Over the past few decades, local communities in California have enacted some of the strongest and most innovative gun violence prevention policies in the nation. Often, these efforts have led the way for new and improved gun laws at the state level—laws that prevent shootings and save lives.

Introduction

A fundamental function of local government is to pass laws that address specific needs of its community. Because they face fewer bureaucratic and political hurdles, local governments are also often incubators of pioneering policies, especially when it comes to gun violence prevention.

Recognizing and fearing this, the gun lobby has spent the past several decades seeking to prevent local governments from passing laws that regulate guns and gun owners. In most states, the gun lobby has successfully lobbied state governments to enact onerous firearm preemption laws that take regulatory power away from local governments—but not in California.

California: A Model for Local Gun Safety

California has not fallen victim to gun lobby strong-arming and still allows local governments wide latitude to prevent gun violence in their communities.1 Starting in the mid-1990s, California communities began passing hundreds of local laws that go above and beyond state and federal law to prevent gun violence and tragedies.

This local activity has also acted as a catalyst for state laws. Many of California’s strong state gun laws were initially conceptualized and adopted at the local level. The following is a sampling of state laws that began as local laws in California:

  • Requiring child-safety firearm locks
  • Prohibiting the sale and manufacture of unsafe handguns
  • Requiring guns to be safely stored in vehicles
  • Prohibiting the sale and possession of large capacity ammunition magazines
  • Requiring gun dealer employees to undergo background checks
  • Regulating ammunition sales
  • Limiting handgun purchases to one per month

California communities continue to tirelessly advance new gun safety legislation, modeling new gun safety laws for the rest of the state and the nation. Giffords Law Center has been tracking these ordinances since 2000.

Interested in partnering with Giffords Law Center to draft lifesaving gun safety legislation in your community? Email us at [email protected].

Notes on Local Gun Law Data

The below data on local gun laws is from cities with populations of 90,000 or greater as of 2012 and counties with populations of 500,000 or greater as of 2013, as well as smaller counties and cities that have enacted several gun laws.

Requirements that only affect dealers of concealable firearms only are marked with an asterisk (*), and requirements that affect only dealers of ammunition are marked with a double asterisk (**).

Gun Dealer Laws

Special Permit Required to be a firearm dealer

Both federal and California law impose minimal requirements for firearm dealers to obtain state and federal licenses. Local oversight of gun dealers remains important to ensure that dealers are following local, state, and federal laws, and operating responsibly and safely. Local jurisdictions can ensure that law enforcement is aware of and monitoring the operation of gun dealers in a community by requiring dealers to get a local license in addition to state and federal licenses.

The following 102 jurisdictions require firearm dealers to obtain a local license or permit in order to operate.

Alameda
Alameda County
Albany
Anaheim*
Antioch
Berkeley
Beverly Hills
Burbank
Campbell
Carson
Cathedral City
Chino
Chula Vista*
Commerce
Contra Costa County
Corona
Covina*
Daly City
Diamond Bar
El Cerrito
El Monte*
El Segundo
Elk Grove*
Emeryville
Fremont
Fresno County
Fullerton
Glendale*
Glendora*
Hayward
Hercules
Industry*
La Puente
Lafayette
Lawndale
Long Beach
Lomita*
Los Angeles
Los Angeles County
Los Gatos
Lynwood*
Marin County
Maywood
Merced*
Millbrae*
Mission Viejo*
Monrovia*
Monterey County*
Moraga
Oakland
Oakley
Orange County*

Oceanside*
Orange*
Oxnard*
Pacific Grove*
Pacifica
Palmdale*
Palo Alto
Pasadena*
Piedmont
Pinole
Pittsburg
Pleasanton
Pleasant Hill
Reedley
Richmond
Sacramento*
Sacramento County*2
Salinas
San Anselmo
San Bruno*
San Bernardino County
San Diego
San Diego County
San Francisco City and County
San Joaquin County
San Jose*
San Leandro
San Mateo County
San Pablo
San Rafael
Santa Ana
Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara County*
Santa Clara County
Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz County
Santa Monica
Santa Ros
Saratoga
Scotts Valley
Solana Beach
Sonoma County
South El Monte
South Gate
South Pasadena
Stockton
Tiburon
Union City
Walnut
West Hollywood
Westlake Village

Additional Site Security and Safe Storage

California imposes modest requirements on gun dealers to keep their inventory safe from theft when the business is closed. Unfortunately, these requirements do not go far enough and perpetrators have begun using a method called “smash and grab”—when an assailant drives his or her car into the dealer—to steal guns from dealers, even those that are in compliance with California law. Local jurisdictions can do more to prevent gun thefts by requiring dealers to secure their inventory in ways that go above and beyond state law.

