Issue 32

Owning A Gun In California - Part 2

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Owning a Gun in California - Part 2

Last week, in part one of Owning A Gun In California, we discussed the reasons for owning a gun.  In this issue, we'll discuss the process you must follow and some of the California laws about which you should be aware.

It ain't easy.

Here is the summary of the California gun laws (PDF file).  All 55 pages.

To put that into perspective, the entirety of all gun laws in our neighboring state of Nevada comprise perhaps 10 pages.  The full text of California's laws are many hundreds of pages.

Because of this complexity, we're only going to cover 4 topics, these only apply to handguns and we're only scratching the surface.  DO NOT rely on this information when making a decision to buy, conceal, transport or store a gun.  We're trainers, not lawyers!  The laws for rifles and shotguns are different in many ways, and are generally more lenient.

Purchasing - To buy a handgun in California, you must possess a Handgun Safety Certificate.  This is relatively easy to obtain.  You take a 30-question written test, and are issued a card that is valid for the next 5 years.  The fee for the test is currently $25.

You must then wait 10 days while a background check is run on you.  This check only takes a matter of hours - at most - but you must still wait for 10 days before you can pick up the handgun.  You may only purchase one handgun per month.  

For all purchases, you must use a licensed dealer/gun shop.  Even if the sale is between private individuals, you must use an FFL (Federal Firearms Licensee) and wait the 10 days (even if those individuals are family members).  All licensed gun dealers/gun shops can handle this transaction for you for a fee.  The FFL must take possession of the handgun during the 10 day period.

And no, you can't just give someone a gun, even a family member.  It must be reported to the state.  You can loan someone a gun for no longer than 30 days.

Concealed Carry - It is extremely difficult to get a Concealed Carry Permit in the state of California.  You generally need to have some political connections, or live outside of the major metropolitan areas. 

In California, we are considered a "May Issue" state.  The decision as to whether you are worthy of a permit lies soley with the local sheriff. 

Unlike the early 40 states which have enacted "Shall Issue" laws (and ALL saw reductions in violent and non-violent crime rates),  even with a background check, training on the laws regarding the use of guns, a firearms proficiency demonstration and a clean criminal record, California does not believe you deserve the right to defend yourself with a handgun.

Concealed Carry also encompasses where you are allowed to have a loaded gun.  With few exceptions, you can have a loaded gun - concealed or not - in your home or in your business.  If you have a loaded gun on you, or in your car, and you don't have a permit, you will be in a world of hurt.

Transporting A Gun - While you are in the state, you may transport a handgun in your vehicle if it is unloaded AND in a locked case.  The state considers your trunk to be a locked case, but it does NOT consider a glove compartment to be a locked case.  If you have a vehicle without a trunk, the gun must be in a case that is locked by a key, padlock or other similar system.  

You must be transporting the gun for an authorized activity, such as going to the shooting range, going hunting or a number of other activities the state deems worthy.  Self-defense is NOT deemed a worthy activity.  So NO, you cannot have a locked and unloaded gun in your car for your own personal protection.

(Case law has determined that a gun is loaded if the cartridges are in a position to be fired.  Having a loaded magazine in the same area as an unloaded gun does not make the gun loaded - People v Clark [PDF]).

If you are traveling out of state by car, check the websites of those states so you understand their laws as well.  If you are traveling by common carrier (plane, boat, train) contact the carrier for their regulations.  You will also need to determine the gun possession laws in the state where you will be ending your trip.

Storage - This is one of the few areas of California gun law that I whole-heartedly agree with (my students will tell you I'm obsessed with safety!).  The bottom line is:  If you own a gun, YOU are responsible for it.  If someone is harmed because you were careless in how you stored your gun, YOU will pay the price.

This is most heavily reinforced in the laws regarding homes with children or homes likely to have children in them often.  If you have your own under-18 children, you must take steps to ensure your gun is inaccessible to them.  The law goes into great detail explaining what is required.

Additionally, if your home will OFTEN have other under-18 children (like grandchildren), you are under the same constraints.

None of this is difficult or expensive to comply with.  If your gun safe is broken into, and someone is harmed - even kids - you will not be held liable.  

You, in good faith, stored your gun properly.

So there you have it.  A number of laws are being proposed to allow decent, trained, law-abiding citizens the ability to protect themselves outside of their homes or businesses. 

As noted before, when these laws have been passed in other states, crime drops.  The criminals there no longer know who may have the ability to defend themselves.

The nice thing about these laws is that they don't force you to carry a gun, they just give you the option.  That's how our country is supposed to work.

Next Issue:  Tasers


Bison Risk Management Associates is a Northern California-based company providing Personal Safety and Emergency Preparedness training, workshops and consulting for individuals, businesses and organizations.

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