California prohibits the following people from purchasing or possessing firearms after events related to severe mental health impairments:

  1. Inpatient Admissions to a Psychiatric Facility for Dangerousness : A person who has been taken into custody, evaluated and assessed by mental health professionals, and admitted to a county mental health facility because that person was found to be a danger to self or others, is generally prohibited from possessing or acquiring firearms for five years after his or her release from the psychiatric facility.1 Effective January 1, 2020, however, that person would instead generally be permanently prohibited from accessing or acquiring firearms if he or she was admitted to a mental health facility more than once within a one-year period.2However, 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 demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the person “would not be likely to use firearms in a safe and lawful manner” in order to continue the firearm prohibition.3
  2. Court-Ordered Intensive Treatment: Under California law, a person who has been evaluated by a psychiatric professional pursuant to a court order and/or admitted to a psychiatric facility as described above may be “certified” by a court to receive intensive psychiatric treatment on an involuntary basis for up to 14 days.4 People who have been certified for intensive treatment are generally permanently prohibited from accessing or acquiring firearms, unless they successfully petition a court to restore their firearm access.5 (After a certification review hearing, the court may also order that such individuals remain in the custody of the psychiatric facility for involuntary treatment, care, and protection for mental illness or chronic alcoholism.6
  3. Court Adjudications of Dangerousness: A person who has been adjudicated to be a danger to others as a result of a mental disorder or mental illness, or who has been adjudicated to be a mentally disordered sex offender, is generally permanently prohibited from accessing or acquiring firearms unless the court issues a certificate to that individual, upon the individual’s release from treatment or at a later date, stating that he or she may possess a firearm without endangering others.7
  4. Court-Ordered Conservatorship: A person who is under a court-ordered conservatorship because he or she is gravely disabled as a result of a mental disorder or impaired by chronic alcoholism is prohibited from accessing or acquiring firearms while the conservatorship is in effect.8 However, such individuals may still be prohibited from accessing or acquiring firearms under federal law.9
  5. Incompetent to Stand Trial: A person who has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial is generally permanently prohibited from accessing or acquiring firearms unless a court subsequently finds that the person has become competent to stand trial.10
  6. Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity: A person who has been found not guilty by reason of insanity for various enumerated violent felonies is generally permanently prohibited from accessing or acquiring firearms.11
  7. 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 are generally prohibited from accessing or acquiring firearms for five years after the therapist reports the treat to law enforcement.12  A person subject to this prohibition may petition a court to regain their firearm access. 13 If such a petition is made, the State must demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the person “would not be likely to use firearms in a safe and lawful manner” in order to continue the prohibition.14

California also has a Gun Violence Restraining Order Law (known in most other states as an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” or ERPO law), which authorizes courts to issue a civil order prohibiting a person who poses a significant danger to self or others from having legal access to firearms or ammunition. Importantly, courts may issue a GVRO whether or not the person’s risk of violence is related to mental health impairments. For more information about the Gun Violence Restraining Order process in California, see the Disarming Prohibited Persons in California section.

For further information on:

• The reporting of mental health information for firearm purchaser background checks, see the Mental Health Reporting in California section.

• Other categories of people that are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms in California, see the Prohibited Purchasers Generally in California section.

Notes
  1. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(f). ⤴︎
  2. 2018 CA AB 1968, amending Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(f). ⤴︎
  3. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(f)(5), (6). ⤴︎
  4. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 5250. ⤴︎
  5. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(g). ⤴︎
  6. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 5256.6. ⤴︎
  7. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(a). ⤴︎
  8. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(e). ⤴︎
  9. California’s provision appears to be weaker than federal law, which generally permanently prohibits a person from accessing or acquiring firearms if a court or other government body has previously found that the person “lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his or her own affairs . . . as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease.” See 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(d)(4), 922(g)(4); 27 C.F.R. § 478.11. ⤴︎
  10. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(d). ⤴︎
  11. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8103(b). ⤴︎
  12. 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”). DOJ must then send, by certified mail, a notification informing the individual who made the threat that he or she 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). ⤴︎
  13. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8100(b). ⤴︎
  14. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8100(b)(3). ⤴︎