The following 34 jurisdictions require firearm dealers to meet standards for site security and safe storage of inventory that are more rigorous than what is required by California Penal Code §26890 and §17110.

Alameda
Albany
Antioch
Burbank3
Campbell
Cathedral City
Concord
Corona
El Cerrito
Emeryville
Fremont
Hayward
Hercules
Los Angeles County
Oakland
Oakley
Pacifica

Palm Springs
Palo Alto
Piedmont
Pinole
Pleasant Hill
Richmond
San Bruno
San Buenaventura**
San Diego
San Francisco City and County
San Jose
Santa Ana
Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz County
Santa Monica
Scotts Valley
Union City

Requiring firearm dealers to Carry Liability insurance

While federal law provides the gun industry with sweeping and unprecedented immunity from civil lawsuits, there are still ways in which individuals who have been harmed by a gun dealer’s practices can obtain compensation. The following 32 jurisdictions require firearm dealers to carry liability insurance, typically with a minimum coverage of $1 million.

Berkeley
Beverly Hills
Campbell
Carson**
Cathedral City
Emeryville
Fremont
Hayward
Lafayette
Los Angeles
Los Angeles County
Los Gatos
Marin County
Maywood
Moraga
Oakland
Palo Alto

Pasadena
Piedmont
Pinole
Pleasant Hill
Pleasanton
Richmond
Salinas
San Anselmo
San Bruno
San Francisco City and County
San Pablo
San Rafael
Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz County
Santa Monica
Tiburon

Home Occupation

Neither federal nor California law prohibit gun dealers from operating out of residential homes, allowing unscrupulous gun dealers to evade detection and possibly bringing criminals and illegal activity into residential neighborhoods. The following 78 jurisdictions either prevent firearm dealers from being located in residential areas or prohibit firearm sales as a “home occupation” (i.e., a home business).

Alameda County
Albany
Antioch
Arcadia**
Artesia
Berkeley
Beverly Hills
Burbank
Calabasas
Calistoga
Campbell
Cathedral City
Carson**
Chino
Colma
Covina
Contra Costa County
Daly City
El Cerrito
Elk Grove
Emeryville
Fairfield
Fontana
Fremont
Hayward
Hercules4
Hollister
Inglewood
La Puente
Lafayette
Lancaster
Long Beach
Los Angeles
Los Angeles County
Los Gatos
Mission Viejo
Montebello
Monterey County5
Moraga
Moreno Valley**

Newark
Oakland
Oakley6
Ontario
Orange*
Oxnard
Pacifica
Palmdale
Palo Alto
Pasadena
Piedmont
Pinole
Pittsburg
Pleasant Hill7
Pleasanton
Rialto
Rosemead
Roseville
Salinas8
San Bruno
San Carlos
San Francisco City and County
San Jose
San Pablo
San Rafael
Santa Clarita
Santa Cruz9
Santa Cruz County
Santa Monica
Santa Rosa
Sonoma County
Stockton
Tiburon
Union City
Vacaville
Vallejo
Victorville
Westlake Village
Westminster

Keeping dealers away from “Sensitive areas”

Laws that zone certain types of businesses, such as gun dealers, away from areas where children and families frequent or where dangerous behavior is more likely to occur is best left to local jurisdictions. These laws help ensure that criminal activity associated with firearm dealers does not take place near areas where there are a high concentration of children, and that exposure to guns is left to the discretion of parents. The following 27 jurisdictions prohibit firearm dealers from operating within certain distances of “sensitive areas,” such as schools, day care centers, bars, and parks.

Alameda County
Albany
Burbank10
Cathedral City
Contra Costa County
Culver City
Diamond Bar
El Cerrito
Emeryville
Hercules
Los Gatos
Monterey County
Oakland
Oakley

Pacifica
Palo Alto
Pinole
Pleasant Hill11
Salinas
San Bruno
San Francisco City and County
San Pablo
San Rafael
Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz County
Santa Fe Springs
West Hollywood12

Requiring dealers to report their inventory

Requiring gun dealers to regularly report their inventory to law enforcement helps law enforcement solve crimes, and deters dealers from trafficking firearms. The following eight jurisdictions require firearm dealers to periodically report their inventory to law enforcement.

