California's Law Against the Unlicensed Sale of Firearms
Penal Code Section 26500 PC

California Penal Code 26500 PC makes it a misdemeanor to sell, lease or transfer firearms without a valid permit.1

Violation of this California gun law can subject you to up to six months in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.  This is for every firearm you sell, lease, or transfer without a permit.2

The law against the unlicensed sale of firearms seems relatively straightforward.  But Penal Code 26500 and related statutes are full of exemptions and conditions.

As former cops and prosecutors, we have first-hand knowledge of firearms laws nuances.  And we understand how offenses are prosecuted and…more importantly… how they are defended.

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Below, our California criminal defense attorneys discuss the following:

1. The unlicensed sale of firearms under California Penal Code 26500 PC

1.1. Legal definition of "firearm"

1.2. Who may legally own or possess a gun in California?

1.3. People and transactions exempt from Penal Code 26500 PC

1.4. Requirement that ALL gun sales be completed through a licensed dealer

2. California Penal Code 26700 PC, licenses for firearm sales
3. Penalties for the unlicensed sale of a gun under California Penal Code 26500
4. Defenses to Penal Code 26500 PC, California's law against the unlicensed sale of firearms
1. The unlicensed sale of firearms under California Penal Code 26500 PC

California Penal Code 26500(a) states that no person shall sell, lease, or transfer firearms without a license to do so.  Even then, the transfer must be for the type of firearm authorized under the permit.3

1.1. Legal definition of "firearm"

Under California law, a gun or firearm is:

  1. any device,
  2. designed to be used as a weapon,
  3. from which is expelled through a barrel,
  4. a projectile,
  5. by the force of any explosion or other form of combustion."4

Examples: Examples of "firearms"…often generically referred to as "guns"…include (but are not limited to):

  • pistols,
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  • revolvers,
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  • handguns,
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  • rifles (including short-barreled rifles),
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  • shotguns (including short-barreled shotguns),
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and,

  • the frame or receiver of any of the above.5
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Also included in the definition of "firearms" are:

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  • rockets,
  • rocket propelled projectile launchers, and
  • similar devices containing an explosive or incendiary material.6

Such devices are illegal even if they are designed for emergency or distress signaling purposes.7

However, the following do not count as firearms for purposes of Penal Code 26500:

  • pellet guns,
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  • BB guns,
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and

  • unloaded "antique" firearms.8
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1.2. Who may legally own or possess a gun in California?

The following people are generally prohibited from acquiring or possessing a gun in California:

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  1. felons (that is, anyone convicted of any felony offense in any jurisdiction),9
  2. persons who are addicted to narcotics,10
  3. persons with two (2) or more convictions under Penal Code 417, California's law against brandishing a weapon,11
  4. persons convicted of certain misdemeanor offenses,12
  5. persons who suffer from mental illness,13 and
  6. minors (that is, anyone under 18).14

If you are prohibited from owning a gun, you are also prohibited from owning ammunition.15

Anyone else may possess a firearm or ammunition16 (other than armor piercing ammunition17). The only requirement is that in order to purchase a handgun, you must possess a valid handgun safety certificate.18

1.3. People and transactions exempt from Penal Code 26500 PC

Certain people, transactions, and firearms are exempt from prosecution under PC 26500.  These include (but are not limited to):

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  • People acting under operation of law or a court order;19
  • Law enforcement officers;20
  • People disposing of guns they've inherited;21
  • The infrequent transfer of personal firearms, including at gun shows;22
  • Transfers to and from federally authorized firearms importers, dealers and manufacturers;23
  • The temporary loan of firearms at target facilities;24
  • Use of unloaded firearms used as props in movies, television shows and other entertainment productions;25
  • Delivery of unloaded curios or relics to licensed collectors of antique firearms;26 and
  • Loan of a firearm to a gunsmith for repair.27
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Note, however, that even these exceptions have exceptions.  This is why it's critical that anyone charged with a firearm or weapon offense contact a criminal defense attorney.

