.

For more information on how to keep children safe from unintended shootings, see our Commonsense Solutions Toolkit.

Smart Gun Laws Protect Families from Domestic Violence

Posted on Friday, October 30th, 2015

DV-blog-graphicIt’s a fact that guns and domestic violence are a lethal combination in America—they’re the most common weapons used by abusers who kill their partners, and are by far the most deadly. As Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes to a close, we hope Americans gain a deeper understanding of the grave danger domestic abusers pose to public safety—especially when guns are involved.

  • Domestic violence situations involving guns are 12 times more likely to result in death than other weapons or bodily force.
  • Domestic abuse situations are five times more likely to be fatal if the abuser has access to a gun.
  • Women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than in other high-income countries.

And yet, in spite of this information, federal law contains deadly loopholes that let domestic abusers buy and possess firearms—especially if they already own them.

Despite inaction at the federal level, 18 states have passed new laws to protect victims of domestic violence from gunfire since 2013. These powerful pieces of legislation restrict convicted abusers from accessing guns or make it easier for law enforcement to remove guns from abusers who own them. These state laws are important because they directly address gaps in current policy regarding stalkers and dating partners and help background check systems identify convicted abusers.

For example, a new law in Delaware, which Governor Jack Markell signed earlier this month, extends the state’s gun prohibition to people convicted of dating partner abuse. The law also adds accountability to the requirement that domestic abusers subject to protective orders surrender their guns. Our attorneys worked closely with Americans for Responsible Solutions and local domestic violence and gun safety advocates to craft this lifesaving law.

The momentum for better domestic violence laws shows no signs of stopping—even states with strong gun cultures, like Utah and Louisiana, which both score an F on our Gun Law State Scorecard, have enacted laws barring domestic abusers from possessing firearms in recent years.

For more information on the laws states can pass to help protect victims of domestic abuse, see our Commonsense Solutions Toolkit: State Laws to Address Gun Violence Against Women.

For more information about existing domestic violence gun laws, visit our policy page.

See how your state stacks up when it comes to domestic violence gun laws and join the campaign to Protect All Women.

Guns in Schools in California

Posted on Thursday, October 29th, 2015

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.1 “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.2 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;3
  • 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;4
  • When the firearm is an unloaded handgun and is in a locked container or within the locked trunk of a motor vehicle;5
  • For the lawful transportation of any other firearm, other than a handgun, in accordance with state law;6
  • 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.7 This exception does not apply in certain circumstances involving a mutual restraining order;8
  • 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;9
  • 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;10 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.11

These restrictions also do not apply to existing shooting ranges at public or private schools or university or college campuses.12

Until the enactment of SB 707 in 2015, concealed weapons license holders were also exempt from these restrictions and were authorized to carry handguns and ammunition in schools or school zones.13  However, California law now requires that concealed weapons license holders obtain written permission from authorized school officials before carrying firearms or ammunition onto the grounds of K-12 schools, colleges, or universities.14

SB 707 also clarified that individuals may carry ammunition onto school grounds without prior written authorization if the ammunition is kept within a locked container or within the locked trunk of a motor vehicle.15

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.16 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.17

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.18

With limited exceptions, no person may carry ammunition or reloaded ammunition onto school grounds.19

Colleges and universities: California generally prohibits a person from bringing or possessing a firearm, whether 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.20 Universities and colleges must post prominent notices at primary entrances on non-contiguous school property stating that firearms are prohibited on that property.21 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.22 Concealed weapons licensees were exempt from this prohibition until the enactment of SB 707 in 2015.23 However, California law now requires that concealed weapons license holders obtain written permission from authorized school officials before carrying firearms or ammunition onto college and university campuses, unless the unloaded firearm or ammunition is kept in a locked container or within the locked trunk of a motor vehicle.24

