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How to Register an Unregistered Gun in California

Posted by Neil Shouse | Mar 19, 2020 | 0 Comments

You can register an unregistered gun in California by completing and submitting a Firearm Ownership Report (FOR) Application. This voluntarily declares that you are the owner of the firearm. However, this form cannot be used to register an assault weapon.

A FOR Application is not required for most firearms. They will have been registered by the dealer during the sale. However, there are reasons to register a firearm on your own. A registered gun that is lost or stolen may be returned to the person listed on the form. If the gun is unregistered, it will not be returned.

Submitting a FOR Application could also lead to legal trouble. You could be accused of possession of an assault weapon. The person who sold or gave you the weapon could also be charged with illegally transferring a firearm. The form can be used as evidence.

man holding revolver
You can register an unregistered gun in California by filling out and submitting a Firearm Ownership Report (FOR) Application.

What is the Firearm Ownership Report Application?

The Firearm Ownership Report (FOR) Application is a legal form. It goes to the California Department of Justice (DOJ). The form is also known as the BOF 4542A. By filling out and submitting the form, you voluntarily register a firearm. You are declared its legal owner.

To fill out the form, you need to provide information about yourself, including:

  • your personal and contact information,
  • where you were born,
  • citizenship status and identification information, including a copy of your driver's license or ID card,
  • Handgun Safety Certificate number, and
  • any aliases you are known by.

You will also have to provide information about the firearm you are declaring:

  • whether it is a handgun or a long gun, and what type it is,
  • serial number,
  • make and model,
  • caliber,
  • origin,
  • barrel length,
  • color, and
  • when and how you acquired it.

There is space for declaring ownership of 3 firearms on each application form. If you want to declare ownership of more than 3, you can attach additional copies of the form.

You will have to pay a $19 processing fee for each FOR Application.

The form can be mailed to:

Department of Justice
Bureau of Firearms – FOR
P.O. Box 820200
Sacramento, CA 94203

This form cannot be used to register an assault weapon. Assault weapons generally cannot be registered in California anymore.

Do I have to file this application?

No, there is no legal requirement that a firearm has to be registered unless:

  • the firearm is an assault weapon, or
  • you are moving into California and own a firearm.

Handguns that were legally bought in California are already registered. They were registered by the dealer. You are the registered owner of these firearms. Your information was collected during the background check.

Long guns that were legally bought in 2014 or later in California are also registered. Those bought legally before then may not be.

Firearm owners moving to California have to register their firearms within 60 days. They use a different form – the New Resident Firearm Ownership Form.

What are the benefits?

Submitting a FOR Application makes you the official owner of the firearm.

If the firearm is lost or stolen, and then found, it will be returned to you. If the gun is not registered, there will be no official owner. It will not be returned to you if it is not registered.

How can I check to see if my firearms are registered?

You can request a list of firearms registered in your name. You can get it by submitting an Automated Firearms System Records Request Form.

The form has to be:

  • signed,
  • notarized, and
  • accompanied by a copy of your driver's license or photo ID.

You can mail the form to:

Department of Justice
Bureau of Firearms
AFS Private Citizen Request
P.O. Box 820200
Sacramento, CA 94203

What about assault weapons?

Assault weapons cannot be registered in California, anymore.

State law set ownership and registration periods for assault weapons. This included Browning Machine Guns (BMG). All of those registration windows have passed.1

Can I get in legal trouble for filing the form?

Yes.

If you claim ownership of an assault weapon, or any illegal weapon for that matter, you could face charges of illegal possession of a firearm. Assault weapons are illegal to possess in California. Only those that were registered during the registration windows are exempt. If you fill out a FOR Application listing an assault weapon and send it to the DOJ, it can be used as evidence against you.

Illegal possession of an assault weapon is a wobbler in California. It can be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor.

If prosecuted as a misdemeanor, a conviction carries up to:

  • 1 year in jail, and/or
  • $1,000 in fines.2

If pursued as a felony, the potential jail time is 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years.3

A FOR Application can also be used as evidence of the illegal sale of a firearm. California law requires that all gun sales be completed through a licensed dealer.4 The FOR Application asks how you obtained the weapon. The answer may be used as evidence that you got the gun illegally. The person who sold or transferred the gun could be charged with a crime.

Illegally selling a firearm is a misdemeanor. The penalties can include up to:

  • 6 months in jail, and/or
  • $1,000 in fines.

Legal References:

  1. See California Penal Code 30900 PC.

  2. California Penal Code 19 PC.

  3. California Penal Code 1170(h) PC.

  4. See California Penal Code 26500 PC and 27545 PC.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

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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