How Legally to Store Firearms in California

According to the California Attorney General, the safest way to store a gun is with a state-approved firearm safety device and by keeping the weapon in a locked container. Owners should also ensure that the firearm is not loaded. Finally, people should store their guns and ammunition for these guns in different locations.

California gun laws further requires owners to make sure that a gun is stored unloaded and in a place not accessible by children and adults prohibited from possessing a gun. This is required per Penal Code 25100 PC. A violation of this statute can result in a misdemeanor charge and lead to custody in county jail for up to one year. These penalties increase if the child/adult does access the gun and causes injury or death.

To legally store or transport a handgun in a vehicle, the weapon must be:

  • unloaded,
  • locked in the trunk of the vehicle or in a locked container inside the vehicle, and
  • apparent and not concealed inside the car or truck.

There are times when people get charged with a crime for the improper storage of a gun. Note that defendants can contest a charge with a legal defense. A few common defenses include an accused showing that:

  1. he/she safely stored a firearm in a locked container,
  2. if an adult accessed the weapon, the person was not prohibited from possessing it, and/or
  3. the police acted in violation of California search and seizure laws.

Our criminal defense attorneys will explaon the following in this article:

safe gun locker, a recommended means of gun storage in California
Storing your guns in a lockable gun safe is one approved method of storing a gun in California

1. What does California's Attorney General recommend for proper gun storage?

California's attorney general provides several recommendations for how gun owners should store a firearm. These include for owners to:

  1. store the gun with a State-approved firearm safety device on it (e.g., a trigger lock or a cable lock),
  2. ensure that the weapon is not loaded,
  3. put it in a locked container (a lock box or a gun safe), and
  4. store the firearm in a different location than the ammunition.1

2. What if children are present?

California law makes it a crime for a gun owner to:

  1. store a loaded firearm in a home, or within an area of the owner's control, and
  2. do so when the owner knows, or should know, that a child could access it without a parent's permission.2

This means if a gun owner knows that a child can access a stored gun, he/she should:

  1. make certain that it is unloaded, and
  2. store it in a place outside of the child's access (like a locked container).

A violation of the above law is a misdemeanor offense. The crime is punishable by up to one year in county jail. This punishment will increase if a child accesses the weapon and causes harm, great bodily injury, or death.3

3. What about gun storage with an adult prohibited from possessing a firearm?

California law makes it a criminal offense for a firearm owner to:

  1. store a loaded gun in a home, or within an area of the owner's control, and
  2. do so when the owner knows, or should know, that a person prohibited from possessing a firearm could access it.4

This means if a gun owner knows that an adult who cannot possess a gun can get to the stored weapon, he/she should:

  1. make certain that it is unloaded, and
  2. store it in a place outside of the adult's access (like in a locked container).

A violation of the above law is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by up to one year in county jail.

Note that this punishment increases if an adult accesses the weapon and causes harm, great bodily injury, or death.5 In such cases, the crime can be charged as a felony and lead to custody in state prison for up to three years.

Questions often arise, under these laws, as to what adults are prohibited from possessing a gun.

3.1. Adults not able to possess a gun

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

  • convicted felons,6
  • persons who are addicted to narcotics,7
  • persons with two or more convictions under Penal Code 417 PC, California's law against brandishing a weapon,8
  • persons convicted of certain misdemeanor offenses (such as a violation of Penal Code 273.5 PC),9 and
  • certain persons who suffer from mental illness.10

Note that California red flag laws also allows coworkers, employers and teachers to seek restraining orders to remove guns from the possession of potentially dangerous people.

Note too that if a person is prohibited from owning a gun, he/she is also prohibited from owning ammunition.11

4. What is proper storage inside a vehicle?

To  store or transport a handgun legally within a vehicle, it must be:

  • unloaded,
  • locked in the trunk of the vehicle or in a locked container inside the vehicle, and
  • apparent and not concealed inside the vehicle.12

A gun owner has to follow these rules no matter if he/she is the driver or passenger in a car.

Note that the above rules apply to handguns. There are different laws for transporting other kinds of firearms, such as:

  • handguns that can be concealed,
  • shotguns and rifles that cannot be concealed, and
  • assault rifles.

For the laws on transporting these weapons, please see our article on “How to Legally Transport Firearms in California.”

5. Are there legal defenses to improper storage?

Depending on the facts of the case, some people can get charged with a crime for the improper storage of a firearm.

Defense attorneys use different strategies to oppose such charges. These include showing that:

  1. the person kept the firearm in a locked container.
  2. if a child accessed a gun, he/she did so illegally.
  3. while an adult may have accessed the gun, he/she was not prohibited from possessing it.
  4. the defendant was arrested after an unlawful search and seizure.

For additional help...

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For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

Legal References:

  1. Firearm Safety,” Office of Attorney General's website.

  2. California Penal Code 25100 PC.

  3. See same.

  4. See same.

  5. See same.

  6. California Penal Code 29800 PC, section (a)(1)

  7. See same.

  8. California Penal Code 29800a2 PC.

  9. California Penal Code 29805 PC.

  10. California Welfare and Institutions Code 8100.

  11. California Penal Code 30305a1 PC.

  12. California Penal Code 25610 and Penal Code 25400 PC.

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