Time Line of California Firearms Laws

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Time Line of California Firearms Laws

See also the section on Important Cases for legal actions regarding firearms.

Dealer's Record of Sale (DROS), 1924

DROS was implemented by AB 263-Hawes, introduced in 1923 and effective August 7, 1924. Licensed dealers were, and are, required to report handgun sales to the state.

Electronic versions of DROS were specified in AB 671 (Peace) in 1997. (link below)

See also Firearms registration.

Concealed weapons illegal without permit, 1924 and later

While there had been some earlier restrictions, that same Hawes bill replaced the prior carry license law. Current prohibitions are enacted in Penal Code 25400.

Loaded guns in public banned - Mulford Act, 1967

A frightened California legislature passed the Mulford Act (AB 1591) which gave us 12031.

State pre-emption of the field of licensing and registration for guns, 1969

From Sippel v. Nelder, 24 Cal.App.3d 176 (1st. Dist 1972)

In Galvan v. Superior Court (1969) 70 Cal.2d 851 ... our
Supreme Court was called upon to determine whether a San
Francisco ordinance providing for the registration of firearms
was unlawful because it was in conflict with or impliedly
preempted by the state laws concerning weapons. The court
held that the ordinance was valid because the state Legislature
had not evinced the intent to preempt the field of gun
registration and the ordinance did not provide for a "license"
or "permit" in violation of Penal Code, section 12026.
     Following the Galvan decision, the Legislature in 1969
enacted Government Code, section 9619, which effectively
eliminated any doubt as to the legislative intent to occupy the
entire field of registration and licensing of firearms.

Firearms purchase waiting periods

Actually beginning with one day for handguns in 1923, the California Legislature increased the handgun waiting period from one to three days in 1955, to five days in 1965, and to 15 days in 1975. (See a critical article on waiting periods by Clayton Cramer.) The current wait is 10 days from AB 671, effective April 1, 1997.

First round of 'Assault Weapons' laws (by name): Roberti-Roos, 1990

The 1989 Patrick Purdy/Stockton incident finally gave the last push to this bill, giving us Penal Code 12275 and following. See also The History of Assault Weapon Laws.

Required Sales Through Dealers, 1991

Prior to 1991, firearms sales could be private; after 1991, Penal Code 12070 required substantially all sales to use a California-licensed FFL dealer.

See also Buying and selling firearms in California.

Intra-family transfers, 1992?

Some family members were exempted from the use-a-dealer requirement by Penal Code 12078, added to the Penal Code by some currently unknown bill, prior to January 1993. AB166, introduced in January 1993, includes the family transfer language as existing code. See also Transferring Firearms Among Some Family Members.

Basic Firearms Safety Certificate, 1994

Now superseded, this was a lifetime certificate needed for handgun purchase, until 2003. See also The Handgun Safety Certificate.

California Gun Free School Zones, 1994

Penal Code 626.9 was created by 1994 AB 645. See also Gun Free School Zones. (Current Federal law is from 1995, re-passed after the 1990 version was deemed unconstitutional.)

License not required to own, 1996

AB 92 amended Penal Code 12026 to include the (b) language prohibiting a license to own firearms and added more 12026.2 exceptions to handgun concealed carry violations if carried unloaded and in a locked case between some destinations.

Armor piercing handgun ammunition banned, 1996

AB 99

Personal Handgun Importer

AB 991 Shelley and Perata, 1997, created the requirement that persons moving to California must register their handguns. Expanded effective 2014 to include long guns.

Second round of 'Assault Weapons' laws (by feature): SB23, 2000

1999's other major change, SB23, gave us the 'by feature' 'assault weapons' laws.

The same bill also gave us the 'large-capacity magazine' restrictions.

1 Handgun in 30 days

1999's AB202, Chaptered in July of 1999, added Penal Code 12072 (a)(9):

  (9) (A) No person shall make an application to purchase more
than one pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being
concealed upon the person within any 30-day period.

Since it was not an 'urgency' bill, and had no other language specifying an effective date, it took effect on January 1, 2000.

Roster of Handguns (Safe Gun list), 2001

1998 bill SB15 created the Roster, effective January 1, 2001. See also The Safe Handgun List.

Handgun Safety Certificate, 2003

This replacement for the Basic Firearms Safety Certificate has different exemption rules than the older document, and this one expires. See also The Handgun Safety Certificate

This was added to the Penal Code by SB 52 in 2001; it also included the requirement to prove California residency for handgun purchases.

SB52 also introduced the requirement that DROS should be reported only electronically, beginning Jan 1, 2003.

Open Carry of Unloaded Handguns Banned, 2011

2011's AB 144 made it illegal to carry unloaded handguns openly; the Mulford Act (see above) ban applied to all loaded firearms.

Long Gun Registration, effective 2014

2011's AB 809 introduced long gun registration via DROS and self-reporting for new residents and Curio and Relic license holders. The bill has an effective date of January 1, 2014.

Open Carry of Unloaded Long Guns Banned, effective 2013

2012's AB 1527 provides generally that unloaded long guns, outside a vehicle, must be enclosed in a case.

Firearms Safety Certificate, effective 2015

The test and certificate requirement for handguns was expanded to include long guns, and the newly created Firearms Safety Certificate is required for long gun purchases beginning 2015. A valid Handgun Safety Certificate is usable for handgun purchases until it expires.