By every meaningful measure, yes: California’s gun laws are the strictest in the United States. This may not come as a surprise to many readers, but the Golden State is famously restrictive in terms of how firearms and ammunition within its borders are to be bought, sold, conveyed, advertised, and used. There are cultural and political explanations for California’s uniquely harsh legislative approach to gun control, many of which we will explore.
Many of the state’s more recently enacted gun laws take aim (so to speak) at felons and others whose ownership of any weapon arguably runs counter to the public good. But placing aside repeat or otherwise serious criminals, even law abiding gunowners are subject to strict limitations as to what they can and cannot do with their legally owned guns and ammunition, with many turning to legal counsel when they find themselves in need of a federal gun lawyer.
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The subject of gun ownership in America is uniquely complicated, as the underlying right to it is affirmed in our nation’s founding document. It is a right which, along with free speech, millions upon millions of Americans take seriously, exercise proudly, and guard aggressively. But the significance of culture cannot be dismissed nor in any way marginalized when exploring this topic from a legal (or any) standpoint.
In a nation of well over three-hundred million citizens, uniformity of thought is impossible to find on any issue. But guns, in particular, seem to sit on a volatile fault line. Some people find the idea of owning or using any weapon to be barbaric or, at a minimum, antiquated and unnecessary. Others regard the idea as fundamental to their identity and to their responsible citizenship.
Felons and Gun Ownership in California
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As is true in any state, legal gun ownership is contingent upon one having a largely clean background. In California, those with a history of criminal behavior are, for the most part, legally prohibited from exercising their Constitutional right to obtaining or otherwise owning a firearm. These restrictions encompass a broad spectrum of offenses and offenders, including:
- Negligent discharging of a firearm
- Assault (either with a deadly weapon or with a taser)
- Assault, battery, and sexual battery
- Various threatening or intimidating acts against public officers, school officials, judges.
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This list is far from comprehensive but provides an overview of the criminal behaviors which legally bar the offenders from owning firearms. Mental incompetence is also grounds to prohibit gun ownership in the state of California, as is narcotics addiction. And while these prohibitions may seem perfectly sensible to many, you are likely interested in how the state of California’s strict gun laws impact non-criminal citizens.
Law Abiding Citizens and Gun Ownership in California
California gun laws are strict to the point of having many law abiding Californians wondering if they have unknowingly crossed a line into illegality. With legal goalposts seemingly moving every other week, it is not an unwarranted concern. You may possess a type of firearm or a magazine of a certain size which, though permitted at the time of purchase, is now subject to certain prohibitions or registration requirements.
Aside from California’s generally aggressive stance on firearms ownership, cultural/political winds across the country have been blowing against gun rights more broadly. This has arguably emboldened California lawmakers in their pursuit of increasingly tight regulations where selling and owning of guns is concerned. Some of the newly enacted regulatory measures include:
- Ammunition Sales: Merchants who sell rounds numbering more than five-hundred in the space of one month must do so via a vendor licensed by the state. Unlicensed Internet sales must use licensed vendors as intermediaries, meaning those who sell ammunition online are not permitted to ship the product directly to a home address. It is to be shipped to a licensed vendor who will then see to its reaching the buyer.
- Gun Sales: Selling of a firearm in California requires either a) the seller be legally licensed (by the state) as a firearms dealer, or b) private parties engaging in a sale do so via a licensed firearms dealer. Any private party sale conducted in the absence of a licensed dealer is expressly illegal in the state of California and engaging in as much would require your consulting with a criminal defense attorney.
- Assault Weapons & Bullet Buttons: The state of California’s strict approach to gun laws has resulted in an increasingly broad “assault weapon” definition, which now encompasses any center-fire, semi-automatic rifle or shotgun. Legislation was also recently passed requiring owners of so-called bullet button weapons to register these as assault weapons.
- Magazine Limitations: California law considerably limits the magazine size a citizen can buy, sell, or otherwise possess. Anything over a ten-round magazine is prohibited, though there exist certain exceptions (those legally acquired prior to January 1, 2000 are effectively protected via grandfathering).
Keeping Pace with Frequently Changing Laws
There’s no question of it: California’s gun laws, which are typically stricter than those of any other state, have the potential to foster uncertainty in the minds of responsible gun owners. Tracking new legislation as it materializes is vital to keeping yourself on the correct side of the shifting law.
With California legislators frequently introducing firearm restriction proposals, you may at some point find yourself in need of knowledgeable legal assistance. If so, contact the Simmrin Law Group by telephone— (310) 896-2723 —or by filling out the provided form.