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Understanding California’s Gun Laws

By Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney on May 3, 2021

Most adults aged 21 and older have the right to purchase, own, and possess a gun in California, but state laws impose restrictions as to how firearms can be stored, transported, and carried. In addition, it is illegal to make, sell, or possess certain types of firearms, and you can face significant penalties and loss of rights in California if you violate these laws.

What Types of Guns Are Banned in California?

This section of the penal code contains an extensive list of generally prohibited weapons, including firearms, which people are banned from making, selling, or possessing. Firearms prohibited under PC 16590 include:

  • Short-barreled shotguns
  • Short-barreled rifles
  • Undetectable firearms
  • Zip guns

State law also bans “assault weapons” and BMG rifles under Penal Code 30600. It is illegal to manufacture, import, sell, distribute, transport, or give away these weapons. It is also illegal to possess them under Penal Code 30605.

In addition to guns, state firearm laws impose restrictions on:

  • Stun guns
  • Laser scopes
  • Silencers
  • Armor-piercing bullets

What Must the Prosecution Prove to Convict You of Violating PC 16590?

To get a conviction, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly possessed, bought, received, lent, kept for sale, offered for sale, manufactured, or imported into the state a generally prohibited weapon. It must also prove that you knew it was an unlawful weapon intended for unlawful purposes or that it could be used for unlawful purposes.

If you were not physically carrying the weapon, you could still be convicted of possession. Possession can be actual or constructive. With actual possession, you would be carrying the item at the time of your arrest. With constructive possession, the item could be found in an area, such as your home or car, to which you had access and over which you could exercise control.

What Are the Penalties for Possessing an Illegal Firearm?

Violations of PC 1650 are wobbler crimes that can either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Upon conviction of a misdemeanor, you could face a maximum of 364 days in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Penalties for a felony conviction include 16 months, two years, or three years in county jail, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.

What Are the Legal Defenses for Generally Prohibited Weapons Charges?

If you are facing charges of possession, manufacturing, or selling generally prohibited weapons, there are legal defense to raise on your behalf, for example:

  • Lack of knowledge: The prosecutor must prove you knew you possessed, manufactured, or sold the prohibited weapon and you knew the nature of the weapon. If you did not know you had the weapon in your possession, or that it could have been used as a weapon for unlawful purposes, you should not be convicted.
  • Not a generally prohibited weapon: PC 16590 provides a specific list of generally prohibited weapons. If you possessed, manufactured, or sold an item not included in the list, you should not be convicted of a PC 16590 violation.
  • Valid permit: In limited circumstances, permits may be issued for possession of certain weapons listed under PC 16590. A permit to possess a generally prohibited weapon is a valid legal defense.

If you have been charged with violating California’s gun laws, you will need a team of aggressive and experienced lawyers to defend you. Call Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP at (213) 688-0460 to speak with a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney in a free consultation. We can discuss possible defense strategies for your case.

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Posted in: Violent Crime