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Gun Possession Offenses in California

In California, the laws regulating gun possession are among the strictest in the United States. The California Penal Code contains numerous sections addressing various violations relating to gun possession, many punishable as felonies. A savvy and experienced criminal defense attorney is a necessity top protect your gun rights and your freedom. Here is a detailed summary of these laws:

1. Possession of a Firearm by a Felon (Penal Code § 29800)

  • Prohibition: Individuals convicted of a felony are prohibited from owning, possessing, purchasing, or receiving firearms.
  • Penalty: Violation is a felony and can result in up to three years in state prison.

2. Possession of a Firearm by Persons with Specific Convictions (Penal Code § 29805)

  • Prohibition: Persons convicted of specific misdemeanors, such as assault or battery, may be prohibited from possessing firearms for ten years.
  • Penalty: Violation can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.

3. Possession of a Firearm by a Drug Addict (Penal Code § 29800)

  • Prohibition: Individuals addicted to narcotic drugs are prohibited from possessing firearms.
  • Penalty: Violation is a felony.

4. Possession of a Firearm by a Person Subject to a Restraining Order (Penal Code § 29825)

  • Prohibition: Individuals subject to certain types of restraining orders, such as domestic violence restraining orders, are prohibited from possessing firearms.
  • Penalty: Violation can be a felony or misdemeanor

5. Possession of a Firearm by a Person with a Mental Health Disorder (Penal Code § 8103)

  • Prohibition: Persons adjudicated to be mentally disordered, or those who have been placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold, may be prohibited from possessing firearms.
  • Penalty: Violation can be a misdemeanor or felony.

6. Unlawful Carrying of a Concealed Firearm (Penal Code § 25400)

  • Prohibition: It is illegal to carry a concealed firearm without a valid permit.
  • Penalty:Violation can be a misdemeanor or felony.

7. Carrying a Loaded Firearm in Public (Penal Code § 25850)

  • Prohibition: It is unlawful to carry a loaded firearm in a public place or in a vehicle.
  • Penalty: Violation can be a misdemeanor or felony.

8. Possession of an Assault Weapon or .50 BMG Rifle (Penal Code § 30600)

  • Prohibition: Possessing, manufacturing, or selling assault weapons or .50 BMG rifles is prohibited.
  • Penalty: Felony.

9. Possession of a Machine Gun (Penal Code § 32625)

  • Prohibition: Possession of machine guns without proper federal licensing is prohibited.
  • Penalty: Felony.

10. Possession of a Short-Barreled Rifle or Shotgun (Penal Code § 33215)

  • Prohibition: Possessing, manufacturing, or transferring short-barreled rifles or shotguns is illegal.
  • Penalty: Violation can be a misdemeanor or felony.

11. Possession of Firearms in Certain Public Places (Penal Code § 626.9)

  • Prohibition: Firearms are prohibited in school zones and certain public places.
  • Penalty: Misdemeanor or felony.

12. Possession of a Firearm with an Altered Serial Number (Penal Code § 23900)

  • Prohibition: It is illegal to possess a firearm with an altered or obliterated serial number.
  • Penalty: Felony.

13. Possession of Armor-Piercing Ammunition (Penal Code § 30315)

  • Prohibition: Possession of armor-piercing ammunition is prohibited.
  • Penalty: Felony.

14. Negligent Storage of Firearms (Penal Code § 25100)

  • Prohibition: Failing to securely store firearms, especially if they are accessible to children or prohibited persons, is illegal.
  • Penalty: Misdemeanor.

What are the Defenses to Unlawful Gun Possession in California?

  1. Unlawful Search and Seizure: If law enforcement officers conducted an illegal search or seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment, any evidence obtained (including the firearm) may be suppressed, meaning it cannot be used against the defendant in court.

  2. Lack of Knowledge: The defendant might claim they were unaware of the firearm's presence. For example, if the gun was found in a shared space or if the defendant was unaware that someone else had placed the gun in their possession.

  3. No Possession: This defense argues that the defendant did not actually possess the firearm. This can be effective if the gun was found in a location accessible to multiple people, and the prosecution cannot prove exclusive possession by the defendant.

  4. Self-Defense or Defense of Others: In some cases, a defendant might argue that they possessed the firearm out of necessity for self-defense or to protect others from imminent harm.

  5. Valid Permit or Concealed Carry Permit (CCW Permit): If the defendant had a valid permit or license to carry the firearm, they might use this as a defense against the charges. This applies particularly to cases involving concealed carry permits or other legal authorizations.

  6. Temporary Possession: The defendant might argue that their possession of the firearm was only temporary and for a lawful purpose, such as moving the gun to a secure location at the request of the rightful owner.

  7. Mistake of Fact: This defense asserts that the defendant was unaware they were in possession of a firearm. For example, if someone unknowingly carried a bag containing a firearm.

  8. Entrapment: If law enforcement officials induced the defendant to commit the crime that they would not have otherwise committed, this could serve as an entrapment defense.

  9. Constitutional Challenges: In some cases, a defendant might challenge the constitutionality of the gun laws themselves, although this is a more complex and less common defense strategy. This is a rapidly evolving era of the law, especially given the current composition of the United States Supreme Court. The current Court signaled its hesitancy to allow gun restrictions, especially for law-abiding citizens, and has started to move toward invalidating laws it feels are in violation of the Second Amendment.  

  10. Inoperable Firearm: In some cases, proving that the firearm was inoperable at the time of possession can be a defense, although this defense's applicability depends on the specific charge and circumstances.

Each case is unique, and the applicability of these defenses can vary based on the specific facts and circumstances. It is crucial for anyone facing gun possession charges to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can evaluate the details of their case and determine the best defense strategy.


California's gun laws are comprehensive and stringent, addressing various scenarios of unlawful firearm possession. Violations can range from misdemeanors with fines and short jail sentences to serious felonies with long-term imprisonment. The laws aim to enhance public safety by preventing firearms access to individuals who are deemed high-risk due to past criminal behavior, mental health issues, or specific situational factors such as domestic violence.

A person charged with a gun crime can quickly become a person that is banned from possessing a firearm long-term, or even for life. And a subsequent possession after that, would result in an even more serious conviction. And so the cycle continues. This is why effective representation from an Orange County gun attorney is crucial. Attorney Adam Klugman is experienced in handling these matters in Los Angeles and Orange County courts and will protect your gun rights. Call 714-559-0931 for a consultation today.



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