What Does It Take To Legally Own a Gun in California?

In 2023, the legal landscape surrounding firearms ownership in California has continued to evolve, with a focus on enhancing safety measures while respecting the rights of responsible gun owners. Southern California, known for its diverse communities and urban areas, has unique considerations when it comes to firearms ownership. In this chapter, we will explore in more detail the legal requirements and responsibilities of gun owners in Southern California, offering guidance based on the most recent California laws.

Firearm Eligibility

To legally own a firearm in California, you must meet certain eligibility criteria, which include being over 21 years old for handguns and long guns like hinting rifles; having valid identification; and having no criminal record. These are just the basic requirements that should be fulfilled while considering getting a gun in California. However, there are more hoops that you need to jump to legally own a gun.

California law also imposes additional restrictions on the sale, supply, delivery, or transfer of firearms to people under the age of 21. This includes both handguns and other types of firearms. However, there are certain exemptions for members of the Armed Forces or law enforcement, as well as for the sale or transfer of certain firearms other than handguns and semiautomatic rifles to licensed hunters over the age of 18.

Moreover, ammunition may not be sold to any purchaser under age 18, and a person must be at least age 18 to obtain a Firearm Safety Certificate, which is required to purchase or acquire firearms in most circumstances.
It’s important to note that these rules apply to licensed firearms dealers, and there may be additional considerations for private sales or transfers.

Firearm Registration

In some cases, carrying or being in possession of an unregistered firearm can potentially lead to gun charges. California’s gun laws typically also include registration requirements for certain firearms and under specific conditions. For example, if you purchased a handgun after 1991 or a long gun after 2014 through a dealer, it is likely already registered. This is because California requires dealers to report these sales, effectively registering the firearms at the point of sale. Similarly, if you bought a handgun before 1968 or a long gun before 2014 in California, these firearms might not be registered, as the reporting requirements were different during those periods. Other firearms that don’t require registration include antique firearms, generally, those manufactured before 1899; firearms acquired through inheritance if they were legal for the deceased to own; and certain curio or relic firearms, as defined by federal law, particularly those over 50 years old and of interest to collectors.
If you move to California with firearms, you are considered a “personal firearm importer” and must report your firearms to the Department of Justice within 60 days of moving. This is required for any firearm, regardless of when it was initially purchased.
It’s important to note that while some of these firearms may not require registration, owners must still comply with all other relevant laws and regulations related to their possession and use.
Background Checks

All firearm purchasers, whether from a licensed dealer or in a private transaction, are subject to background checks through the California Department of Justice. This process ensures that individuals with disqualifying factors, such as felony convictions or restraining orders, cannot legally purchase firearms.

Storage and Transportation

Proper storage and transportation of firearms are essential responsibilities of gun owners in California. Firearms must be stored in a locked container or with a locking device that prevents unauthorized access. This is particularly important to prevent accidents involving minors or unauthorized users (Pen. Code, 25100). A violation of improper storage could easily lead to related charges like child endangerment. When it comes to transporting firearms in a vehicle, they must be unloaded and stored in a locked container or the vehicle’s trunk. Ammunition must be stored separately from firearms.

Assault Weapons Laws

The Department of Justice lists specific handguns, rifles, and shotguns that you can legally purchase in California. However, the state has strict regulations regarding assault weapons and high-capacity magazines where possession, sale, or transfer of assault weapons is heavily restricted under Penal Codes 30600, 30605, and 30610. Assault weapons are also sometimes referred to as “weapons of war” because they have certain enhancements designed to efficiently kill or do the most damage. Assault weapons have been banned in California since 1989 but recently the ban has been facing resistance from the Federal courts and parties who want the ban overturned.

Concealed Carry Permit

Obtaining a concealed carry permit (CCW) in California can be challenging due to stringent “may-issue” policies. Local law enforcement agencies have discretion in issuing CCWs, and currently, applicants must demonstrate their moral character for carrying a concealed weapon, although this is currently being challenged in SB2. This legislation came into effect following a Supreme Court decision in 2022, which found that licensing schemes requiring applicants to demonstrate “good cause” to carry firearms are unconstitutional. As a result, SB 2 replaced California’s “good cause” and “good moral character” requirements for CCW licenses.

Other requirements that are taken into account when issuing permits include proving that you’re over 21 years old, that you own the gun, that you reside in the county/city where you’re seeing the permit, and finally, that you have completed an approved firearms training class.

Apart from the standard requirements that Southern Californians must pass, gun owners in California also have legal responsibilities to meet once they have a firearm. Such responsibilities include reporting lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement within five days; adhering to restrictions on the sale and transfer of firearms to prohibited individuals; complying with mandatory waiting periods for firearm purchases and understanding the potential criminal and civil liabilities associated with firearm use.

Guidance from an Attorney on Owning Firearms

California’s firearm laws are in their own right, complicated and constantly be updated. Seeking guidance from an attorney who specializes in firearm regulations and criminal defense is advisable. An experienced attorney can provide valuable insights into general compliance changing laws, and various legal challenges that may occur as a result of gun use like self-defense laws.

Compliance with Local Regulations and Changing Laws

California’s firearm laws can vary at the local level, with some jurisdictions imposing additional restrictions. Laws are also constantly changing to adapt to societal needs. An attorney can help gun owners understand these local regulations, ensuring that they remain in compliance with all applicable laws. Experienced attorneys also need to stay informed about the latest legal developments, ensuring that their practice remains in compliance with the most recent regulations.

Legal Challenges

In the event of legal challenges related to firearm ownership, such as issues with background checks, denied permits, or confiscated firearms, an attorney can advocate on behalf of the gun owner, protecting their rights and ensuring due process. In cases where individuals wish to pass firearms to their heirs or beneficiaries, estate planning can be complex due to California’s stringent regulations. An attorney can help gun owners through this process and ensure that their firearms are transferred legally.

Another legal challenge that may come up involves the use of firearms for self-defense. Understanding the use of firearms for self-defense is important because it could mean the difference between facing gun charges and legitimately defending oneself in a life-threatening situation. California has specific laws governing self-defense and the use of deadly force. CDH can provide guidance on when and how a firearm can be legally used for self-defense and help gun owners avoid legal pitfalls.

California’s firearm laws are subject to frequent changes and updates. An attorney can help gun owners stay informed about the latest legal developments, ensuring that they remain in compliance with the most recent regulations.

At Criminal Defense Heroes, P.C., our attorneys have years of experience defending the gun rights of Californians. We understand the nuances of the law and the best strategies for maintaining Second Amendment rights. Contact us today at 323-529-3660 for a free consultation.