A good California criminal defense attorney will be familiar with California gun laws and all of their nuances.

1.4. Requirement that ALL gun sales be completed through a licensed dealer

Some states allow individuals to sell firearms out of their homes, in newspaper ads, online, and even at garage sales.  These unlicensed individuals are exempt from conducting background checks of their buyers.  Thus they can sell guns to people otherwise banned from possessing or owning firearms.

California, however, requires that all transactions involving firearms…even those between private parties…must be completed through a licensed dealer.

Even the exceptions listed above…such as lawful "infrequent" transactions between unlicensed individuals…must ultimately be brokered through licensed dealers.28

Unlicensed individuals can arrange for the sale, lease, or transfer of firearms.  But a licensed dealer must be involved to complete the transaction.

2. California Penal Code 26700 PC -- licenses for firearm sales
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In order to obtain a California license to sell firearms…and therefore avoid prosecution under Penal Code 26500 PC…you must obtain and maintain all of the following:

    1. a valid federal firearms license,
    2. any regulatory or business license or licenses required by your local government,
    3. a valid seller's permit issued by the State Board of Equalization;
    4. a certificate of eligibility issued by the Department of Justice "DOJ" (NOTE: you are ineligible to receive a license if you are banned from owning, possessing, purchasing, or receiving firearms under Penal Code 29800 PC, California's felon with a firearm law);
    5. a local one-year license issued by the authorized licensing authority in one of the following forms:
a. in the form prescribed by the California Attorney General,

b. in a regulatory or business license that clearly states "Valid for retail sales of firearms" and is endorsed by the appropriate licensing agency, or

c. in a letter by the appropriate licensing agency that states that the jurisdiction does not require a license to sell firearms and/or does not restrict or regulate firearms sales;29
  1. a listing on the DOJ's centralized list of firearms dealers.30

A license to sell firearms doesn't give you the right to sell all firearms.  It means that you are licensed to sell the legal firearms specified on the permit.

Most firearm licenses are for "generic" firearms.  There are separate licensing requirements for dangerous weapons31 such as:

  • short-barreled rifles and short-barreled shotguns,32
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  • large capacity machine guns -- Penal Code section 32315 PC,33
  • machine guns - Penal Code 32700 PC,34
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  • destructive devices such as hand grenades – Penal Code 18900,35
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and

  • assault weapons and rifles - Penal Code 31005 PC.36

And even if you have a license, you violate the law if you sell illegal firearms.  Illegal firearms include (but are not limited to):

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  • "generally prohibited weapons."38
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"Generally prohibited weapons" include such items as hidden knives, nunchakus, and metal knuckles.  Also included are unconventional guns and firearm accessories, including short-barreled shotguns and rifles.39

If you violate one of the above laws, prosecutors could prosecute you and revoke your firearms license.

Similarly, if you fail to maintain any licensing requirements, the state will revoke your California license to sell firearms.  And if you sell, lease, or transfer firearms without a license, you face prosecution under Penal Code 26500.

Another way that you can forfeit your license is by failing to conduct a legitimate background check before selling firearms to an individual.  If you don't conduct a check…or you sell, lease, or transfer a firearm to someone who fails that check…the state could revoke your California license to sell firearms.

And if you continue to engage in transactions that involve selling, leasing, or transferring firearms after your license has been revoked, you subject yourself to prosecution.

3. Penalties for the unlicensed sale of a gun under California Penal Code 26500
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The unlicensed sale of a firearm in California is a misdemeanor.40

If convicted under PC 26500, you face:

  1. Up to six (6) months in county jail, and/or
  2. A fine of up to $1,000.41
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Such punishment is for each firearm you sell without a valid permit.42

4. Defenses to Penal Code 26500 PC, California's law against the unlicensed sale of firearms

Fortunately there are number of legal defenses to charges under California Penal Code 26500.

Often the police aren't as knowledgeable as they believe they are.  You may fall under one of the exceptions to this law…an exception the cops simply didn't recognize.