Beverly Hills
Campbell
Emeryville
Los Angeles
Oakland
San Francisco City and County
Santa Monica
West Hollywood

Requiring dealers to Videotape sales

Videotaping gun sales provides law enforcement with the evidence they need to solve certain gun crimes such as straw purchases and robberies. Videotaping sales also deters illegal activity at gun stores. Laws requiring videotaping are popular with the public and Walmart, the nation’s largest gun seller, began voluntarily videotaping gun sales in 2008. The following five jurisdictions require firearm dealers to have a camera system in place that videotapes all firearm sales.

Campbell
Emeryville
Pleasant Hill
Santa Cruz County
San Francisco City and County

Requiring dealers to Post Additional Notices

Requiring gun dealers to post notices about local laws, warnings about the dangers of keeping guns in the home, or information about suicide prevention helps ensure gun purchasers have necessary information to make informed choices and provides resources to a person in crisis. The following nine jurisdictions require firearm dealers post additional notices and warnings in addition to what is required by state law.

Campbell
Cathedral City
Emeryville
Livermore
Los Angeles
Oakland
San Francisco City and County
San Leandro
West Hollywood

Prohibiting Unaccompanied Minors and Prohibited Persons from Entering Gun Stores

Individuals under age 21 and many categories of criminals and other dangerous people are prohibited from purchasing guns in California. Laws prohibiting these individuals from entering gun stores allow parents greater control over their children’s exposure to guns and ensures that guns are not accessible to people who are prohibited from having them. The following 10 jurisdictions require firearm dealers to deny entrance to unaccompanied minors and other people who are prohibited from owning a gun.

Berkeley
Beverly Hills
Cathedral City
Emeryville
Lafayette
Moraga13
Oakland
Piedmont
San Francisco City and County
San Rafael
Tiburon

Requiring Regular Inspections of Gun Dealer Premises

Permitting local law enforcement to periodically inspect gun dealers for compliance with local, state, and federal laws helps prevent gun trafficking. The following three jurisdictions require that gun dealers be inspected by the police regularly.

Chula Vista*
Emeryville
Union City

Public Property Laws

Regulating or Prohibiting possession of firearms and/or ammunition on public property

Laws prohibiting firearms on government property serve to keep guns out of spaces where the freedom of expression is particularly important, like polling places; near schools and other areas children frequent; and near places where disagreements are likely, such as courthouses. The following 143 jurisdictions regulate or prohibit the possession of firearms and/or ammunition on certain types of public property, such as in parks, recreation areas, and municipal buildings.

Alameda County
Albany
Anaheim
Antioch
Bakersfield
Baldwin Park
Brentwood
Burlingame
Calimesa
Calistoga
Campbell
Carlsbad
Cathedral City
Chino
Chula Vista
Claremont
Clovis
Colma
Commerce
Concord
Corona
Costa Mesa
Covina
Culver City
Cupertino
Daly City
Diamond Bar
Dunsmuir
El Cajon
El Monte
Elk Grove
Escondido
Fairfield
Fontana
Fremont
Fresno
Fresno County
Fullerton
Garden Grove14
Gardena
Glendale
Glendora
Hawthorne
Hercules
Hermosa Beach
Hillsborough15
Hollister
Huntington Beach
Imperial Beach
Inglewood
Irvine
Irwindale
Jurupa Valley
La Canada Flintridge
La Puente
Lafayette
Lancaster
Lawndale
Long Beach
Los Angeles
Los Angeles County
Los Gatos
Madera
Marin County
Maywood
Merced
Mission Viejo
Modesto
Monrovia
Montebello
Monterey County
Moraga

Moreno Valley
Murrieta
Newark
Norwalk
Oakland
Oakley
Oceanside
Ontario
Orange
Orange County
Orinda
Palm Springs
Palo Alto
Pasadena
Pico Rivera
Pleasanton
Pomona
Redding
Redondo Beach
Reedley
Rialto
Richmond
Riverside16
Riverside County
Rolling Hills Estates
Roseville
Sacramento
Sacramento County
Salinas
San Benito County
San Bernardino County
San Carlos
San Diego
San Diego County
San Dimas
San Francisco City and County
San Gabriel
San Joaquin County17
San Jose
San Mateo
San Mateo County
San Rafael
Santa Ana
Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara County
Santa Clara
Santa Clara County
Santa Clarita
Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz County
Santa Fe Springs
Santa Monica
Saratoga
Scotts Valley
Solana Beach
South Gate
South Pasadena
Stanislaus County
Stockton
Temecula
Temple City
Union City
Vacaville
Vallejo
Ventura County
Victorville
Vista
Walnut Creek
West Covina
Whittier18
Yountville

Regulating or Prohibiting Gun Shows or Events

A study by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) found that gun shows are the second largest source of illegally trafficked firearms. Laws that prevent gun sales or possession on government property reduce the number of gun shows as many gun shows are held on county fairgrounds or at other government-owned venues. By forcing gun sales into licensed dealerships, these laws can help keep guns out of the hands of prohibited persons and the illegal market. The following 10 jurisdictions regulate or prohibit the possession or sale of guns on government-owned property.

