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CA’s Open Carry Laws: Penal Code 25850 & 26510

Posted in General FAQ'S on April 19, 2017

California has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States. California firearm owners need to understand the state’s gun laws, or they risk facing stiff penalties and possibly even criminal prosecution. While the gun registration and purchasing laws in the state are generally straightforward, California’s open carry laws have been a hot topic of public discussion recently, and it’s vital to understand the open carry laws in California.

Graham Donath, Riverside weapons attorney, explains the latest open carry laws for California residents below.

What is Open Carry? 

Open carry means carrying a firearm in plain view, such as on a waistband or underarm holster that is completely visible to others.

Some Americans believe open carry is intimidating and encourages unsafe behaviors, while supporters of open carry laws claim that the visibility of firearms in the possession of law-abiding citizens deters criminal activity.

Prior to January 2012, California law permitted the open carry of unloaded firearms. The enactment of Penal Code 26350 made this practice illegal. For years, carrying a concealed firearm has been illegal in California, as is carrying a loaded handgun. With this new law, carrying any type of firearm on your person, loaded or unloaded, is against the California Penal Code and entails harsh penalties.

Gun rights advocates argue the sense of this law, citing the fact that generally criminals do not openly carry firearms if they intend to use them to commit crimes. Lawmakers continue to suggest that no one has legitimate cause to openly carry firearms.

What are the Penalties for California Open Carry Laws?

Under the new law, openly carrying an unloaded handgun is a misdemeanor. Anyone violating the California open carry law with an unloaded handgun faces up to $1,000 in fines and up to a year in county jail. Openly carrying a loaded firearm incurs much harsher punishments under California Penal Code 25850, including steeper fines and up to three years in prison.

The only time you may legally carry an unloaded firearm in the open is if you are transporting it to, from, or within a car while the firearm is in a locked container, or carrying a firearm that cannot be concealed on the person, such as a shotgun or long rifle. Additionally, for either case to apply, you must have a permit to carry a firearm. Police officers may inspect firearms to ensure they are not loaded, but must only do so in a legal capacity. Police misconduct and illegal search and seizures are two of the most common defenses when facing open carry violations for unloaded firearms.

Concealed Carry in CA & Penal Code 26150 and 26155

Generally speaking, it is illegal to publicly carry a firearm in the state of California, regardless of whether or not the firearm is loaded. While concealing a firearm is also against the law, some California residents may qualify for special concealed carry permits.

Under California Penal Code 26150 and 26155 PC, a person may qualify for a concealed carry permit if he or she meets the following criteria:

  • The applicant must not have a criminal history and must be “of good moral character.”
  • There is reason to believe that the applicant or a family member may be in immediate danger.
  • The applicant meets all necessary residency requirements.
  • The applicant has completed an acceptable amount of professional firearms training.

It’s important to note that the concealed carry permit does not make concealing a firearm legal for the permit holder, but rather allows the permit holder to carry firearms that he or she could conceal.

Defending Against Weapons Violations

Due to California’s generally strict anti-gun stance, if you face charges for open or concealed carry violations, your best move is to retain the services of a reputable defense attorney. In some situations, the court may decide that the typical punishments do not serve the interests of justice for your case. A reliable Riverside weapons attorney will argue the facts of your case in your favor.