Or…perhaps you were entrapped into selling a gun to an undercover cop.  If you are an unlicensed dealer and only sold the weapon to the undercover decoy because he/she threatened you or coerced you into doing so, entrapment serves as a valid legal defense.43

Other types of police misconduct could also absolve you of criminal culpability under PC 26500.44

Examples: Examples of police misconduct include (but are not limited to):

  • the police coerced your confession;
  • an officer lied in his report;
  • a cop falsely testified about the facts of your case; or
  • your civil rights were violated in any other way.

California firearms offenses are no different than any other crime.  As Oakland criminal defense attorney Jim Hammer explains:45

"If your attorney has mastered the applicable laws and conducted a thorough investigation of the facts, he or she will know the most effective California legal defenses to present on your behalf."

Call us for help…
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If you or loved one is charged with Penal Code Section 26500 PC unlicensed sale of firearms and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys represent clients accused of violating Nevada's laws against the illegal sale of firearms.  For more information, we invite you to contact our local attorneys at one of our Nevada law offices, located in Reno and Las Vegas.46

Online Resource:

Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms.   Provided by the California Attorney General, this website contains information on the manufacture, sales, ownership, safety training, and transfer of firearms.

Legal References:

1 California Penal Code 26500.

(a) No person shall sell, lease, or transfer firearms unless the person has been issued a license pursuant to Article 1 (commencing with Section 26700) and Article 2 (commencing with Section 26800) of Chapter 2.

(b) Any person violating this article is guilty of a misdemeanor.

2 California Penal Code 17800 PC.

For purposes of the provisions listed in Section 16590, a violation as to each firearm, weapon, or device enumerated in any of those provisions shall constitute a distinct and separate offense.

3 See, for example, California Penal Code 26588 PC.

Section 26500 does not apply to any of the following:

(a) The sale, delivery, transfer, or return of a firearm regulated pursuant to Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 18710) of Division 5 of Title 2 by a person who holds a permit issued pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 18900) of that chapter [destructive devices], if the sale, delivery, transfer, or return is conducted in accordance with the   terms and conditions of the permit.

(b) The sale, delivery, transfer, or return of a firearm regulated pursuant to Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 30500) of Division 10 [assault weapons] by a person who holds a permit issued pursuant to Section 31005, if the sale, delivery, transfer, or return is conducted in accordance with the terms and conditions of the permit.

(c) The sale, delivery, transfer, or return of a firearm regulated pursuant to Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 32610) of Division 10 [sale of machine guns to law enforcement] by a person who holds a permit issued pursuant to Section 32650, if the sale, delivery, transfer, or return is conducted in accordance with the terms and conditions of the permit.

(d) The sale, delivery, transfer, or return of a firearm regulated pursuant to Article 2 (commencing with Section 33300) of Chapter 8 of Division 10 [unloaded short-barreled rifles and shotguns for use as entertainment props] by a person who holds a permit issued pursuant to Section 33300, if the sale, delivery, transfer, or return is conducted in accordance with the terms and conditions of the permit.

4 California Penal Code 16520(a).

As used in this part, "firearm" means a device, designed to be used as a weapon, from which is expelled through a barrel, a projectile by the force of an explosion or other form of combustion.

5 California Penal Code 16520 PC.

…(b)…"firearm" includes the frame or receiver of the weapon…

6 California Penal Code 16520(c) -- …"firearm" also includes a rocket, rocket propelled projectile launcher, or similar device containing an explosive or incendiary material, whether or not the device is designed for emergency or distress signaling purposes…

7 See same.

8 California Penal Code 16520(d) -- …"firearm" does not include an unloaded antique firearm…

See also California Penal Code 16170(b) -- As used in Section 16520… "antique firearm" has the same meaning as in Section 921(a)(16) of Title 18 of the United States Code.

See also California Penal Code 16250.  As used in this part, "BB device" means any instrument that expels a projectile, such as a BB or a pellet, not exceeding 6mm caliber, through the force of air pressure, gas pressure, or spring action, or any spot marker gun.

