Gun ownership is an issue that is highly debated, and in some instances, the facts can be misconstrued. People may reasonably wonder what the truth is regarding gun ownership when there is so much rhetoric about the topic coming from a plethora of different angles. The gun laws in California are especially strict, as most firearm laws come from the state level instead of the federal level. However, many people can still own firearms if they meet certain requirements and aren’t prohibited from doing so under the law.
Gun Ownership Eligibility
The state of California allows citizens over 18 years of age to purchase rifles and shotguns, and citizens older than 21 can purchase handguns. Anyone seeking to purchase a firearm in the state must first complete the Personal Firearms Eligibility test. This test is completed by the Department of Justice, and the process involves reviewing an individual’s records to see whether they have been banned from firearm ownership at the state or federal level. The test yields 4 possible results:
- The person in question qualifies for purchasing and owning new firearms
- The person in question qualifies for owning firearms, but cannot purchase new ones
- The person in question does not qualify for owning or purchasing firearms
- The state could not come to a conclusion due to a lack of information
The state takes a person’s mental health, criminal, and drug histories into account when completing their research. Anyone found unable to possess or purchase firearms will be required to relinquish any firearms they already own to the state.
California requires anyone permitted to purchase firearms in the state to obtain a safety certificate beforehand. Most firearms dealers offer the relevant testing at their stores, and the test consists of 30 multiple choice and true or false questions. A person must answer 75% of the questions accurately to be become certified.
Keeping Firearms Safe
People who are allowed to purchase and own firearms in California have a duty to store their firearms safely and away from people who have been prohibited from accessing them. Legally, any gun owner who shares a residence with someone prohibited from accessing firearms must:
- Keep their firearms in a locked case;
- Disable their firearms using a safety device;
- Keep their firearms within a locked gun safe;
- Keep their firearms within a locked trunk;
- Make their firearms inoperable with a locking device; or
- Keep their firearm on their person or close enough to use it as if it were carried on their person.
Disqualification from Firearm Ownership in CA
The state of California prohibits the following individuals from possessing or purchasing firearms in the state:
- Anyone who has a felony conviction, has been convicted for domestic violence, or is known to be addicted to narcotics
- Anyone who has been convicted of violent crimes, hate crimes, misusing firearms, or has violated firearm safe storage laws around children or people prohibited from accessing firearms.
- Anyone who is on probation and is restricted from accessing firearms as a result
- Anyone who has an outstanding warrant for their arrest because of a firearm-related offense
- Anyone who is currently subject to a restraining order or protective order
- Anyone who has been prohibited based on severe mental health issues or alcoholism
Not All Guns Are Allowed
The state of California prohibits citizens from owning certain firearms. This can be because they lack safety, because they are not identifiable, or because they are modified. Some examples of guns and gun accessories no one in California can legally own include:
- Cane guns
- Any container that conceals a firearm
- Any guns that are designed to look like something else or that are not recognizable as guns
- Rifles or shotguns with short barrels
- Pistols without a bore
- Wallet guns
- Zip guns
Breaking Gun Laws Leads to Severe Consequences
Anyone looking to own a gun in California will be subject to a long and specific process. In some cases, people may skip elements of this process to acquire their guns faster. Some people acquire guns through means that are altogether illegal. People who choose to bypass the requirements for gun ownership will face consequences if they are caught.
The consequences of possessing an unregistered firearm depend on multiple factors. It is not a crime to have an unregistered firearm at home, however, anyone caught with such a firearm in public will be prosecuted. They will receive a felony charge and could face a year in jail as well as a fine worth up to $1,000.
If someone carries an unregistered firearm with them as a concealed weapon and they are not licensed to conceal carry, they risk a jail sentence of up to 3 years.
Prohibited People Possessing Firearms
Anyone who has been convicted of any sort of felony or certain misdemeanors cannot possess a firearm in the state of California according to Penal Code §29800. This includes felonies at the federal level and felonies from other states. Misdemeanor charges that prohibit gun ownership in California include sexual battery, stalking, and assault.
If someone violates this law, they will be subject to a state prison sentence of up to 3 years as well as a fine that can cost as much as $10,000. Some people may be subject to both penalties. For the prosecution to convict someone on this charge, they must prove that:
- The person had a firearm in their custody or control
- The weapon in question qualifies as a firearm based on the legal definition
- The person was previously convicted or is wanted for an offense that prohibits them from owning firearms
- They were aware of the firearm in their possession.
Although this crime is of a serious nature, there are some defenses that are commonly used by the legal teams of defendants. An experienced lawyer can play a big role in assisting people charged with gun related crimes getting their charges lowered and, in some cases, dropped. Common defenses include:
- The defendant was not aware that there was a firearm in their possession
- The defendant only possessed the firearm briefly
- The defendant never possessed the firearm to begin with
- The defendant possessed the firearm in a justifiable manner, for example, moving it away from a dangerous situation or turning in an abandoned firearm to law enforcement
- There were procedural issues in the defendant’s arrest
- The defendant’s home was searched without a warrant or with a warrant that was obtained illegally
Can Gun Rights Be Restored Once Taken by the Court?
Some people who lost their right to possess a firearm due to a conviction may be able to have those rights restored. Some of the methods used to get gun rights restored include:
- Expungement: This process allows a person’s criminal conviction to be reopened to have their guilty verdict removed and, ultimately, their case dismissed. Expungement alone cannot restore gun rights; however, it allows defendants to request certain felony offenses be lowered to misdemeanors.
- Conviction reduction: If someone is convicted of a felony crime that makes them lose their gun rights when that crime can also be charged as a misdemeanor, working towards having that conviction lowered can help their gun rights become restored. This option is only effective when the misdemeanor charge for the crime does not include prohibition from firearm ownership as a consequence.
Let Us Help You
If you have been accused of possessing a gun illegally and need legal counsel, get in touch with the Law Offices of Brian C. Andritch today. Our top priority is to protect your rights and your freedom, and we will do so through compassionate and resourceful legal counsel. We understand these allegations can be frightening, which is why we will examine your case thoroughly to work towards having your charges lowered or dropped. Contact us online or at (559) 484-2112 to schedule a free consultation today.