See our Guns in Schools policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  1. Cal. Penal Code § 626.9(b). []
  2. Cal. Penal Code § 626.9(e)(1). []
  3. Cal. Penal Code § 626.9(b). []
  4. Cal. Penal Code § 626.9(c)(1). []
  5. Cal. Penal Code § 626.9(c)(2). []
  6. Id. []
  7. Cal. Penal Code § 626.9(c)(3). []
  8. Id. (referencing Cal. Fam. Code § 6200 et seq.). []
  9. Cal. Penal Code § 626.9(c)(4) (referencing §§ 25615, 25625). []
  10. Cal. Penal Code § 626.9(c)(4) (referencing §§ 25630 and 25645). []
  11. Cal. Penal Code § 626.9(l), (m), (o). []
  12. Cal. Penal Code § 626.9(n). []
  13. See former Cal. Penal Code § 626.9(l). []
  14. Cal. Penal Code §§ 626.9(b), (c), 30310. []
  15. Cal. Penal Code § 30310(b)(10). []
  16. Cal. Educ. Code §§ 48900(b), 48915(c)(1). []
  17. Id. []
  18. Cal. Educ. Code §§ 48900(m), 48915(c)(1). []
  19. Cal. Penal Code § 30310(a). This requirement does not apply to peace officers, members of the military, or armored vehicle guards carrying out their official duties, to concealed weapons license holders, or to individuals who have the written permission of the school district superintendent or equivalent school authority. Cal. Penal Code § 30310(b). []
  20. Cal. Penal Code § 626.9(h), (i). []
  21. Id. []
  22. Id. []
  23. See former Cal. Penal Code § 626.9(l). []
  24. Cal. Penal Code §§ 626.9(b), (c), 30310. []

California State Law Summary

Posted on Thursday, October 29th, 2015



** Please note that, as of January 1, 2012, many of California’s firearms laws were renumbered. Please review this disposition table for more information. **

Among other things, California:

In addition, in 2007, California became the first jurisdiction in the nation to require handgun microstamping and, in 2014, was the first to enact a Gun Violence Restraining Order law to help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

In 2013, California had the 9th lowest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. Even with this relatively low ranking, California still suffered 3,026 deaths from firearms in that single year. Additionally, in 2013, at least 6,035 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, indicating that.  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.

Guns in Vehicles in California

Posted on Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Unloaded long guns: California does not prohibit carrying an unloaded rifle or shotgun in a motor vehicle. California law does not even require unloaded long guns to be in a locked container when they are in a motor vehicle.

Concealed handguns: California prohibits a person from carrying a concealed handgun in a motor vehicle, unless the handgun is in a locked container or the vehicle’s trunk,1 or the person has been issued a concealed weapons license.2 A “locked container” is a secure container which is fully enclosed and locked by a padlock, key lock, combination lock, or similar locking device. A locked container includes the trunk of a motor vehicle, but not the utility or glove compartment.3

Loaded firearms: California prohibits carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle in most locations. This prohibition is subject to certain exceptions, including an exception for concealed weapons licensees. See the Other Location Restrictions in California section for further information.

Unloaded and exposed handguns: A 2011 California law prohibits any person from carrying an exposed and unloaded handgun in or on a motor vehicle on a public street or public place, if the street or place is in an incorporated city or city and county, or if it is otherwise unlawful to discharge a weapon in that location.4 It is also unlawful for a driver or owner of a motor vehicle to knowingly permit another person to carry into or bring into the vehicle a firearm in violation of this prohibition.5

Public transit: Under a law that California enacted in 2010, it is unlawful for any person to knowingly possess any firearm within the sterile area of a public transit facility, if the sterile area is posted with a statement providing reasonable notice of the prohibition.6 A public transit system includes the vehicles used in the system, including, but not limited to, motor vehicles, streetcars, trackless trolleys, buses, light rail systems, rapid transit systems, subways, trains, or jitneys, that transport members of the public for hire. “Sterile area” means any portion of a public transit facility that is generally controlled in a manner consistent with the public transit authority’s security plan.7 This prohibition does not apply to individuals licensed to carry a concealed weapon.8

