A zip gun is essentially a cheap makeshift gun. A person constructs one using supplies from around their home or found at a local hardware store.
Zip guns are sometimes a weapon of choice among criminals because they’re relatively untraceable and can be thrown out after a single shot. The term “zip” is used because a rubber band is often used to help fire these weapons.
Under California Penal Code 33600 PC, it is illegal to do any of the following with zip guns:
- Manufactures them,
- Imports them into the State,
- Keeps them for sale,
- Offers them for sale,
- Gives or lends them, and/or
- Possesses them.
Doing any of these acts with a zip gun can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specific facts of a case. The penalties can include imprisonment for one to three years and/or substantial fines.
- 1. What is the law on zip guns in California?
- 2. What are the penalties?
- 3. What are other laws re. zip guns?
- 4. What are the exemptions?
1. What is the law on zip guns in California?
PC 33600 is California’s statute governing zip guns. According to this code section, it is a crime to
- manufacture or cause to be manufactured,
- import into the state,
- keep for sale,
- offer or expose for sale, or
- give, lend, or possess
any zip gun.1
Further, 33690 PC states that any zip gun is a nuisance under California law. This means that the State can “enjoin,” or prohibit the:
manufacture of, importation of, keeping for sale of, offering or exposing for sale, giving, lending, or possession of [any zip gun] …2
2. What are the penalties?
A violation of this section is a wobbler offense, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a term not to exceed one year.
If charged as a felony, the crime is punished pursuant to California Penal Code 1170(h) PC. The judge can sentence you to a county jail term of:
- 16 months,
- Two years, or
- Three years.
In addition to jail time, a conviction under PC 33600 carries a fine in an amount between $1,000 and $10,000.3
3. What are other laws re. zip guns?
Penal Code 16590 PC is the California statute governing “generally prohibited weapons.” The statute lists several weapons/objects that are generally prohibited in the State of California. Zip guns are one such type of weapon, specifically banned under PC 16590 (z).
Examples of other prohibited weapons include:
4. What are the exemptions?
Certain people and/or situations are exempt from prosecution for possessing a zip gun and other prohibited weapons. For example, members of law enforcement agencies may sell, transfer, or possess zip guns. The same holds true for some antique dealers.
Please also note that the above statutes and code sections do not prohibit the lawful use or possession of other lawful firearms. For example, conventional pistols, revolvers, long rifles, and long shotguns can still be legally owned by most adults in California, subject to certain restrictions.5
- California Penal Code 33600 PC. See also In re Trenton D. (Cal. App. 1st Dist., 2015) 242 Cal. App. 4th 1319.
- California Penal Code 33690 PC.
- See note 1.
- California Penal Code 16590 PC.
- See note 1.