State Law Background
Among other things, California:
- Requires all gun sales to be processed through a licensed dealer, requiring a background check;
- Requires gun dealers to obtain a state license;
- Bans most assault weapons and .50 caliber rifles, and restricts the sale, transfer, manufacture, and possession of large capacity ammunition magazines;
- Requires all firearms purchasers to obtain a Firearm Safety Certificate, after passing a written test;
- Regulates gun shows in a comprehensive manner;
- Limits purchases of new handguns to one per person per month;
- Prohibits the sale of unsafe handguns that do not incorporate mandatory design safety elements;
- Imposes a ten-day waiting period prior to the sale or transfer of a firearm;
- Maintains permanent records of firearm sales;
- Gives local law enforcement discretion to deny a license to carry a concealed weapon; and
- Gives local governments authority to regulate firearms and ammunition, although the state legislature has expressly removed this authority in certain areas.
In addition, in 2014, California became the first jurisdiction in the nation to enact a Gun Violence Restraining Order law (also known as a Firearms Restraining Order or Extreme Risk Protection Order), allowing concerned family members to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from a love one who is found to pose a clear danger to the public or their own safety during a mental crisis.
In 2016, California voters also adopted a comprehensive package of gun safety reforms through Proposition 63 (“The Safety for All Act of 2016”). Among other major reforms, Proposition 63 will, when implemented, make California the first state in the nation to require a point-of-sale background check on ammunition purchases and the first to require all individuals convicted of firearm-prohibiting crimes to verify with the courts that they relinquished their firearms after conviction.
In 2016, California had the 8th lowest gun death rate among the nation’s 50 states. Even with this relatively low ranking, California still suffered 3,184 deaths from firearms in that single year. Additionally, in 2014, at least 5,724 people were hospitalized or treated in emergency rooms for non-fatal gunshot wounds in California.
According to 2016 Firearms Trace Data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, California has the fifth lowest rate of crime guns exported to other states.
Municipalities across California have also enacted a variety of gun violence prevention ordinances to make their communities safer.
For details about specific California firearms laws, choose a topic below, or see all of the firearms laws in this state.