Owning a gun is a right granted by the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As simple as that may sound, understanding California-specific gun laws is a more complicated matter. Being convicted of a firearm charge in California can carry a number of permanent consequences, including the inability to legally own or possess guns and the loss of job and housing opportunities. With the many recent controversies surrounding the country’s gun laws, it is more important than ever to understand exactly what your rights are in regard to gun ownership.
At Parsanj Law Group, our expertise in California’s firearm laws allows us to explore a number of legal and technical defenses to firearm charges. We have committed ourselves to helping residents understand California’s gun laws, to defend those wrongly charged with gun crimes, and to do our part in creating a safer state for all.
What Are the Differences in California’s Gun Laws Versus Federal Gun Laws?
Purchasing and owning a firearm is not as simple as buying one from a licensed firearms vendor. Failing to follow the law and proper procedures can result in hefty fines, firearm seizure, and other harsh legal repercussions. In addition to the U.S. Constitution granting the right to bear arms and the many federal gun laws, each state has the power to enact legislation regarding firearm purchases, sales, and possession. California has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, and understanding the difference between federal and California guidelines is critical in making the decision to buy, possess, or carry a gun in the state.
Some of the major differences between federal and state firearm laws include:
|Waiting Period||A 10-day waiting period is required before a firearm can be released to a buyer or transferee, Cal. Pen. Code §26815.||No waiting period. A background check may be required, and as long as it does not take longer than three business days to complete, it is legal to immediately transfer firearms to a buyer or transferee.|
|Assault Weapons||Banned in California, Cal. Pen. Code §§30500-31115.||Legal, with exceptions; Fully automated weapons, aka machine guns, made after May 19, 1986 are banned by the National Firearms Act (NFA), 18. U.S.C. §922(o).|
|Purchase Limit||Only one handgun can be purchased in a 30-day period; no limit on rifles or shotguns, Cal. Pen. Code §27535.||No purchase limit.|
|Registration||Firearm ownership must be registered with the California Department of Justice (DOJ) within 60 days of residency, Cal. Pen. Code §§28150-28180.||Not required, with exceptions; Machine guns, short-barreled shotguns or rifles, and silencers must be registered under the NFA, 26 U.S.C. §§5801-5872.|
|Concealed Carry||Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) License required, Cal. Pen. Code §§26150-26225.||None.|
|Purchasing a Firearm||All sales and transfers of firearms, including private and gun show transactions, must be made through a licensed dealer under the Dealer Record of Sale (DROS) process; Cal. Pen. Code §§26800-26850; §27545; §§28050-28070.||Transactions between unlicensed private parties in the same state do not require documentation. Purchasing firearms across state lines requires transfer to a federal firearms licensee in the buyer’s state, 18 U.S.C. §922(a)(5)(A).|
I Legally Own a Gun and Wish to Apply for a CCW License
When you legally own a gun, information on obtaining a CCW license can typically be found by contacting your county sheriff’s office, or city police department, if applicable. These departments are well-equipped to answer any questions you may have and provide a copy of the CCW license policy and application. For Los Angeles County, you may obtain a CCW application online at LASD.org, at a sheriff’s patrol station, or at the Hall of Justice 2nd floor security desk. California is a “may issue” state, which means each application is individually reviewed, and it may or may not be approved.
To obtain a CCW license in Los Angeles County, you must:
- Pass a training course approved by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department;
- Demonstrate proof of good moral character;
- Demonstrate that good cause exists; and
- Prove you are a resident of the county, or that you spend a substantial period of time in your business or place of employment in the county.
The Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department maintains a very high standard for what constitutes good cause. According to its published policy: “good cause shall exist only if there is convincing evidence of a clear and present danger to life, or of great bodily harm to the applicant, his spouse, or dependent child, which cannot be adequately dealt with by existing law enforcement resources, and which danger cannot be reasonably avoided by alternative measures, and which danger would be significantly mitigated by the applicant’s carrying of a concealed firearm.”
The county’s policy also states: “No position or job classification in itself shall constitute good cause for the issuance, or for the denial, of a CCW license.”
Who Is Prohibited from Owning or Possessing Firearms in California?
The California DOJ’s Bureau of Firearms provides a list* of those who cannot lawfully own a gun as dictated by state and federal law. People who are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms in California generally fall into one of three categories:
- Those who are indefinitely prohibited from lawfully owning or possessing firearms. This includes any person convicted of a state or federal felony; and any person who, in a court of law, is found to be a danger to themselves or others due to mental illness, mental incompetence to stand trial, not guilty by reason of insanity or is addicted to a narcotic drug.
- Those who are prohibited from lawfully owning or possessing firearms for 10 years after certain misdemeanor convictions. This includes individuals convicted of criminal possession of a firearm and of bringing or possessing a loaded firearm within the state capitol, legislative offices, upon or within the grounds of a public school or public space.
- Those who are indefinitely prohibited from lawfully owning or possessing firearms after certain misdemeanor convictions. Anyone convicted of assault with a firearm, shooting at an inhabited or occupied building, brandishing a firearm in the presence of an officer, at least two convictions of brandishing a weapon in a threatening manner, or domestic violence faces a lifetime ban on fun ownership and possession.
Are California’s Gun Laws Effective in Reducing Gun Violence?
Whether California’s strict gun laws are responsible for reducing gun violence is difficult to say. There are myriad reasons for gun violence in California and across the nation, and reducing gun-related crimes, injuries, and deaths requires comprehensive local, state, and federal strategies.
What we do know is that California consistently ranks as one of the safest states for firearm safety across the country, lending support for the state’s legal structure surrounding guns. The state has made substantial strides in reducing firearm-related fatalities, in combatting illegal firearms trafficking, and enabling firearm seizure from prohibited persons. Between 1992 and 2014, California saw at least a 58 percent decrease in firearm-related deaths, compared to the 27 percent national decrease during that same period.
At Parsanj Law Group, we understand that a majority of California gunowners wish to abide by the law. We are here to help our clients retain legal ownership and possession of their firearms.
Contact an Experienced California Firearms Attorney for Assistance
Parsanj Law Group is highly knowledgeable regarding California firearm regulations and penal laws that could impact your gun ownership rights. State gun laws are constantly evolving, and we always keep up with current bills that may become law. We are here to ensure you are fully informed before and while owning a firearm.
If you find yourself unsure of your legal rights or facing allegations of a gun crime, do not hesitate to contact us. We offer free consultations to ensure there are no risks or barriers to you obtaining accurate legal information and advice.
*The Bureau of Firearms’ guide to Firearms Prohibiting Categories is for informational purposes only, and it may not include all firearms prohibiting categories in California. Contacting an experienced California firearms lawyer may be necessary for legal clarification regarding your right to purchase, own, or possess a firearm.