FAQ

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Calguns Foundation FAQ:

Types of Firearms

What FIREARMS ARE LEGAL IN CALIFORNIA?

As usual, the list of ILLEGAL weapons is easier to describe.

New residents may bring almost anything except “assault weapons” and machine guns.

The law allows for ‘assault weapon permits’ and ‘machine gun permits’; those are in practice unobtainable.

Military personnel with permanent orders to California may get a Military Assault Weapon Permit (MAWP) before moving to California; contact the Department of Justice directly, or your post/base/station legal services. The permit does not allow you to buy new weapons California doesn’t like, only legally possess the ones you own before coming here. If you retire or complete your service in California, the MAWP is no longer valid and you must move the covered weapons out of state.

California thinks firearms such as the Taurus Judge are ‘short barreled shotguns’, and those are illegal.

The Handgun Roster refers to handguns dealers may sell – it has no effect on what you may own.

Current law enforcement (not retired) is exempt from the Handgun Roster, and may resell off-Roster handguns to non-LEO.


What is a registered “assault weapon”?

The emphasis here is on REGISTRATION.

California created its ‘assault weapon’ law in 1989.

Numerous rifles owned at that time were classified as ‘assault weapons’, and during 1990 the owners were supposed to submit a registration form and a fee to the state to register the weapons.

That process is DIFFERENT from the DROS when the rifles were originally purchased; upon successful registration, the State returned a letter verifying the registration.

Similarly, in 1999 the law was amended to include rifles by feature instead of by name. A new registration period was opened for 2000, with similar extra form, fees, and a confirmation letter.

All registration periods are ended. No ‘assault weapons’ may now be registered except by authorized law enforcement.

There is much confusion regarding ‘assault weapon’ registration; evidence suggests that many owners believed, in error, that the DROS at the original purchase was sufficient.

It is illegal to own an unregistered ‘assault weapon’.

It is illegal to transport an unregistered ‘assault weapon’.

It is foolish to post on Calguns “I have a weapon which may be an ‘assault weapon’ and I do not think it is registered.”

The standard advice for that situation is

  • do not say anything in a public forum known to be read by CA-DOJ and other law enforcement agencies;
  • immediately disassemble the weapon;
  • get a lawyer;
  • have the lawyer arrange the surrender of the weapon to local law enforcement.

What is an OFF LIST LOWER (OLL)?

An OFF LIST LOWER (OLL) is a part of a semiautomatic centerfire rifle which is NOT listed by name as a California ‘assault weapon’. A common example is a lower receiver for an AR-15 type rifle.

Such parts may be bought and sold, and carefully assembled into rifles to avoid manufacturing an ’assault weapon’ by combination of features.

The part of California Penal Code which allowed more ‘assault weapons’ to be added to the list was repealed, effective 2007.

How do I LEGALLY MANUFACTURE A FIREARM?

It is legal to make your own firearm for your own use, provided the one you build is legal for you to own in your state/municipality.

No license is required, either Federal or California.

There is no legal requirement for serialization or registration as long as you build a non-NFA firearm.

You may not make a firearm with the intent to sell it, unless you possess a valid manufacturer's license.

Possession Questions

Where can I HAVE A FIREARM?

California law allows handguns generally (Penal Code 12026)

  • anywhere within the citizen's or legal resident's place of residence
  • place of business
  • on private property owned or lawfully possessed by the citizen or legal resident

Handguns may generally be transported anywhere except onto school property and into certain public buildings.

Penal Code 12026.2 has a list of places, which it acknowledges is not exclusive:

  • firearms collector’s meetings
  • hunter safety classes or sporting events involving the firearm
  • fixed businesses that repair firearms
  • gun shows and swap meets
  • licensed target ranges
  • lawful campsites, if not otherwise prohibited

Holders of licenses to carry concealed weapons have more options.

Hunting regulations are outside the scope of this article.

How do I get a CONCEALED WEAPONS LICENSE?

In a large part of California, you don’t.

California law specifies that issuing authorities – Police Chiefs and County Sheriffs – MAY issue such a license.

If issued, the license is valid in the whole state, unless the issuer places restrictions on the license.

The applicant must not be a ‘prohibited person’, must apply with a fee and fingerprints, must complete any training the issuing authority specifies (within limits) and have “good cause”. The issuing authority is free to issue or refuse to issue for any reason or no reason.

“Good cause” is not defined in the Penal Code.

The cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose are, in practice, “no issue” outside of lawyers, judges and retired law enforcement. The rest of the state is variable; the details are outside the scope of this article.

The Penal Code is silent on alcohol use or presence and Concealed Weapons License holders. Some issuing authorities are not silent.

Carrying a concealed weapon without the license may be punished on the first occasion either as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on circumstances.


Transportation Questions

How do I legally transport a HANDGUN?

The easiest (but not the only) method to legally transport a handgun is

  • unloaded
  • in a secure locked case
Can I have ammunition in the same case and compartment as the gun?

Yes.

Can my magazines for semiautomatic handguns have ammunition in them?

Yes.

Can my speed loaders for revolvers have ammunition in them?

Yes.

Does my gun need to be transported in my trunk?

No law requires the locked case to be in a trunk of a vehicle; the locked case may be in any part of your vehicle that you like.

Can I keep a gun in my glove box?

No, you may not use the glove box or center console to transport your unloaded handgun unless the handgun is also in a separate locked case.

Can I transport the locked case in a backpack or a cargo container on a motorcycle?

Yes.

Is a "secure locked container" defined anywhere?

No, there is no legal definition of ‘secure locked container.' There many varieties offered commercially; if you don’t personally think one is ‘secure,' buy one you think is secure.

If I use a cable or trigger lock, do I still need a locked container?

Yes. A ‘cable lock’ or ‘trigger lock’ can NOT replace the locked container.

Can I put the gun in my trunk without a locked container?

Yes, your locked trunk can be used as the only locked container, but only if there the pass-through from the back seat is also locked. Separate locked containers are usually more convenient.

How do I legally transport a LONG GUN?

Unloaded, cased or not, visible or not.

It is convenient to have a case; that is not required.

It is less obvious to transport a long gun in a vehicle trunk; that is not required.

When traveling through Gun Free School Zones Federal law requires long guns to be in a locked container or a locked gun rack.

How do I legally transport AMMUNITION?

Transporting ammunition by ground inside California:

  • Ammunition may be transported in magazines or speed loaders, not inserted in any gun.
  • Ammunition may be transported in the same case and the same compartment of a case as a gun.
  • Ammunition need not be locked up for transport.

How do I legally transport a REGISTERED “ASSAULT WEAPON”?

Registered 'assault weapons' must be transported:

  • unloaded
  • in a locked case
  • only between authorized locations
  • only by the person to whom the weapon is registered

References

Moving to California With Firearms

History of 'Assault Weapon' laws

Best Way to Build a Legal Unregistered Gun?

Legal to Manufacture a Revolver in California for Personal Use?

BATFE FAQ

BATFE "Building A Firearm" PDF

California License to Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW)

Question about Concealed Weapons Permits in CA

Possession of UNregistered California "assault weapons"

Off List Lowers (OLL/OLR)

Defining loaded in California

Assault Weapon Transportation

What is "loaded" in California?


See also

Transporting a Firearm

CHP FAQ

NRA's Guide to the Interstate Transportation of Firearms