California prohibits the following people from purchasing or possessing firearms after events related to severe mental health impairments:
1. Inpatient Treatment: A person who is currently admitted to a facility to receive inpatient treatment for a mental illness, if the attending mental health professional is of the opinion that the patient is a danger to self or others. This prohibition applies even if the person has consented to treatment, although the prohibition ends as soon as the patient is discharged from the facility.1 This prohibition is broader than federal law in that it includes people voluntarily admitted to a mental facility.
2. Threats of Physical Violence: A person who has communicated to a licensed psychotherapist a serious threat of physical violence against a reasonably identifiable victim or victims.2 In 2013, this prohibition was extended from a period of six months to five years after the licensed psychotherapist reports the identity of the person making the threat to local law enforcement ((2013 CA AB 1131.)) The subject of this prohibition may petition to have it removed.3 If such a petition is made, then at the hearing the state must show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the person “would not be likely to use firearms in a safe and lawful manner.”4
3. Adjudication: A person who has been adjudicated to be a danger to others as a result of a mental disorder or mental illness or has been adjudicated to be a mentally disordered sex offender. This prohibition does not apply if the court of adjudication issues, upon the individual’s release from treatment or at a later date, a certificate stating that the person may possess a firearm without endangering others.5
4. Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity: A person who has been found not guilty by reason of insanity of various enumerated violent felonies.6
5. Incompetent to Stand Trial: A person who has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial. This prohibition is permanent unless there is a subsequent finding that the person has become competent.7
6. Conservatorship: A person who is currently under a court-ordered conservatorship because he or she is gravely disabled as a result of a mental disorder or impaired by chronic alcoholism. The prohibition ends when the conservatorship ends.8
7. 72-Hour Detention: A person who has been taken into custody because that person is a danger to self or others, assessed by mental health professionals, and admitted to a county mental health facility for at least 72 hours, is generally prohibited from possessing or acquiring firearms for five years.9 Effective January 1, 2020, a person who has been admitted more to a mental health facility more than once within a one-year period will instead generally be subject to a lifetime firearm prohibition.10
However, a person barred from firearm possession by these provisions is authorized to petition a superior court for an order restoring his or her access to firearms. At the hearing, the state must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the person “would not be likely to use firearms in a safe and lawful manner.”11
8. 14-Day Detention: A person who has been involuntarily committed for intensive mental health treatment for 14 or more days. This prohibition lasts for five years.12 As above, a person barred from firearm possession by this provision may petition the superior court for an order permitting him or her to possess firearms.13 This provision is weaker than federal law, which generally permanently prohibits people from accessing firearms after they have been involuntarily committed by a court for mental health treatment.
9. Court-Ordered Evaluations and Counseling: California law provides a process by which any individual may request a designated county agency to petition a court to order an evaluation to determine whether a person is, as a result of mental disorder, a danger to others, or to him or herself, or is gravely disabled (unable to meet his or her own physical needs). If the court grants the petition, an evaluation is performed. If, after the evaluation, the subject is deemed to be a danger to self or others or gravely disabled, he or she will be prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms and referred for voluntary treatment, ordered detained for 14 days for intensive inpatient treatment, or recommended for conservatorship.14
For further information on:
• The categories of persons prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, see the Prohibited Purchasers Generally in California section.
• The Gun Violence Restraining Order process in California, see the Disarming Prohibited Persons in California section.
• The reporting of mental health information for firearm purchaser background checks, see the Mental Health Reporting in California section.
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8100(a). ⤴︎
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8100(b); see also Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8105(c). Licensed psychotherapists are required to immediately report such threats to local law enforcement who, in turn, are required to immediately report the information to the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”). Id. DOJ must then send, by certified mail, a notification to the individual subject to the prohibition, indicating that the person is prohibited from possessing firearms, the date on which the prohibition ends, and that the person is entitled to petition a court to end the prohibition. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8100(b)(2). ⤴︎
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8100(b). ⤴︎
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8100(b)(3). ⤴︎
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(a). ⤴︎
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(b). ⤴︎
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(d). ⤴︎
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(e). This provision appears to be weaker than federal law, which permanently prohibits a person who lacks the appropriate mental capacity to contract or manage his or her own affairs. It appears that where the period of firearm prohibition has ended under California but not federal law, the subject remains prohibited because the federal prohibition is still in effect. In practice, much depends on whether the record of the mental health prohibition remains in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. ⤴︎
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(f). ⤴︎
- 2018 CA AB 1968, amending Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(f). ⤴︎
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(f)(5), (6). ⤴︎
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(g). ⤴︎
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(g)(4). ⤴︎
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 5200-5213. ⤴︎