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California Gun Laws (Part One)

Everyone knows that the right to bear arms is protected under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But the right is not unfettered. The possession and use of firearms in California is heavily regulated. Do you know what the laws are in California as they relate to carrying firearms?

In this article, we provide a brief overview of California’s Penal Code provisions governing the carry of firearms. In subsequent articles, we will address other California gun laws.

Carrying a Firearm in Public

It is legal to carry a loaded firearm at a person’s own residence, including a temporary residence or campsite, provided that possession is otherwise legal. (Pen. Code § 26055.)

An unloaded firearm may also be carried on private property, provided carrying is otherwise authorized and legal, and transported between non-prohibited places in a locked container. (Pen. Code §§ 25605 & 25610.) A locked container for purposes of transporting a firearm means “a secure container that is fully enclosed and locked by a padlock, keylock, combination lock, or similar locking device. The term ‘locked container’ does not include the utility or glove compartment of a motor vehicle.” (Pen. Code § 16850.)

Outside of the foregoing exemptions, it is generally illegal to carry a firearm in public even if the carrier is doing so openly. Carrying a firearm be punished under one (or more) of the following provisions of the California Penal Code:

Pen. Code § 25800 – Carrying loaded firearm with intent to commit a felony

Pen. Code § 25850(a) – Carrying loaded firearm in a public place

Pen. Code § 26400(a)(1) – Carrying an unloaded firearm (not a handgun) upon person

Pen. Code § 26350(a)(1) – Carrying an exposed unloaded handgun upon person

It is unlawful to carry a concealed firearm without a permit to do so. (Pen. Code § 25400.)

The prohibition against carrying a concealed firearm applies inside a vehicle, (Pen. Code § 25400(a)(1) & (3)) and upon one’s person. (Pen. Code § 25400(a)(2).) A firearm carried openly in a belt holster is not concealed within the meaning of Penal Code section 25400. (Pen. Code § 25400(b).) However, openly carrying a firearm may be punished under other statutes.

Further, it is unlawful for a driver in California, and an owner of a vehicle even if he or she is not occupying their vehicle, to knowingly permit another person to carry a loaded firearm (Pen. Code § 26100(a)) or discharge a firearm (Pen. Code § 26100(b)) inside their vehicle. A person who discharges a firearm from a vehicle may be punished by imprisonment for one year. (Pen. Code § 26100(d).) Anyone who discharges a firearm from a vehicle at another person may be imprisoned in state prison for three, five, or seven years. (Pen. Code § 26100(c).)

Confused about what your rights and obligations are under California’s gun laws?

Second Chances Law Group supports lawful and responsible gun ownership and use. If you are confused over what your rights and obligations as a gun owner are under California law, contact one of our experienced attorneys today.