Opening a small business is a big dream for many people in the United States. Unfortunately, your business may be affected by crime rates in your area. Businesses like gas stations and liquor stores are especially vulnerable.
Shopkeepers may want to keep a loaded gun on-site to protect their business and employees from potential robberies. In certain circumstances, small business owners in California may keep a loaded firearm in their place of business. Read about important exceptions and when you should not keep your firearm loaded.
Who May Purchase a Firearm in California?
The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives people the right to bear arms. In California, most adults over the age of 21 may buy, own, and possess firearms. However, California residents must comply with the state’s strict gun laws.
You may qualify to purchase a firearm if:
- You are at least 18, to buy a rifle or shotgun.
- You are at least 21, to buy a handgun.
- You must have a good reason for applying for a gun permit.
- You do not have a mental illness.
- You are not a convicted felon.
- You are not addicted to narcotics.
- You do not have any gang affiliation.
- You are not legally prohibited from owning a gun.
- You pass the Personal Firearms Eligibility Check (PFEC).
It’s important to keep in mind that you must obtain a Firearm Safety Certificate or Handgun Safety Certificate before purchasing a gun. This means taking a 30-question test and answering at least 23 questions correctly to pass.
You must purchase your gun from a licensed dealer through the Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS) process. There is a 10-day waiting period after buying a gun before it may enter your ownership. California does not limit the number of handguns you may own but you can only purchase one gun in 30 days.
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Where Can You Carry a Gun in California?
You need to have a permit to purchase a handgun in California. However, you do not need a permit or license to carry a gun on private property, such as:
- Your home
- Your business
- Private property owned by a U.S. citizen or resident
Carrying a Gun in Public
In California, you generally may not carry a firearm in a public place. To carry a weapon in public California, you will need a concealed weapons permit (CCW). Without this permit, you may be charged with a crime, whether or not the gun is loaded.
Even if you have a CCW, you may not bring firearms into gun-free zones, such as:
- Schools and universities
- Daycare facilities
- Rehab facilities
- Courthouses and courtrooms
- Public buildings and public gatherings
Can You Keep a Gun at Work in California?
There is no specific law for carrying guns at work in California so if you work on private property, you may legally be permitted to keep a gun at work. However, your employer may ban firearms from the premises. Most employers in California have weapon policies in place to decrease the likelihood of workplace violence.
If that is the case, a licensed owner may leave a gun in their car while at work. It must be unloaded and kept in the trunk or a locked compartment. Note that California employers may ban weapons from parked cars in private parking lots and garages.
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Can You Keep a Loaded Gun in California?
One of the most important gun laws in California is Penal Code (PC) §25850, California’s law about carrying a loaded firearm. It is illegal to carry a loaded gun, either on your person or in your car, while in public areas. You may keep a loaded gun in the privacy of your own home.
Exceptions to This Law
There are several exceptions to PC §25850. You are legally allowed to carry a loaded firearm in public if:
- You have a concealed carry permit
- You have Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification
- You are a police officer or federal agent
- You are a member of the military
- You work as a security guard or a private investigator
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What California Firearm Laws Mean for Business Owners
State law prohibits you from carrying a loaded gun in public and businesses like convenience stores are considered public spaces. However, California recognizes business owners’ desire to protect their assets and their employees from harm. Under PC §26035, business owners and their employees are permitted to keep loaded guns at work.
A small business owner who wants to keep a loaded firearm at their business should:
- Pass the Personal Firearms Eligibility Check
- Purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer
- Wait 10 days before taking ownership of the gun
- Store the firearm in a locked container that is not publicly accessible
- Offer employees information about gun safety and proper use
Bear in mind, a handgun must be unloaded and in a locked container while you transport it to and from your place of business unless you have reason to believe you will need it for self-defense.
California’s Castle Doctrine
California does not have a “stand your ground” law. There is a Castle Doctrine that serves a similar purpose if an intruder enters your home or business and poses a deadly threat. You are allowed to defend yourself as long as your body or property is in danger.
Be aware that your right to use force ends once the threat has passed or the intruder has left your property. For example, you may shoot at a robber who enters your business and presents a threat of violence. If the robber surrenders or runs away, you legally cannot open fire.
Responsible gun owners must stay informed about state laws and best practices. Firearm and weapon laws in California are subject to change at any time.
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