Note that this definition does not by its terms apply to Penal Code 16520.  However, since these weapons rely on the force of air pressure and not combustion, they do not qualify as firearms under Penal Code 16520 PC, California's law against the unlicensed sale of firearms.

9 California Penal Code 29800(a)(1) -- Any person who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of the United States, the State of California, or any other state, government, or country, or of an offense enumerated in subdivision (a), (b), or (d) of Section 23515, or who is addicted to the use of any narcotic drug, and who owns, purchases, receives, or has in possession or under custody or control any firearm is guilty of a felony…

(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), any person who has been convicted of a felony or of an offense enumerated in Section 23515, when that conviction results from certification by the juvenile court for prosecution as an adult in an adult court under Section 707 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, and who owns or has in possession or under custody or control any firearm is guilty of a felony.

(c) Subdivision (a) shall not apply to a person who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of the United States unless either of the following criteria is satisfied:

(1) Conviction of a like offense under California law can only result in imposition of felony punishment.

(2) The defendant was sentenced to a federal correctional facility for more than 30 days, or received a fine of more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or received both punishments.

10 See same.

11 California Penal Code 29800 (a)(2) --  Any person who has two or more convictions for violating paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 417 [California's law against brandishing a weapon] and who owns, purchases, receives, or has in possession or under custody or control any firearm is guilty of a felony.

12 California Penal Code 29805 – Except as provided in Section 29855 or subdivision (a) of Section 29800, any person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor violation of Section 71, 76, 136.1, 136.5, or 140, subdivision (d) of Section 148, Section 171b, paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 171c, 171d, 186.28, 240, 241, 242, 243, 243.4, 244.5, 245, 245.5, 246.3, 247, 273.5, 273.6, 417, 417.6, 422, 626.9, 646.9, or 830.95, subdivision (a) of former Section 12100, as that section read at any time from when it was enacted by Section 3 of Chapter 1386 of the Statutes of 1988 to when it was repealed by Section 18 of Chapter 23 of the Statutes of 1994, Section 17500, 17510, 25300, 25800, 30315, or 32625, subdivision (b) or (d) of Section 26100, or Section 27510, or Section 8100, 8101, or 8103 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, any firearm-related offense pursuant to Sections 871.5 and 1001.5 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, or of the conduct punished in subdivision (c) of Section 27590, and who, within 10 years of the conviction, owns, purchases, receives, or has in possession or under custody or control, any firearm is guilty of a public offense, which shall be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or in the state prison, by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. The court, on forms prescribed by the Department of Justice, shall notify the department of persons subject to this section. However, the prohibition in this section may be reduced, eliminated, or conditioned as provided in Section 29855 or 29860.

13 California Welfare and Institutions Code 8100.

14 California Penal Code 29610 PC -- A minor shall not possess a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.

15 California Penal Code 30305(a)(1) -- No person prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 29800) or Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 29900) of Division 9 of this title, or Section 8100 or 8103 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, shall own, possess, or have under custody or control, any ammunition or reloaded ammunition.

See also California Penal Code 16150 PC.

(a) As used in Section 30300, "ammunition" means handgun ammunition as defined in Section 16650.

(b) As used in subdivision (a) of Section 30305 and in Section 30306, "ammunition" includes, but is not limited to, any bullet, cartridge, magazine, clip, speed loader, autoloader, or projectile capable of being fired from a firearm with a deadly consequence. "Ammunition" does not include blanks.

See also California Penal Code 16650.

(a) As used in this part, "handgun ammunition" means ammunition principally for use in pistols, revolvers, and other firearms capable of being concealed upon the person, notwithstanding that the ammunition may also be used in some rifles.

(b) As used in Section 30312 and in Article 3 (commencing with Section 30345) of Chapter 1 of Division 10 of Title 4, "handgun ammunition" does not include either of the following:

(1) Ammunition designed and intended to be used in an antique firearm.

(2) Blanks.

