California Gun Crimes & Laws: An Overview

The debate over gun control is one of the most hot-button issues in America today. While there is considerable debate over what should and should not be legal when it comes to guns, the fact is that firearms are still heavily regulated by state and federal governments, and that individuals throughout the state can still face serious charges for all types of crimes and conduct involving firearms.

At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers have decades of experience protecting the rights of clients charged with all types of weapons and firearm offenses throughout Southern California. Below, we provide an overview of the most important laws and firearm-related crimes in California you should know:

Prohibited Persons – In California, like any other state across the country, it is legal for individuals to possess and own firearms. However, who those individuals are (as well as what type of firearm is involved) does matter. In fact, both California and federal laws stipulate who cannot purchase and own a firearm. These individuals are deemed “prohibited persons,” and commonly include:

  • Individuals with felony convictions from any jurisdiction
  • Individuals with certain misdemeanor convictions (including domestic violence)
  • Individuals addicted to narcotics
  • Individuals with two or more convictions for brandishing a weapon (PC 417)
  • Individuals with mental illness
  • Minors under the age of 18

Gun Crimes in California – There are a number of crimes involving firearms in California, from offenses involving the unlawful possession and carrying firearms to laws regarding the use of a firearm in commission of other crimes. Below, we provide information about some of the most common gun-related crimes in California.

  • Felon in Possession – California prohibits convicted felons (as well as individuals who are convicted of certain misdemeanor crimes or are addicted to narcotics) from purchasing and possessing firearms. Under PC 29800, there are a number of factors that can influence penalties, including a defendant’s criminal history, their underlying charge (i.e. felony or certain misdemeanor), the type of firearm involved, and whether it was used to commit another crime. While penalties may vary, convictions can result in substantial fines and lengthy terms of imprisonment. For example, a felon in possession of a firearm is a felony that may result in a 16-month sentence, or between two to three years imprisonment.
  • Concealed Carry – California law, PC 25400, makes it a crime to carry a concealed gun, either on your person or in a vehicle. Misdemeanor convictions under this law can result in up to a year in county jail. Felony convictions, which may result from situations involving prior felonies, stolen firearms, gang involvement, and other aggravating circumstances, can result in sentences of 16 months or between 2 to three years imprisonment.
  • Possession-Related Offenses – There are several laws that prohibit firearm possession, even by non-prohibited persons, under certain circumstances. These include laws making it a crime to carry a loaded gun in a public place, on school grounds, in government buildings, at public transit facilities, and at airports.
  • Prohibited Weapons / Firearm Accessories– California makes the possession (as well as the sale, purchase, and transfer) of certain guns a criminal offense. These generally prohibited weapons (under PC 16590) may include various types of guns and firearm-related accessories, including cane, wallet, and zip guns, short-barreled shotguns or rifles, large-capacity magazines, firearms not immediately recognizable as funs, unconventional pistols, undetectable guns, silencers, armor-piercing ammunition, and more.
  • Assault Weapons – The possession, sale, and manufacture of assault weapons, including AK series rifles, AR-15s, and Uzis, is generally prohibited in California. Individuals may also not possess .50 BMG rifles without a valid permit. Under the law, PC 30600, penalties may include up to one year imprisonment for a misdemeanor conviction, or up to 3 years for a felony conviction, depending on the circumstances.
  • Crimes Involving the Use of a Firearm – Crimes involving firearms can make for some of the most severe penalties under California law. That includes brandishing a weapon, causing bodily injury while brandishing a firearm, drive-by shootings, assault with a firearm, malicious discharge of a firearm, and more. Penalties for these offenses may vary depending on the circumstances, but often result in substantial terms of imprisonment.
  • Gun Sentencing Enhancements – The presence of a firearm in commission of another crime can result in significant penalty enhancements. This is due largely to California’s “10-20-life” law, which imposes longer terms of imprisonment if a firearm is present in commission of a crime, fired while committing a crime, or causes injury or death to another person.

Defense Against Gun Crime Charges – Firearm offenses are among the most serious crimes in the criminal justice system because firearms are so heavily regulated and because they involve the potential for serious injuries. Whether you’re facing a misdemeanor of a felony, you must be aware that these charges pose substantial penalties, as well as risks for significant enhancements and long-term repercussions to your freedom and future. As such, working with an experienced defense attorney becomes one of the most important steps you can take when structuring a defense strategy tailored to the facts of your case – whether that involves seeking case dismissals, a reduction in charges or penalties, or alternative sentencing options.

If you or someone you love has been charged for a criminal offense involving a firearm anywhere in Southern California, you can be confident about trusting your case to the experienced and award-wining legal team at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP. Contact us today to request a FREE and confidential consultation.