  1. Cal. Penal Code § 25610. See also §§ 25505-25595 (exempting, from the prohibition on carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle, firearms that are being transported to certain locations, such as target ranges and gun shows, if they are in a locked container). []
  2. Cal. Penal Code §§ 25400(a), 25655. Firearms carried openly in belt holsters are not considered “concealed.” Cal. Penal Code § 25400(b). Exceptions to the license requirement are included in Cal. Penal Code §§ 25505-25595 and 25600-25655. []
  3. Cal. Penal Code § 16850. Even without a license, a person may carry a loaded, concealed firearm in a motor vehicle 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. Cal. Penal Code § 25600. Additional exceptions exist. See §§ 25505-25655. []
  4. Cal. Penal Code §§ 17030, 26350. See §§ 26361-26391 for exceptions. []
  5. Cal. Penal Code § 17512. []
  6. Cal. Penal Code § 171.7(b)(1). []
  7. Cal. Penal Code §§ 171.7(a)(1)-(2). []
  8. Cal. Penal Code §§ 171.7(c)(2), 25655. []

Domestic Violence & Firearms in California

Posted on Thursday, October 29th, 2015

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

Surrender of Firearms by Persons Subject to Protective Order

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

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

  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. []

Open Carrying in California

Posted on Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Please see our Open Carrying policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Prior to 2012, it was legal for a gun owner in California to carry a handgun in public, as long as it was both unloaded and carried in plain sight. However, a 2011 California law, which took effect January 1, 2012, generally prohibits any person from carrying an exposed and unloaded handgun upon his or her person outside of a vehicle in a public place.1 This prohibition is subject to a number of exceptions, including for peace officers, military personnel, licensed hunters, and the carrying of an unloaded handgun in a locked container.2 The violation of this law is a misdemeanor in most cases.3

California law also prohibits the carrying in public, outside of a vehicle and on or about one’s person, of an unloaded long gun in any incorporated city or county.4 This is subject to several exceptions similar to those that apply to the open carrying of handguns in public, including exceptions for peace officers, licensed hunters, and military personnel.5 The violation of this law is a misdemeanor in most cases.6

Although the open carrying of loaded firearms (both handguns and long guns) in public is generally prohibited,7 when the population of a county is less than 200,000 persons, the sheriff of the county, or the chief of police of a city within that county, may issue a license to carry a loaded, exposed handgun.8 This license is only valid in the county where it is issued.9 This license is identical to a California concealed weapons license in all other respects. For more information about these licenses, and about the carrying of concealed firearms in California generally, see the Concealed Weapons Permitting in California section.

For more information about carrying firearms in vehicles, see our Guns in Vehicles in California section.

  1. Cal. Penal Code §§ 17030, 26350. []
  2. Cal. Penal Code §§ 26361-26391. []
  3. Cal. Penal Code § 26350(b). []
  4. Cal. Penal Code § 26400. []
  5. Cal. Penal Code § 26405. []
  6. Cal. Penal Code § 26400(b)(1). []
  7. Cal. Penal Code § 25850. []
  8. Cal. Penal Code §§ 26150, 26155. []
  9. Id. []

Personalized & Owner-Authorized Firearms in California

Posted on Thursday, October 29th, 2015

California does not require firearms to be personalized.

Legislation has previously been introduced regarding the incorporation of personalized firearms technology within the state, but such legislation has not passed out of the California Legislature.

See our Personalized Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Locking Devices in California

Posted on Thursday, October 29th, 2015

See our Locking Devices policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

All firearms sold or transferred in California by a licensed dealer, including private transfers conducted by a dealer, must include a “firearms safety device” listed on the roster of approved firearms safety devices maintained by the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”).1 The firearms safety device must be listed on the roster as appropriate for that firearm.2 A “firearms safety device” is a device, other than a gun safe, that locks and is designed to prevent children and unauthorized users from firing a firearm. The device may be installed on a firearm, be incorporated into the design of the firearm, or prevent access to the firearm.3

California prohibits anyone, including a licensed dealer, from selling any “firearms safety device” that is not listed on the DOJ roster, or that does not comply with the firearm safety device standards set by DOJ.4 In addition, no person may distribute, as part of an organized firearm safety program, any firearm safety device that is not listed on the DOJ roster or that does not comply with DOJ’s firearm safety device standards.5 The sale or transfer of a firearm does not need to include a firearms safety device, however, if the purchaser or transferee either: 1) provides proof that he or she has purchased or owns a gun safe that meets the gun safe standards set by DOJ; or 2) presents, with the firearm, an approved firearms safety device to the dealer that the purchaser or transferee purchased no more than 30 days prior, along with an original receipt.6