16 California Penal Code 25605.

(a) Section 25400 and Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 26350) of Division 5 shall not apply to or affect any citizen of the United States or legal resident over the age of 18 years who resides or is temporarily within this state, and who is not within the excepted classes prescribed by Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 29800) or Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 29900) of Division 9 of this title, or Section 8100 or 8103 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, who carries, either openly or concealed, anywhere within the citizen's or legal resident's place of residence, place of business, or on private property owned or lawfully possessed by the citizen or legal resident, any handgun.

(b) No permit or license to purchase, own, possess, keep, or carry, either openly or concealed, shall be required of any citizen of the United States or legal resident over the age of 18 years who resides or is temporarily within this state, and who is not within the excepted classes prescribed by Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 29800) or Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 29900) of Division 9 of this title, or Section 8100 or 8103 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, to purchase, own, possess, keep, or carry, either openly or concealed, a handgun within the citizen's or legal resident's place of residence, place of business, or on private property owned or lawfully possessed by the citizen or legal resident.

(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed as affecting the application of Sections 25850 to 26055, inclusive.

17 California Penal Code 30315 PC.  Any person, firm, or corporation who, within this state knowingly possesses any handgun ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor is guilty of a public offense and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or in the county jail for a term not to exceed one year, or by a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

18 California Penal Code 31615 PC.

(a) No person shall do either of the following:

(1) Purchase or receive any handgun, except an antique firearm, without a valid handgun safety certificate.

(2) Sell, deliver, loan, or transfer any handgun, except an antique firearm, to any person who does not have a valid handgun safety certificate.

(b) Any person who violates subdivision (a) is guilty of a misdemeanor.

(c) The provisions of this section are cumulative, and shall not be construed as restricting the application of any other law. However, an act or omission punishable in different ways by different provisions of this code shall not be punished under more than one provision.

See also California Penal Code 16640 PC.

(a) As used in this part, "handgun" means any pistol, revolver, or firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.

(b) Nothing shall prevent a device defined as a "handgun" from also being found to be a short-barreled rifle or a short-barreled shotgun.

19 California Penal Code 26505 PC.  Section 26500 does not apply to the sale, lease, or transfer of any firearm by any of the following:

(a) A person acting pursuant to operation of law.

(b) A person acting pursuant to a court order.

(c) A person acting pursuant to the Enforcement of Judgments Law (Title 9 (commencing with Section 680.010) of Part 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

(d) A person who liquidates a personal firearm collection to satisfy a court judgment.

See also California Penal Code 26590 PC.

Section 26500 does not apply to deliveries, transfers, or returns of firearms made by a court or a law enforcement agency pursuant to Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 33850) of Division 11.

20 California Penal Code 26510 PC.  Section 26500 does not apply to a person acting pursuant to subdivision (f) of Section 186.22a [confiscated weapons] or Section 18000 or 18005 [surrendered weapons].

See also California Penal Code 26540 PC.  Section 26500 does not apply to deliveries and transfers of firearms made pursuant to Sections 18000 and 18005 [surrendered weapons], pursuant to Division 4 (commencing with Section 18250) of Title 2 [weapons taken during domestic violence calls], or pursuant to Sections 34005 and 34010 [delivery of surrendered weapons to a commanding officer].

21 California Penal Code 26515 PC.  Section 26500 does not apply to the sale, lease, or transfer of a firearm if both of the following conditions are satisfied:

(a) The sale, lease, or transfer is made by a person who obtains title to the firearm by intestate succession or bequest, or as a surviving spouse pursuant to Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 13500) of Part 2 of Division 8 of the Probate Code.

(b) The person disposes of the firearm within 60 days of receipt of the firearm.

22 California Penal Code 26520 PC.

(a) Section 26500 does not apply to the infrequent sale, lease, or transfer of firearms.

(b) As used in this section, "infrequent" has the meaning provided in Section 16730.

See also California Penal Code 26525 PC.

