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A Primer on California’s Basic Gun Laws

Posted in General FAQ'S on March 30, 2017

The United States has a storied history of protecting the Second Amendment, which guarantees citizens the right to own and bear firearms. The state of California enables residents to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms safely, with as little risk as possible to public safety. California has adopted some of the most thorough gun safety laws in the country, and it’s important for California residents to understand the state laws applicable to gun ownership.

Recent CA Gun Law Changes

In 2007, California became the first state in the U.S. to demand handgun microstamping, a process designed to help law enforcement solve gun-related crimes. Traditional ballistics research allows police to match bullets to firearms and various other metrics for investigative purposes, but microstamping affords law enforcement an unprecedented ability to trace ballistics.

Microstamping assigns a string of characters to the internal components of a firearm which act as a unique identifier, separate from a serial number. Whenever the firearm discharges, the internal components actually imprint the bullet casings with the microstamping string of characters. This makes matchings bullet casings to firearms much easier for those investigating firearm-related crimes.

In 2014, California state lawmakers enacted the Gun Violence Restraining Order law, which intends to keep firearms out the hands of dangerous peoples. Whenever there is enough evidence to show an individual is dangerous to himself or others, a judge may invoke the Gun Violence Restraining Order law to prevent the individual from purchasing or possessing ammunition or firearms. Additionally, law enforcement may then seize the individual’s firearms and ammunition.

These are just a few measures taken to limit gun violence in California. In 2014, California had the eighth lowest gun death rate per capita in the United States. However, this low rank is somewhat misleading, as the state saw 2,935 gun deaths in 2014. Another 5,724 people suffered non-fatal gunshot wounds that year.

Firearm Ownership Eligibility

Several things may preclude an individual from purchasing or possessing firearms in the state of California. According to the California Penal Code, an individual can be prohibited from firearm purchase and ownership for the following reasons:

  • A felony conviction.
  • A criminal history of sex offenses.
  • A known history of substance abuse.
  • The individual is subject to a protective order.
  • The individual communicates a reasonably believable threat against an identifiable victim to a licensed psychotherapist.

There are several other factors that could impact a California citizen’s right to buy and keep firearms. Situations such as misdemeanor violations, or admission into a mental health facility could incur a probation period. During the probation period, the individual may not purchase or own firearms, and violating this temporary probation could result in permanent ineligibility.

Firearm Sale in CA

All California gun dealers must obtain state licenses to sell firearms, and all firearm sales must pass through licensed dealers. Additionally, every dealer must run background checks on buyers. There are also several restrictions as to the type of firearms that dealers may sell in California. State law bans the sale of assault weapons, or weapons capable of fully automatic, sustained fire. High-caliber rifles (such as .50 caliber rifles) are also ineligible for sale. California prohibits the sale of large capacity ammunition magazines capable of accepting more than ten rounds. The only exception to this rule is for .22 caliber rounds.

These are just a few of the basic gun laws in California, and it’s important for all citizens to understand their rights and obligations when it comes to firearm ownership in the state. If you have a criminal record, you may be able to have certain charges reclassified or expunged depending on your situation, so consult with a Riverside defense attorney if you are concerned about your record interfering with your Second Amendment rights in California.