Colma19
Fresno County20
Glendale
Glendora21
Los Angeles County
Marin County22
San Francisco City and County
Santa Clara County
Sacramento County23
Sonoma County24

Prohibiting Guns at Protests or Demonstrations

Perceptions of safety are important to encouraging civic engagement and participation. The presence of firearms at gatherings where free expression is taking place is likely to intimidate some participants and chill speech. The presence of concealed firearms in large crowds or where tensions run high also presents public safety risks associated with the accidental or intentional discharge of a gun. The following jurisdictions have prohibited the carrying of guns at protests or demonstrations.

Los Angeles
San Francisco City and County

Safe Storage Laws

Safe Storage in the Home

Safe storage laws require gun owners to store their unattended guns in residences in locked containers or with locking devices to prevent access by unauthorized users. These laws help prevent accidental shootings, suicides, and firearm thefts during home burglaries. The following 16 jurisdictions require safe storage in the home.

Belvedere
Berkeley
Los Angeles
Moraga
Morgan Hill
Oakland
Orinda
Palm Springs
San Diego
San Francisco City and County
San Jose25
San Mateo County
Santa Cruz
Saratoga
Sunnyvale
Tiburon26

Safe Storage in Vehicles

Vehicle break-ins are common in California and guns stolen from vehicles have been involved in several high profile shootings in recent years. The following two jurisdictions require owners who leave guns in their unattended vehicles to store them safely.

Oakland
San Francisco City and County

Notes
  1. See Suter v. City of Lafayette, 67 Cal. Rptr. 2d 420 (Cal. Ct. App. 1997). ⤴︎
  2. Applies only in unincorporated areas. ⤴︎
  3. Only applies to grandfathered dealers operating home occupations. ⤴︎
  4. Not permitted in zones where residential use is the principal permitted or maintained use. ⤴︎
  5. Not permitted in residential-only zones. ⤴︎
  6. Applies only to dealers licensed after June 2011. ⤴︎
  7. Federal firearms licensees who were doing business as of February 3, 2016, are exempt from the general ban on residential dealers. ⤴︎
  8. Federal firearms licensees who were doing business prior to 1994 and meet several requirements are exempt from the general ban on residential dealers. ⤴︎
  9. Dealers are only prohibited from operating in single-family residence zoning districts. Dealers are not prohibited from other residential districts, such as mixed commercial-residential districts. ⤴︎
  10. Grandfathered home dealers are the only dealers not subject to these restrictions. ⤴︎
  11. Federal firearms licensees who were doing business as of February 3, 2016, and meet several requirements are exempt from the specified distance limitations. ⤴︎
  12. Federal firearms licensees who were doing business as of May 4, 1994, and meet several requirements are exempt from the specified distance limitations. ⤴︎
  13. Applies only to unaccompanied minors. ⤴︎
  14. City may grant consent to carry. ⤴︎
  15. City manager may grant consent to carry. ⤴︎
  16. Applies only to loaded firearms or shotguns. ⤴︎
  17. Does not explicitly forbid possession in any particular public spaces, but bans possession “in public places near or at which school children attend.” ⤴︎
  18. City may grant consent to carry. ⤴︎
  19. Prohibits sale on parks and recreation property. ⤴︎
  20. Indirect prohibition, prohibits possession of firearms on all county property. ⤴︎
  21. Indirect prohibition, prohibits possession of firearms on all city property. ⤴︎
  22. Indirect prohibition, prohibits possession of firearms on all county property except for CCW permit holders. ⤴︎
  23. Indirect prohibition, prohibits possession of firearms on all county property. ⤴︎
  24. Indirect prohibition, prohibits possession of firearms on all county property except for CCW permit holders. ⤴︎
  25. Only applies when the gun owner leaves the home. ⤴︎
  26. Only applies to handguns. ⤴︎