What is a Wallet Gun and is it Illegal in California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Sep 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

wallet gun california law
An example of a wallet gun

California Penal Code 17330
 holds that a “wallet gun” is any firearm mounted or enclosed in a case. The case for these guns typically resembles a wallet, thus the name. A person can fire a wallet gun while it is still enclosed in its case, and the guns are capable of being carried in a pocket or purse.

Under Penal Code 16590, California's law on generally prohibited weapons, the following acts are illegal when it comes to wallet guns:

  • Manufacture,
  • Import into the State of California,
  • Keep for sale,
  • Offer for sale,
  • Give,
  • Lend, and/or
  • Possess

If a person performs any of these acts with a wallet gun, he can get charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specific facts of a case. The penalties for either charge include time in the county jail and/or substantial fines.

Penal Code 16590 and “Generally Prohibited Weapons”

PC 16590 is California's statute governing “generally prohibited weapons.” The section lists several weapons that are generally prohibited in the State of California. Wallet guns are one such weapon, specifically banned under PC 16590 (x). Examples of other prohibited weapons include:

  • Ballistic knifes,
  • Cane guns,
  • Metal knuckles,
  • Nunchakus (more commonly referred to as “nunchucks”)
  • Short-barreled rifles, and
  • Shurikens.

Only the firearms and weapons specifically listed in Penal Code 16590 are considered generally prohibited.

Conventional pistols, revolvers, long rifles, long shotguns, and conventional ammunition can still be legally owned by most adults in California, subject to certain restrictions.

What is Banned Under Penal Code 16590

As mentioned above, PC 16590 makes it a crime to perform certain acts with generally prohibited weapons. The criminal acts include:

  • Manufacturing or causing to be manufactured,
  • Importing into the State,
  • Keeping and offering for sale,
  • Giving and lending, and/or
  • Possessing.

It is illegal to possess a generally prohibited weapon even in private, and even if a person has a standard permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Penalties Involving Wallet Guns

If a person has a wallet gun and commits one of the criminal acts listed in PC 16590, he faces:

  1. The loss of the wallet gun; and,
  2. A misdemeanor or felony charge.

An offense in California that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony is known as a “wobbler” offense. Thus, a violation of a law governing generally prohibited weapons is a wobbler crime.

If convicted of a misdemeanor with a wallet gun, the guilty party may receive a penalty of up to one year in county jail, and/or, a maximum fine of $1,000.

If convicted of a felony with a wallet gun, the guilty party may receive a penalty of up to three years in county jail, and/or, a maximum fine of $10,000.

Certain people and/or situations are exempt from prosecution for possessing wallet guns and other generally prohibited weapons. For example, members of law enforcement agencies may sell, transfer or possess wallet guns. Further, possession of wallet guns is allowed by authorized antique dealers.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).


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