On its own, possession of a firearm is not outlawed in California. However, there are multiple rules and regulations that restrict gun ownership and usage.

Persons prohibited from gun (as well as ammunition) ownership:

  • Convicted felons (regardless of jurisdiction)
  • Persons with 2 or more convictions of Brandishing a Weapon (Penal Code 417)
  • Those convicted with some certain misdemeanors
  • Those suffering from a mental illness
  • Any person under the age of 18

Additionally, in order to purchase a handgun, you must possess a valid handgun safety certificate.

If you are considering acquiring a firearm but want to ensure that you are legally able to, you may request a California Personal Firearms Eligibility Check (PFEC) by submitting the (PFEC) application to the Department of Justice. For more information on the PFEC, refer to the California Department of Justice’s FAQ.


Concealed Carry

Under California law, it is legal to conceal and carry a firearm on your person so long as you possess a valid CCW license. For information on obtaining a CCW license, contact your county sheriff’s office or, if you are a resident of an incorporated city, your city police department. They can provide you with a copy of their CCW license policy statement as well as the CCW license application.

If you carry a concealed weapon without possessing a valid CCW license, you are subject to a misdemeanor conviction and a penalty of up to one year in a county jail and/or up to a $1000 fine.

However, the conviction for carrying a concealed weapon will be considered a felony if:

  • you have a prior felony conviction or conviction for a California firearm offense
  • you know or have reasonable cause to believe that the firearm is stolen
  • you are actively involved in a criminal gang
  • you do not lawfully possess the firearm
  • you are prohibited from possessing a firearm for committing a violent offense, including but not limited to:
    • Robbery
    • Carjacking
    • Rape and certain other sex crimes
    • Kidnapping
    • Murder

Brandishing a Weapon

You may be charged with brandishing a weapon or firearm if you draw, exhibit, or use a firearm or deadly weapon in a rude, angry, or otherwise threatening fashion. You may be charged regardless or not if the weapon was pointed at another person, shots were fired, or if the alleged victim even saw the weapon.

Common defenses to a charge of brandishing a weapon include:

  • Legitimate Self Defense– If you had sufficient reason to believe that you or another person were in immediate danger and you fought back with no more force than necessary to defend against that danger, you cannot be charged with brandishing a weapon.
  • The display wasn’t in a rude, angry, or threatening fashion– If you displayed your weapon to simply show it off, educate others about it, or to simply joke around, you cannot be charged for brandishing a weapon.
  • False allegations– If it can be proven that you were wrongfully accused and did not brandish your weapon at all, you cannot be charged.

Grand Theft Firearm

In California, grand theft typically applies to a theft where the property’s value exceeds $950. However, theft of a firearm, regardless of the value, is always considered grand theft. Visit our Theft page for more information.

Any questions? Contact us.

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