Carrying a Gun in California: What You Should Know

man with gun in holster and his arm hanging next to it

Carrying a Gun in California: What You Should Know

California has some of the nation’s strictest gun laws. If you’re planning on purchasing, transporting, or carrying a firearm, it’s important to always do so legally. Otherwise, you could find yourself facing criminal weapons charges. The team at Newman & Allen has put together the information you need to know about carrying a gun in California, and what could happen if you’re found in illegal possession of a firearm.

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Open Carry

Open carrying a gun means you are carrying your gun so that it is visible to the public. Most commonly, this means it would be carried in a holster attached to someone’s body. Open carry does not mean holding a weapon in one’s hands, which is instead known as ‘brandishing’ and can be a crime.

In California, open carrying firearms is usually illegal. There is an exception for small counties with populations of under 200,000 people. Still, in these counties, you need a valid permit in order to open carry a loaded handgun.

You are legally allowed to open carry a handgun if you are:

  • A peace officer
  • A military member
  • A licensed hunter

Concealed Carry

Concealed carry is when you carry a firearm in a concealed manner. This could be in a holster hidden behind a jacket, in a purse, or anywhere on your person where it isnot visible to the public. When concealed carrying, no one should be able to tell that you are in possession of a firearm.

You are only allowed to concealed carry in California if you have a concealed carry permit or CCWL.

In order to get a permit, you must go through training that covers:

  • California gun laws
  • Live wire sessions in ranges
  • How to safely handle a gun

It is also important to note that this permit is strictly for California residents, and California does not recognize CCWL licenses from other states. This means that if you have a Nevada concealed carry license, you cannot legally conceal carry in California.

Steps for Getting a California CCWL

You have to take these steps to legally obtain a concealed carry permit:

  • Purchase a registered firearm
  • Determine why you need a concealed carry permit (most people say self-defense)
  • Get the applicable paperwork
  • Take the required courses with a CCW instructor

Is Anyone Ineligible for a CCWL?

Yes, there are certain people who are not allowed to carry a firearm, whether it is open or concealed, in California.

This includes:

  • Convicted felons
  • Drug addicts
  • Repeat criminal offenders
  • Some individuals convicted of misdemeanors, like domestic violence
  • Individuals who suffer from mental illness
  • Anyone under age 21

Potential Criminal Penalties

If you are found open carrying or concealed carrying illegally, you face serious weapons charges.

Open Carry

Illegal open carry is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

If the offender has a criminal history, the penalty could be increased to up to three years in jail.

Concealed Carry

If you are found illegally carrying a concealed firearm, you face up to one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. You may also be given probation.

While this is typically a misdemeanor offense, certain aggravating factors can make it a felony.

This may be the case if:

  • The offender is a convicted felon
  • The offender has a prior weapons-related charge on their record
  • The offender is in unlawful possession of the firearm
  • The offender is part of a gang

California Weapons Defense

If you are facing charges for illegally carrying or possessing a firearm, contact Newman & Allen today. We have defended numerous individuals facing misdemeanor, wobbler, and felony charges and we want to help you get the best possible outcome.