(a) Section 26500 does not apply to the sale, lease, or transfer of used firearms, other than handguns, at gun shows or events, as specified in Article 1 (commencing with Section 26700) and Article 2 (commencing with Section 26800) of Chapter 2, by a person other than a licensee or dealer, provided the person has a valid federal firearms license and a current certificate of eligibility issued by the Department of Justice, as specified in Section 26710, and provided all the sales, leases, or transfers fully comply with Section 27545. However, the person shall not engage in the sale, lease, or transfer of used firearms other than handguns at more than 12 gun shows or events in any calendar year and shall not sell, lease, or transfer more than 15 used firearms other than handguns at any single gun show or event. In no event shall the person sell more than 75 used firearms other than handguns in any calendar year.

(b) The Department of Justice shall adopt regulations to administer this program and shall recover the full costs of administration from fees assessed applicants.

23 See California Penal Code sections 26530, 26535, 26550, 26555, 26560, 26565, 26570, and 26575 PC.

24 California Penal Code 26545 PC.  Section 26500 does not apply to the loan of a firearm for the purposes of shooting at targets, if the loan occurs on the premises of a target facility that holds a business or regulatory license or on the premises of any club or organization organized for the purposes of practicing shooting at targets upon established ranges, whether public or private, if the firearm is at all times kept within the premises of the target range or on the premises of the club or organization.

25 California Penal Code 26580 PC.  Section 26500 does not apply to the loan of an unloaded firearm or the loan of a firearm loaded with blank cartridges for use solely as a prop for a motion picture, television, or video production or entertainment or theatrical event.

26 California Penal Code 26585 PC.  Section 26500 does not apply to the delivery of an unloaded firearm that is a curio or relic, as defined in Section 478.11 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations, if the delivery satisfies all of the following conditions:

(a) It is made by a person licensed as a collector pursuant to Chapter 44 (commencing with Section 921) of Title 18 of the United States Code and the regulations issued pursuant thereto.

(b) It is made by a person with a current certificate of eligibility issued pursuant to Section 26710.

(c) It is made to a dealer.

27 California Penal Code 26587 PC.  Section 26500 does not apply to either of the following:

(a) A loan of a firearm to a gunsmith for service or repair.

(b) The return of the firearm by the gunsmith.

28California Department of Justice, Attorney General, Frequently Asked Questions about California Firearms:

"What is the process for purchasing a firearm in California?

All firearms purchases and transfers, including private party transactions and sales at gun shows, must be made through a licensed dealer under the Dealer Record of Sale (DROS) process.  California imposes a 10-day waiting period before a firearm can be released to a buyer or transferee.  A person must be at least 18 years of age to purchase a rifle or shotgun.  To buy a handgun, a person must be at least 21 years of age, and either 1) possess an HSC plus successfully complete a safety demonstration with the handgun being purchased or 2) qualify for an HSC exemption.

As part of the DROS process, the buyer must present "clear evidence of identity and age" which is defined as a valid, non-expired California Driver's License or Identification Card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles.  A military identification accompanied by permanent duty station orders indicating a posting in California is also acceptable.  If the buyer is not a U.S. Citizen, then he or she is required to demonstrate that he or she is legally within the United States by providing to the firearms dealer with documentation that contains his/her Alien Registration Number or I-94 Number.

Purchasers of handguns are also required to provide proof of California residency, such as a utility bill, residential lease, property deed, or government-issued identification (other than a drivers license or other DMV-issued identification)."

29 California Penal Code 26705 PC.

(a) The duly constituted licensing authority of a city, county, or a city and county shall accept applications for, and may grant licenses permitting, licensees to sell firearms at retail within the city, county, or city and county. The duly constituted licensing authority shall inform applicants who are denied licenses of the reasons for the denial in writing.

(b) No license shall be granted to any applicant who fails to provide a copy of the applicant's valid federal firearms license, valid seller's permit issued by the State Board of Equalization, and the certificate of eligibility described in Section 26710.

(c) A license granted by the duly constituted licensing authority of any city, county, or city and county, shall be valid for not more than one year from the date of issuance and shall be in one of the following forms:

(1) In the form prescribed by the Attorney General.

