Let’s talk about an issue you really care about – Guns! Everyone should care about gun laws. After all, how else will you be able to take care of that pesky neighbor whose dog messes up your yard? [Important note from HandelontheLaw.com: The preceding sentence was a JOKE. One should not go around shooting people with whom you have a dispute with. HandelontheLaw.com expressly disavows any responsibility for the crazy people who act as such – though you can still find a great criminal defense lawyer on this site if you happen to be caught in such a situation. Enough said.]
Gun sales are heavily regulated by the federal government as well as individual states.
In California, the bulk of laws relating to gun control can be found starting at Section 12000 of the state Penal Code.
Here is a sample overview of some of the main California laws relating to firearm purchases –
[A few preliminary notes: This is only a brief overview of certain California laws relating to firearms. It is by no means a comprehensive listing. To be safe, consult the text of the law itself or speak to an attorney.
Legitimate exceptions for law enforcement or military personnel will often apply. Separate federal regulations may also apply.]
Who can I buy firearms from?
You can only purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer. And consequently, you have to be a licensed dealer by the state in order to sell a firearm in California.
Who is prevented from being able to purchase a firearm?
Subject to some very limited exceptions, certain people are prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm in California. These people include – anyone convicted of a felony (in any state or jurisdiction – as long as the offense could be considered to be a felony in California) or certain violent/serious misdemeanors, people who are on probation for certain criminal offenses, anyone currently addicted to narcotics, people who are subject to certain forms of restraining orders, and mental patients or those who are judged to be insane.
If you are unsure if you are eligible to own a firearm or not, you can have the state perform a background check on you to determine your status. The background check usually costs a nominal fee (approximately $20).
You have to be 21 in order to buy a handgun in California. You must be 18 to buy a rifle or shotgun.
Once I purchase a firearm, can I give it to somebody else on my own?
Only in some limited situations. It is unlawful for you to sell, loan or otherwise transfer a firearm to another person, unless the transaction occurs through a licensed firearms dealer. Once again, there are few exceptions to this rule, including –
Infrequent loans of guns between friends lasting less than 30 days;
Loans of guns on target ranges for the purpose of shooting targets;
Loans of unloaded guns for use as props in movies;
Loans of guns to licensed hunters during hunting season; or
Receiving possession of a firearm as the executor, receiver or administrator of an estate, or a trustee in a bankruptcy proceeding.
However, even these people must still otherwise be able to possess firearms lawfully within the state of California (i.e., you still can’t loan or give a gun to a person who is a felon or officially insane).
You are also allowed to give a firearm to your spouse, legal domestic partner, child or grandchild (provided that they are all adults and are otherwise able to legally possess the firearm in question). However, if the firearm is a handgun, then you must file a report with the state which documents the transfer to the family member in that instance. Contact an attorney or the California Department of Justice for more information how to comply with these regulations.
What other restrictions are there in purchasing firearms?
To begin with, you will be limited to buying only one handgun every 30 days. (Exceptions apply to certain groups of people such as law enforcement personnel, licensed gun collectors and licensed private security companies. As a nod to the entertainment lobby in Hollywood, film productions are also exempt from this restriction if their projects involve the use of firearms.)
Keep in mind that this exception applies to “handguns” – not other forms of firearms such as rifles or shotguns. “Handguns” are generally defined as those firearms that can be concealed on a person or has a barrel length of less than 16 inches.
If you want to purchase a “handgun” in California, you will need to prove that you are California resident.
If you wish to purchase any firearm (“handgun” or not), you will still be required to show “clear evidence of identity and age” which can consist of either, a valid (non-expired) California Driver’s License, an Identification Card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, or a form of military identification along with a copy of your orders that indicates your military duty assignment in California.
Furthermore, only certain handguns can be sold in California. Such handguns must pass certain “safety and functionality” tests set by the state. The California Department of Justice maintains a current list of handguns that are eligible for sale in the state. Machineguns are generally outlawed in the state.
Next, you generally must possess a Handgun Safety Certificate in order to purchase a handgun (once again, the term “handgun” does not apply to larger firearms such as rifles and shotguns). In order to obtain such a certificate, you must past a safety handling test that is given and administered by certified instructors with the California Department of Justice. Contact the Department to learn how you can arrange to take the test.
Every gun that is sold or transferred in the state must also have a “firearm safety device” with it that helps to prevent accidental shootings. The safety devices must be approved by the state. Please consult the California Department of Justice for a list of approved devices.
Also, California imposes a 10-day waiting period between the time of purchase, and the time that the firearm is released to the purchaser.
Are there places where I’m not allowed to bring my firearm?
You bet. Schools for instance. It is illegal to being firearms within 1,000 feet of a K-12 school or a state college unless you are otherwise authorized to do so within a narrow range of exceptions.
What about storing or carrying concealed weapons?
It is generally illegal to carry concealed weapons in public without a license to do so (though you can do it on your own private property without such a license, as long as your property is not located on certain public lands where firearms are otherwise prohibited). If you are carrying a firearm in the car, it must be either locked in the trunk or in some other secured and locked container in the car other than the glove compartment (which does not count).
The county sheriff or other head of the local law enforcement agency may issue individual permits to carry a concealed weapon if the person is deemed to be of good moral character and can show good cause for needing such a license.
Concealed weapons permits issued in other states are generally not valid or recognized in California.
What about carrying loaded weapons?
Even if you are otherwise lawfully carrying or transporting a firearm, it is illegal to carry or transport a loaded firearm in public. The guns must be kept unloaded except for certain lawful exceptions such as hunting, target practice at established ranges, legitimate (and immediate) self-defense, and other obvious exceptions such as those relating to law enforcement and military personnel in the performance of their duties.
State authorities are authorized to inspect your firearms at any time if you being them out in public or carry them in your vehicle in order to ensure that they are not loaded.
Another Important Note: You are also required by law to store loaded firearms at all times in such a manner that they won’t be easily accessible to children – even on your private property.
Any other general advice in regards to firearms?
Yes. It is usually against the law to threaten somebody with a gun, or fire it in an unlawful manner. But then again, you should already know that. If you are unsure of the instances of when it might be unlawful to fire a gun at somebody or something, please consult an attorney.
This represents a brief overview of some of the many firearm regulations in California. For more information and details, please contact an attorney familiar with state firearm regulations or the California Department of Justice.
Remember: Always use caution and common sense when dealing with firearms. Safety first!
[Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither HandelontheLaw.com, or any of its affiliates, shall have any liability stemming from this article.]
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.