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California Gun Law Guide

What are California Gun Laws?

Owning a gun is a privilege granted by virtue of the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution, but understanding California specific gun laws is a slightly more complicated matter. Being convicted of a firearm charge in California can carry a number of permanent consequences, including the inability to legally own guns and the loss of job and housing opportunities.

With the recent stream of never-ending controversy surrounding the country’s gun laws, it is now more important than ever to understand exactly what your legal rights to gun ownership are.
At The Law Office of Amy Chapman, our knowledge California’s firearm laws has allowed us to explore a number of legal and technical defenses related to firearm charges and weapon laws, and we have committed ourselves to helping residents understand California’s gun laws to do our part in creating a safer state for all.

What are the Differences in California’s Gun Laws Versus Federal Gun Laws?

Because the right to bear arms is a fundamental right for US citizens, many take this to mean that owning a gun is as simple as going out to buy one from a licensed firearms vendor.

This is far from the truth, however, and doing so can result in hefty fines, firearm seizure and harsh legal repercussions down the road. California has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, and understanding the difference between federal guidelines and California-specific guidelines is critical in making the decision to buy, possess or carry a gun on one’s person in the state.

Some of the major differences between federal and state guidelines in firearm law are as follows:

  California Federal
Waiting Period A ten-day waiting period is required before a firearm can be released to a buyer or transferee. No waiting period. A background check may be required, and so 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. Legal.
Purchase Limit Only one handgun can be purchased in a 30-day period. No limit on rifles or shotguns. No purchase limit.
Registration Firearm ownership must be registered the California DOJ within 60 days of residency. None.
Concealed Carry Permit Permit required; a permit issued in one jurisdiction allows concealed carry anywhere in the state. None.
Purchasing a Firearm All sales and transfers of firearms, including private and/or gun show transactions, must be made through a licensed dealer under the Dealer Record of Sale (DROS) process. Transactions between unlicensed private parties in the same state do not require documentation. However, purchasing firearms across state lines require transfer to a federal firearms licensee in the buyer’s state.

I Own a Legally Purchased Gun, and Wish to Apply for a Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) License

If you own a legally purchased gun, information on obtaining a CCW license typically be found by contacting your county sheriff’s office (or city police department, if applicable). These departments are well-equipped to not only answer any questions you may have, but to also provide a copy of CCW license policy and application as well.

Residents of Sonoma County can find information regarding the CCW license on the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office website. In order to qualify, applicants must meet certain requirements, including:

• Be a resident of unincorporated Sonoma County or the cities of Windsor, Sonoma, Cloverdale, Cotati or Healdsburg;
• Be at least 21 years of age;
Complete a DOJ application;
• Be free of criminal convictions that would disqualify the applicant from CCW licensure;
• Be of good moral character, and provide at least three characters of character reference;
• Show good cause to receive CCW licensure;
• Pay all associated application fees—in California, this is a non-refundable $47 fee;
• Be free from any psychological conditions that may affect applicant suitability; and
Complete any required training.

Who is Prohibited from Owning or Possessing Firearms in California?

The California DOJ’s Bureau of Firearms provides a thorough list* of those who cannot lawfully own a gun, as dictated by both state and federal guidelines. People who are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms in California generally fall into one of two categories:

• Those who are indefinitely prohibited from lawfully owning or possessing a firearm. For example:
o Any person convicted of a state or federal felony; and
o 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 a firearm for ten years after receiving a misdemeanor violation. For example:
o Criminal possession of a firearm; and
o Bringing or possessing a loaded firearm within the state capitol, legislative offices, upon or within the grounds of a public school and/or a public space.
o Domestic violence
o Battery

*The Bureau of Firearms’ guide to Firearms Prohibiting Categories is for informational purposes only, and may not inclusive of all firearms prohibiting categories in California. Contacting an experienced California firearms lawyer may be necessary for specific legal clarification.

Are California’s Gun Laws Effective in Reducing Gun Violence?

Laws surrounding guns and firearms—both in California and across the country—are a constant opportunity for legal reform. California consistently ranks as one of the top safest states for firearm safety across the country, proving how improving the legal structure around guns and firearms can yield positive results without necessarily infringing upon a citizen’s constitutional right to bear arms.

Thanks to California’s strict gun laws, substantial strides have been taken to not only reduce firearm-related fatalities but to also combat illegal firearms trafficking and allow 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.

What kind of identification is required to purchase a gun in California?

Acceptable forms of identification for the purpose of purchasing a firearm in California include a valid driver’s license or California identification card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Military identification is also acceptable as long as it is presented along with permanent duty station orders indicating a posting in California.

Neither a temporary driver’s license nor a temporary identification card can be used as identification when purchasing a gun.

Is it legal to carry a concealed firearm in California?

It is illegal to carry a concealed gun in California without a Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) license. CCW licenses are issued by the sheriff for residents of their county of jurisdiction or by the chief of police in incorporated cities.

In addition, the state of California only recognizes concealed carry licenses issued within the state. You can not legally carry a concealed weapon in California with a license or permit issued outside the state.

Do I have to register guns I already own if I’m moving to California?

Yes. Any guns being brought in from outside the state must be registered. You will be considered a personal firearm importer under California law.

You can bring with you any guns that are not explicitly forbidden in California (such as assault weapons), but they must be registered with the state Department of Justice within 60 days of your arrival. It is also important to note that California law forbids magazines or ammunition feeding devices with a capacity of more than ten (10) rounds.

You can register your weapons with the Department of Justice by filling out a New Resident Firearm Ownership Report.

What is the California firearm safety certificate requirement?

Before purchasing or otherwise taking possession of a firearm in California, you must have a valid firearm safety certificate (FSC). It must be presented to the firearms dealer at the time that you begin the transaction of buying or acquiring a firearm.

To receive an FSC, you must be 18 years of age or older (proof required) and achieve a score of at least 75% on the FSC test which covers firearm safety and basic firearm laws. The test is made up of 30 true/false and multiple-choice questions. You’ll need to answer at least 23 correctly to achieve the minimum score of 75%.

The test is administered by instructors certified by the Department of Justice who are generally located at firearms dealerships. There is a $25 fee for taking the test which includes the opportunity to take the test a second time with the same instructor if needed.

A firearm safety certificate will be valid for five years from the date it is issued.

What Is The Safe Handling Demonstration Requirement?

Anyone purchasing or acquiring a firearm must execute a series of specific steps demonstrating that they can safely load and unload a gun. The demonstration has to be performed in the presence of a DOJ certified instructor. You will also have to sign an affidavit attesting to the fact that you completed the demonstration.

The safe handling demonstration must take place on or after the date the dealer record of sale is submitted to the department of justice and before the handgun is delivered. You can find the steps required to perform the demonstration on page 12 of the California firearm safety certificate study guide.

Contact an Experienced California Firearms Attorney

As long as the Second Amendment stands, guns and firearms will always be at the center of legal reform across both state and federal jurisdictions. California’s gun laws are not perfect, but they have provided an example of how effective gun laws can create a safer community for all residents—gun-owners or not.

If you require any legal advice or representation for cases regarding guns and firearms in the state of California, The Law Office of Amy Chapman is happy to provide answers. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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Law Office of Amy Chapman

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