This section contains a partial review of some of the principal California laws that govern common possession and use of firearms by persons other than law enforcement officers, firearms dealers, or members of the armed forces. It is not designed to provide individual guidance for specific situations, nor does it attempt to summarize federal law. This section is not designed and does not include or summarize local ordinances by California municipal entities relating to gun usage or to gun dealers. The legality of any specific act of possession or use will ultimately be determined by applicable federal and state statutory and case law. Persons having specific questions are encouraged to seek legal advice from an attorney, or consult their local law enforcement agency or law library.

Ninth Circuit approves state and federal regulations on gun acquisition in 2016.

In two separate opinions, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which includes the states of California, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, affirmed different gun regulations against claims that they violated the Second Amendment rights of gun holders.

In December 2016, the Ninth Circuit reinstated California’s ten-day mandatory waiting period prior to the acquisition of new guns. In Silvester v. Harris, No. 14-16840, 2016 WL 7228824 (9th Cir. Dec. 14, 2016), the plaintiffs, Jeff Silvester, Brandon Combs and two gun rights’ organizations, the CalGuns Foundation, Inc. and the Second Amendment Foundation, argued that the waiting period statute was invalid as applied to previously qualified gun users or those who had a concealed carry permit for their guns. A federal district court had found in favor of the plaintiffs and set aside the regulation, but that lower court decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal.

The Ninth Circuit applied a two-step analysis to determine: (1) whether the regulation impacted Second Amendment rights and (2) if so, whether the regulation survived the appropriate intermediate level of constitutional scrutiny. A majority of the three-judge panel held that although the 10 day waiting period did “burden” Second Amendment rights, such a burden was constitutionally permissible because the waiting period was only a minor burden that was rationally justified by state interests. Chief Judge Thomas concurred, but wrote a separate opinion finding that the imposition of a waiting period for a gun purchase was a mere “condition” on the purchase of guns that was presumptively valid under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).

In August 2016, a different three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a complaint by a registered medical marijuana user who was rejected for purchase of a firearm in Arizona based on federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”). In Wilson v. Lynch, 853 F.3d 1083 (9th Cir. 2016), the panel held that although the denial of the right to purchase a firearm constituted a burden on a “core” Second Amendment right to have a firearm, it was justified by the federal government’s substantial interest in preventing violence. The panel also upheld the ATF’s regulation against various other constitutional and administrative procedure challenges.

Summary of Current California Gun Regulations by Attorney General’s Office

For a quick overview of current California state regulations affecting guns, gun ownership, gun transport and gun sales, see the summary document prepared by California’s Attorney General:

California Firearms Laws Summary

You should note that this is a summary of California gun laws as of 2016, and does not include the additional gun regulation that resulted in November 2016 as a result of voter approval of Proposition 63. An excellent resource for information about California’s regulations as well as regulations throughout the country can be found at the Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence website.