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california gun laws

Americans have the right to own firearms, as presented by the second amendment of the United States Constitution.

However, each state has various laws of their own concerning how citizens can buy and own firearms, with California having the most restrictive of all states.

Purchasing a Firearm

When buying a firearm, you must fill out the legal forms at the store where you are making the purchase. As of January 1, 2015, you must also have obtained a valid (up-to-date)Firearm Safety Certificate (FSC) if buying any firearm (handguns and long-barreled firearms).

You can click on this link to find out more about firearm safety and training programs available, as presented by the state, to both instructors and the public.

The forms are sent in for review by the state and there is a 10-day waiting period before you can finalize the purchase is approved and can take your firearm home.

Your forms are runthrough the various databases to look for the following issues:

  • a lifetime-ban against owning a firearm,
  • persons considered incompetent to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of insanity for a crime,
  • those with felony convictions,
  • those banned for 10 years because of a conviction of a violent crime,
  • those persons banned for five years due to being considered a danger to themselves or others or is admitted to a mental health facility.

Legal Firearms in California

Long-barreled firearms consist of the following:

  • Shotguns with a barrel of 18 inches or more (furthermore, a legal shotgun must be at least 26 inches from the butt of the stock to the end of the barrel),
  • Rifles with a barrel of 16 inches or more.

Handguns (revolvers and pistols) allowed are any legally-manufactured firearms made by brand names, as are rifles and shotguns.

Illegal Firearms and Components

Not allowed are off-shoot brands with potential illegal parts, multi-burst trigger activators, and firearms that cannot be detected. High-explosive incendiary bullets (military) are not allowed as well.

If you are caught with any illegal firearm or ammunition, or any illegal firearm components, you could receive felony charges.

Recent Additions to California Firearm Laws

 As of July 1st, 2018, all owners of assault firearms, or firearms with bullet buttons, pistol grips, folding stocks, or flash suppressors, must have registered with the California Department of Justice (CDOJ).

Another law activated at the same time requires those who assemble their own firearms to apply for a serial number that must be added to the firearm.

If you own a firearm without a serial number, you must apply for one and have it engraved on the firearm by a professional if you cannot do it yourself. (California Penal Code 29180.)

 You can stay up to date on the latest firearms and ammunition laws by visiting the California Bureau of Firearms. Call us at once if you have a firearms charge placed against you (619) 234-2300

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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