DOJ’s roster of approved firearms safety devices may only include firearms safety devices that have been tested by a DOJ-certified testing laboratory and that meet DOJ’s firearms safety device standards.7 DOJ may randomly retest roster samples obtained from sources other than the manufacturer to ensure compliance with the requirements of state law.8

Dealers selling long gun safes9 that do not meet DOJ’s standards for gun safes must conspicuously post or display the following warning, in both English and Spanish, on the gun safe’s packaging or with any materials that accompany the safe, and on a label affixed to the front of the gun safe:

WARNING: This gun safe does not meet the safety standards for gun safes specified in California Penal Code Section 23650. It does not satisfy the requirements of Penal Code Section 23635, which mandates that all firearms sold in California be accompanied by a firearms safety device or proof of ownership, as required by law, of a gun safe that meets the Section 23650 minimum safety standards developed by the California Attorney General.10

California law prohibits any person from selling a long gun safe that does not comply with DOJ’s standards for gun safes, unless the long gun safe is labeled in this manner.11 In addition, long gun safes must have a locking system consisting of either a mechanical combination lock or an electronic combination lock that has at least 1,000 possible unique combinations consisting of a minimum of three numbers, letters or symbols per combination.12

DOJ may order the recall and replacement of any gun safe or firearms safety device model that does not conform with its safety standards, or order that the gun safe or firearm safety device model be brought into conformity with those requirements.13

  1. Cal. Penal Code § 23635(a). []
  2. Id. []
  3. Cal. Penal Code § 16540. []
  4. Cal. Penal Code § 23660(a). []
  5. Cal. Penal Code § 23660(b). DOJ’s firearm safety device standards exist at Cal. Code Regs. tit. 11, § 4094. []
  6. Cal. Penal Code § 23635(b), (c). Dealers must collect and maintain records demonstrating which exception applies. Id. DOJ’s standards for gun safes exist at Cal. Code Regs. tit. 11, § 4100. []
  7. Cal. Penal Code § 23655(d). By January 1, 2002, DOJ was required to set minimum safety standards for firearm safety devices and gun safes to significantly reduce the risk of firearms-related injuries to children 17 years of age and younger. Cal. Penal Code § 23650. A certified testing laboratory, after receiving a firearms safety device from the manufacturer, is required to test the device and submit a copy of the final test report to DOJ, along with the device. DOJ must then notify the manufacturer or dealer of its receipt of the final test report and of DOJ’s determination as to whether the device tested may be sold in California. Cal. Penal Code § 23655(c). DOJ’s regulations regarding certified firearms safety laboratories, firearms safety device testing and standards, and standards for gun safes are detailed in Cal. Code Regs. tit. 11, §§ 4080-4109. []
  8. Cal. Penal Code § 23655(f). []
  9. Defined to mean a locking container designed to fully contain and secure a rifle or shotgun,which has a locking system consisting of either a mechanical combination lock or an electronic combination lock that has at least 1,000 possible unique combinations consisting of a minimum of three numbers, letters, or symbols per combination, and is not listed on DOJ’s roster of approved firearms safety devices. Cal. Penal Code § 16870. []
  10. Cal. Penal Code § 23635(d). []
  11. Cal. Penal Code §§ 23665-23670. Similarly, any person who sells a long gun safe that does not comply with state standards for gun safes, and who removes the warning label required by Cal. Penal Code § 23635, is subject to penalty. Cal. Penal Code § 23665(b). []
  12. Cal. Penal Code § 16870. []
  13. Cal. Penal Code § 23680(a). If the firearms safety device can be separated and reattached to the firearm without damaging the firearm, the licensed dealer must immediately provide a conforming replacement as instructed by the Attorney General. Cal. Penal Code § 23680(b). If the device cannot be separated from a firearm without damaging the firearm, the Attorney General may order the recall and replacement of the firearm. Cal. Penal Code § 23680(c). []