(2) A regulatory or business license that states on its face "Valid for Retail Sales of Firearms" and is endorsed by the signature of the issuing authority.

(3) A letter from the duly constituted licensing authority having primary jurisdiction for the applicant's intended business location stating that the jurisdiction does not require any form of regulatory or business license or does not otherwise restrict or regulate the sale of firearms.

(d) Local licensing authorities may assess fees to recover their full costs of processing applications for licenses.

30 California Penal Code 26700 PC.

As used in this division, and in any other provision listed in Section 16580, "dealer," "licensee," or "person licensed pursuant to Sections 26700 to 26915, inclusive" means a person who satisfies all of the following requirements:

(a) Has a valid federal firearms license.

(b) Has any regulatory or business license, or licenses, required by local government.

(c) Has a valid seller's permit issued by the State Board of Equalization.

(d) Has a certificate of eligibility issued by the Department of Justice pursuant to Section 26710.

(e) Has a license issued in the format prescribed by subdivision (c) of Section 26705.

(f) Is among those recorded in the centralized list specified in Section 26715.

31 See State of California DANGEROUS WEAPONS LICENSE/PERMIT(S) APPLICATION.

32 California Penal Code 33300 PC.

(a) Upon a showing that good cause exists for issuance of a permit to the applicant, and if the Department of Justice finds that issuance of the permit does not endanger the public safety, the department may issue a permit for the manufacture, possession, importation, transportation, or sale of short-barreled rifles or short-barreled shotguns. The permit shall be initially valid for a period of one year, and renewable annually thereafter. No permit shall be issued to a person who is under 18 years of age.

(b) Good cause, for the purposes of this section, shall be limited to only the following:

(1) The permit is sought for the manufacture, possession, importation, or use with blank cartridges, of a short-barreled rifle or short-barreled shotgun, solely as a prop for a motion picture, television, or video production or entertainment event.

(2) The permit is sought for the manufacture of, exposing for sale, keeping for sale, sale of, importation or lending of short-barreled rifles or short-barreled shotguns to the entities listed in Section 33220 by persons who are licensed as dealers or manufacturers under the provisions of Chapter 53 (commencing with Section 5801) of Title 26 of the United States Code, as amended, and the regulations issued pursuant thereto.

33 California Penal Code 32315 PC.

Upon a showing that good cause exists, the Department of Justice may issue permits for the possession, transportation, or sale between a person licensed pursuant to Sections 26700 to 26915, inclusive, and an out-of-state client, of large-capacity magazines.

34 California Penal Code 32700 PC.

The Department of Justice may grant a license to permit the sale of machineguns at the place specified in the license, subject to all of the following conditions:

(a) The business shall be carried on only in the place designated in the license.

(b) The license or a certified copy of the license must be displayed on the premises in a place where it may easily be read.

(c) No machinegun shall be delivered to any person not authorized to receive the machinegun under the provisions of this chapter.

(d) A complete record must be kept of sales made under the authority of the license, showing the name and address of the purchaser, the descriptions and serial numbers of the weapons purchased, the number and date of issue of the purchaser's permit, if any, and the signature of the purchaser or purchasing agent. This record shall be open to the inspection of any peace officer or other person designated by the Attorney General.

35 California Penal Code 18900 PC.

(a) Every dealer, manufacturer, importer, and exporter of any destructive device, or any motion picture or television studio using destructive devices in the conduct of its business, shall obtain a permit for the conduct of that business from the Department of Justice.

(b) Any person, firm, or corporation not mentioned in subdivision (a) shall obtain a permit from the Department of Justice in order to possess or transport any destructive device. No permit shall be issued to any person who meets any of the following criteria:

(1) Has been convicted of any felony.

(2) Is addicted to the use of any narcotic drug.

(3) Is prohibited by state or federal law from possessing, receiving, owning, or purchasing a firearm.

(c) An application for a permit shall comply with all of the following:

(1) It shall be filed in writing.

