Moving to California with firearms

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Moving to California with Firearms
A person moving to California may bring his/her firearms.

The Handgun Roster does not apply to handguns moved here.

Firearms must be registered by mail within 60 days of the date when the gun is moved into the state. Beginning 2014, both long guns and hand guns are registered.

Importing what California calls an 'assault weapon' is illegal.

Generally, magazines greater than 10 rounds may not be imported. 'Parts kits' or 'disassembled large-capacity magazines' are illegal to import as of 2014.

Visiting CA is the same as Moving to CA - except a visitor need not register anything.

Bring your guns when you move here

Plan to bring all the California-legal guns you own when you move here.

California law merely requires that you register the guns within 60 days of bringing them into the state; that appears to allow a long process.

Federal law seems to interact with this differently. To leave a gun behind, in custody of family or friends in some other state, can appear that the guns were actually transferred to those custodians. Later transfer to the new California resident would require transfer through a California FFL - even though ownership did not change.

Firearms must be registered

If one brings Firearms into the state when moving here, one is defined to be a personal firearms importer. PC 27560 (old 12072(f)(2)) (added by AB 991, 1997) (UPDATE: was 'handguns', became 'firearms' effective January 1, 2014.) requires

(a) Within 60 days of bringing a handgun, and commencing
January 1, 2014, any firearm, into this state, a personal firearm
importer shall do one of the following:
  (1) Forward by prepaid mail or deliver in person to the
Department of Justice, a report prescribed by the department
including information concerning that individual and a
description of the firearm in question.
  (2) Sell or transfer the firearm in accordance with the
provisions of Section 27545 or in accordance with the provisions
of an exemption from Section 27545.
  (3) Sell or transfer the firearm to a dealer licensed pursuant
to Sections 26700 to 26915, inclusive.
  (4) Sell or transfer the firearm to a sheriff or police

Note that the requirement is to do one of those things within 60 days of bringing the gun into the state, not the date you move here. So long as you owned the handgun legally out of state, you may move it here.

What if I 'forget'?

Penal Code 27570 says you will not be prosecuted

... if evidence of that violation arises only as the result of the person
submitting the report described in Section 27560 or 27565.

Better not to forget, but this is one of the few places in California gun law with a clear 'recovery path' for a mistake.

The registration form

CA-DOJ keeps many forms on line. The .PDF version of the personal firearm importer form, referenced in (2)(A)(i), above, is New Resident Handgun Ownership Report. In 2014, the fee required on this form is a $19 processing fee, for all the guns reported at one time. (Prior to 2014 this was $19 for each gun.)

Military exempted

Since orders to California are not necessarily permanent, military are exempt from the new-resident handgun registration. If the service member separates in California such registration would be appropriate at that time. PC 17000(a) (old 12001(n))

  (6) He or she moves into this state on or after January 1, 1998,
as a resident of this state.

and PC 17000 (b)

  (b) For purposes of paragraph (6) of subdivision (a):
  (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), residency shall be
determined in the same manner as is the case for establishing
residency pursuant to Section 12505 of the Vehicle Code.
  (2) In the case of a member of the Armed Forces of the United
States, residency shall be deemed to be established when the
individual was discharged from active service in this state.

Long Guns

Long guns must be reported by mail when they are moved into the state. Use the same New Resident form as you might use for handguns.

Long guns must not be California 'assault weapons'

Visitors and new residents may not bring what California calls 'assault weapons' into the state. See the Semiautomatic Rifle Flow Chart for a short discussion.

The discussion of what makes a long gun a California 'assault weapon' is outside the scope of this article.

Active Duty Military and 'assault weapons'

In 2011, the MAWP program was altered to require the signature of one's base/post commander verifying that the weapon is required for duty use. That requirement has, in practice, killed the program.

Active duty military with PCS (permanent change of station) orders to California and who own personal weapons California defines as 'assault weapons' should contact the California Department of Justice regarding a Military Assault Weapon Permit (MAWP). CA-DOJ also suggests you contact your base/station/post legal staff for assistance.

With a MAWP, the service member may bring those weapons on the permit into California.

Once obtained, the MAWP may be renewed annually. If the service member separates from Active Duty while in California, the MAWP is no longer effective, and the 'assault weapons' become illegal and must be removed from the state or otherwise handled according to law.

DOJ Contact Information:

General Information Phone: (916) 263-4887 Fax: (916) 263-0676

Assault Weapon Registration and Special Weapon Permits Phone: (916) 263-8100 Fax: (916) 263-0790

Department of Justice Firearms Licensing and Permits Section - MAWP PO Box 160367 Sacramento, CA 95816-0367

Bureau of Firearms P.O. Box 820200 Sacramento, CA 94203-0200


Handguns are exempt from Roster

Handguns moved here from out of state are exempt from California's Roster of Handguns

Handguns must not be 'assault weapons'

Handguns must not be California 'assault weapons' per Penal Code 30515 (old 12276.1)

  (4) A semiautomatic pistol that has the capacity to accept a
detachable magazine and any one of the following:
  (A) A threaded barrel, capable of accepting a flash suppressor,
forward handgrip, or silencer.
  (B) A second handgrip.
  (C) A shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely
encircles, the barrel that allows the bearer to fire the weapon
without burning his or her hand, except a slide that encloses the
  (D) The capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location
outside of the pistol grip.
  (5) A semiautomatic pistol with a fixed magazine that has the
capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.

Magazines must be 10 rounds or fewer

With the law as it is in December 2008, it is illegal to bring large-capacity magazines, magazines holding 11 or more rounds, into California, even if the magazines and gun using them were legally owned outside of California, and even if there are no 10-round or fewer magazines made for your gun.

This is true for both long guns and handguns.

Parts kits and disassembled large-capacity magazines illegal to import

A result of AB 48 (2013), beginning 2014 parts kits may not be imported.