A U.S. citizen or legal resident over age 18 may carry a handgun anywhere within his or her place of residence, place of business, or on private property owned or lawfully possessed by the citizen or legal resident.1 A permit or license is not required for a person to carry within these locations.2

California law generally prohibits people from carrying a loaded firearm (open or concealed) on their person or in a motor vehicle in the following locations:

  • In any public place or on any public street in an incorporated city, or
  • In any public place or on any public street in unincorporated territory if it is unlawful to discharge a weapon in that location.3

This prohibition is subject to certain exceptions, including those for:

  • A concealed weapons licensee who is carrying a loaded handgun;4
  • A person who has been granted a license to carry a loaded and exposed handgun if he or she is in the county that granted the license;5 or
  • A person who reasonably believes that his or her person or property or the person or property of another is in immediate, grave danger and that the carrying of the weapon is necessary for the preservation of that person or property.6

A firearm is considered “loaded” in this context if it has a cartridge or shell in a chamber, clip or magazines that is in or attached to the firearm.7

California law prohibits any person from carrying an exposed and unloaded handgun in a public place or public street, if the place or street is in an incorporated city or city and county, or if it is otherwise unlawful to discharge a weapon in that location. See the Open Carrying in California section for further information.

The state prohibits any person, even a concealed weapons licensee, from carrying a concealed handgun or a loaded firearm, upon his or her person or within any vehicle, while engaged in picketing or other informational activities in a public place relating to a concerted refusal to work.8

California generally prohibits carrying or possession of a firearm in the following locations, although concealed weapons licensees are exempt from these prohibitions:

  • In any state or local public building or at any public meeting.9
  • In the California State Parks system.10

Under a law that California enacted in 2010, it is unlawful for any person to knowingly possess a firearm within the sterile area of a public transit facility, if the sterile area is posted with a statement providing reasonable notice of the prohibition.11 “Sterile area” means any portion of a public transit facility that is generally controlled in a manner consistent with the public transit authority’s security plan.12 This prohibition does not apply to certain specified law enforcement personnel or to persons licensed to carry a concealed weapon.13

California also generally prohibits carrying or possession of a firearm in the following locations:

  • In the State Capitol, any legislative office, any office of the Governor or other constitutional officer, or any hearing room in which any committee of the Senate or Assembly is conducting a hearing, or upon the grounds of the State Capitol, which is bounded by 10th, L, 15th, and N Streets in the City of Sacramento, if the firearm is loaded, or the area is posted with a statement providing reasonable notice that prosecution may result from possession of a firearm.14
  • In or on the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion or any other residence of the Governor, the residence of any other constitutional officer, or the residence of any Member of the Legislature, if the firearm is loaded.15

California also prohibits any person, including a concealed weapons licensee, from possessing a firearm at a polling place,16 or in the buildings or on the grounds of the “Cal Expo” center in Sacramento.17

California administrative regulations may require additional locations to be firearms-free.

A concealed carry license may include any reasonable restrictions or conditions which the issuing authority deems warranted, including restrictions as to the place where the person may carry a firearm.18

Finally, under California law, it is unlawful to hunt, or to discharge while hunting, any firearm within 150 yards of any occupied dwelling house, residence, or other building, except for the owner or person in possession of the premises, or with the express permission of the owner or person in possession of the premises. It is also unlawful to intentionally discharge any firearm over or across any public road or other established way open to the public in an unsafe and reckless manner.19


  1. Cal. Penal Code § 25605(a). ⤴︎
  2. Cal. Penal Code §§ 25605(b), 26035. ⤴︎
  3. Cal. Penal Code §§ 17030, 25850(a). ⤴︎
  4. Cal. Penal Code § 26010. ⤴︎
  5. Cal. Penal Code §§ 26150, 26155. Only certain counties are authorized to grant this type of license, based on county population. See the Open Carrying in California section for further information. ⤴︎
  6. Cal. Penal Code § 26045. ⤴︎
  7. Cal. Penal Code § 16840(b). A California law authorizes peace officers to examine any firearm carried by anyone on his or her person in any public place in an incorporated city or area of an unincorporated territory where it is unlawful to discharge a weapon, to determine whether the firearm is loaded. Cal. Penal Code § 25850(b). ⤴︎
  8. Cal. Penal Code § 17510(a). The exceptions regarding carrying concealed firearms under Cal. Penal Code §§ 25450-25475, 25615-25655 (provided for peace officers, bank guards, armored vehicle guards, licensed hunters or fishermen, private investigators, and certain other persons) do not apply if these persons are engaged in picketing activities. Cal. Penal Code § 17510(c). ⤴︎
  9. Cal. Penal Code § 171b(a)(1), (b)(3). ⤴︎
  10. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 4313(a). This prohibition does not apply to the use of weapons permitted by law or regulation to be used for hunting in any unit of the state park system open to hunting. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 4313(b). Firearms that do not have a cartridge in any portion of the mechanism, or other unloaded weapons, may be possessed within temporary lodging or a mechanical mode of conveyance when such weapons are rendered temporarily inoperable or are packed, cased, or stored in a manner that will prevent their ready use. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 4313(c). ⤴︎
  11. Cal. Penal Code § 171.7(b)(1). ⤴︎
  12. Cal. Penal Code § 171.7(a)(2). ⤴︎
  13. Cal. Penal Code §§ 171.7(c), 25655. ⤴︎
  14. Cal. Penal Code § 171c(a)(1)(A), (a)(2)(A). ⤴︎
  15. Cal. Penal Code § 171d. ⤴︎
  16. Cal. Elec. Code § 18544(a) There are limited exceptions, including for peace officers either conducting official business or casting a vote. Cal. Elec. Code § 18544(b). ⤴︎
  17. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 4955. ⤴︎
  18. Cal. Penal Code § 26200(a). ⤴︎
  19. Cal. Fish and Game Code § 3004. ⤴︎