Every crime in California is defined by a specific code section. Our attorneys explain the law, penalties and best defense strategies for every major crime in California.
2020 UPDATE: On August 14, 2020, the Ninth Circuit ended California’s ban on high capacity magazines (HCMs). It ruled that PC 32310’s ban on HCMs violates the Second Amendment. The article below was written before this ruling.
Beginning on January 1, 2017, California has a number of new laws that would restrict residents right to own certain guns and ammunition. To help you better understand these new California gun laws, our California criminal defense lawyers set forth below what you need to know.
Beginning on January 1, 2017, Californians will no longer be able to purchase semi-automatic, centerfire rifles or semi-automatic pistols that have a so-called “bullet-button” device to release spent magazines.
Guns without fixed magazines are now classified as assault weapons if they have any “military-style” features – for instance, a protruding pistol grip, a thumbhole stock, a folding stock, a flash suppressor or a grenade launcher.
The new law defines “fixed magazine” as an ammunition feeding device contained in, or permanently attached to, a firearm in such a manner that the device cannot be removed without disassembly of the firearm action. So guns with “military” features will now be legal only if removing the magazine requires taking the rifle or pistol apart.
You are exempted from the ban on possession of weapons that meet the new definition if:
Otherwise, possession of these or any other assault weapons is a so-called “wobbler” offense, punishable either as felony or by up to one year in a county jail.
You can obtain a registration form for your “bullet-button” assault weapons online from the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms.
As of July 1, 2017, it will be illegal to possess a magazine capable of holding more than 10 bullets, regardless of the date on which the magazine was acquired. People owning magazines with more than a 10-bullet capacity will be required to get rid of them by destroying them, selling them to a licensed gun dealer or handing them into law enforcement.
Guns are exempted from the new regulation IF and only if:
Otherwise, possessing a magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds will be an infraction, punishable by:
It is generally a crime in California to loan someone a firearm without going through a licensed firearms dealer. In the past, however, there has been an exemption for gun loans to someone you know personally, provide you loan the gun infrequently and the duration of the loan does not exceed 30 days.
A new law now makes the exemption application solely to the loan of a lawfully registered firearm to a spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild.
As before, such loans must be frequent and limited to 30 days duration.
Two other new California laws make it a misdemeanor to:
In addition to misdemeanor penalties, filing a false report of a stolen gun will result in your not being permitted to purchase another gun lawfully for ten years.
Two of the most controversial new laws affect ammunition sales, although they do not go into effect until 2019.
Beginning on January 1, 2019, all purchases of ammunition must take place in-person and will require you to pass a background check with the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms.
Selling or giving ammunition to someone prohibited from owning it (because of California’s “felon with a firearm” law or otherwise) will be a misdemeanor, punishable by:
There are numerous exceptions to the law for the sale of ammunition to law enforcement, firearms dealers, hunting clubs, and the like.
You will also be allowed to sell up to 50 rounds a month directly to someone else if:
Otherwise, the sale of ammunition must be conducted through a licensed ammunition dealer.
Rather than having to go through a background check every time you purchase ammo, you will be able to obtain a purchase authorization from the California Department of Justice for a fee not to exceed $50 (for a new authorization or a renewal).
Another controversial limit on ammunition goes into effect on July 1, 2019. Commencing on that date, a California resident may not bring ammunition purchased in another state into California unless it has first been delivered to an authorized ammunition vendor for lawful delivery to the customer.
Gun rights advocates are expected to challenge at least some of these laws in court on Second Amendment grounds. However, in the meantime, you will not be able to purchase semi-automatic centerfire guns that meet the new definition of assault weapon.
Keep checking our blog for all the up-to-date news on California gun laws. And, in the meantime, if you have been charged with violating these or any other California gun laws, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.
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