(2) It shall be signed by the applicant if an individual, or by a member or officer qualified to sign if the applicant is a firm or corporation.

(3) It shall state the name, business in which engaged, business address, and a full description of the use to which the destructive devices are to be put.

(d) Applications and permits shall be uniform throughout the state on forms prescribed by the Department of Justice.

36 California Penal Code 31005 PC.

(a) The Department of Justice may, upon a finding of good cause, issue permits for the manufacture or sale of assault weapons or .50 BMG rifles for the sale to, purchase by, or possession of assault weapons or .50 BMG rifles by, any of the following:

(1) The agencies listed in Section 30625, and the officers described in Section 30630.

(2) Entities and persons who have been issued permits pursuant to this section or Section 31000.

(3) Federal law enforcement and military agencies.

(4) Law enforcement and military agencies of other states.

(5) Foreign governments and agencies approved by the United States State Department.

(6) Entities outside the state who have, in effect, a federal firearms dealer's license solely for the purpose of distribution to an entity listed in paragraphs (3) to (5), inclusive.

(b) Application for the permits, the keeping and inspection thereof, and the revocation of permits shall be undertaken in the same manner as specified in Article 3 (commencing with Section 32650) of Chapter 6.

37 California Penal Code 30600 PC.

(a) Any person who, within this state, manufactures or causes to be manufactured, distributes, transports, or imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives or lends any assault weapon or any .50 BMG rifle, except as provided by this chapter, is guilty of a felony, and upon conviction shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for four, six, or eight years.

(b) In addition and consecutive to the punishment imposed under subdivision (a), any person who transfers, lends, sells, or gives any assault weapon or any .50 BMG rifle to a minor in violation of subdivision (a) shall receive an enhancement of imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of one year.

(c) Except in the case of a first violation involving not more than two firearms as provided in Sections 30605 and 30610, for purposes of this article, if more than one assault weapon or .50 BMG rifle is involved in any violation of this article, there shall be a distinct and separate offense for each.

38 Included in the definition of "generally prohibited weapons" under California Penal Code 16590 PC are various types of firearms and firearm accessories such as:

  • camouflaging firearm containers,
  • cane gun,
  • firearms that are not immediately recognizable as firearms,
  • large-capacity magazines,
  • multiburst trigger activators,
  • short-barreled rifles and short-barreled shotguns,
  • unconventional pistols,
  • undetectable firearms,
  • wallet guns, and
  • zip guns.

39 See California Penal Code 16590 PC.

40 California Penal Code 26500(b) -- Any person violating this article is guilty of a misdemeanor.

41 California Penal Code 19 PC -- Misdemeanor punishment.     Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both

42 California Penal Code 17800 PC -- For purposes of the provisions listed in Section 16590, a violation as to each firearm, weapon, or device enumerated in any of those provisions shall constitute a distinct and separate offense.

43 Under California law, entrapment refers to a situation where a "normally law abiding person" is induced to commit a crime that he/she otherwise would not have committed.  Entrapment only serves as a legal defense when the situation involves overbearing official conduct, seen in the form of pressure, harassment, fraud, flattery, or threats.  If you can prove that you only sold the firearm because you were induced or coerced into doing so, you may be acquitted of Penal Code 26500 PC, California's law against the unlicensed sale of firearms.

44 "Police misconduct" is a broad term that covers a variety of acts.  The bottom line is that anytime an officer violates any of your constitutional or civil rights, that misconduct serves to absolve you of at least some of your criminal culpability.

45 Oakland criminal defense attorney Jim Hammer uses his inside knowledge as a former San Francisco Deputy District Attorney to defend clients accused of violating California's law against the unlicensed sale of firearms throughout the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Berkeley, Marin County, and San Jose.  If you would like to schedule a consultation with Mr. Hammer, please contact him at Shouse Law Group.

46 Please feel free to contact our Nevada criminal defense attorneys Michael Becker and Neil Shouse for any questions relating to the illegal sale of firearms in Nevada. Their Nevada law offices are located in Reno and Las Vegas.

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