California Gun Laws 2023

California Gun Laws in 2023: What You Need to Know

California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. Keeping up with all the legal mumbo jumbo can be confusing, so I wanted to break it down into a simple guide for y’all. I’m just a regular dude, not a lawyer, so don’t take this as official legal advice. But hopefully it gives you a good idea of what you can and can’t do when it comes to guns here in the Golden State.

Buying Guns in California

In California, you gotta be 21 to buy a handgun from a licensed dealer. For rifles and shotguns, you only need to be 18. You also gotta pass a background check every time you buy a gun, no matter who you buy it from. Private party transfers also require a background check.And you can only buy one handgun every 30 days. No exceptions. Even if you have a bunch of handguns on your wishlist, you gotta pace yourself here in Cali.

Handgun Roster

California has a handgun roster that lists all the handgun models that are approved for sale here. And the list keeps getting smaller each year as models fall off the roster. It’s crazy – we’re down to like 600 models on the roster now, from thousands just a few years ago.So if you see a handgun you want online or in a magazine, double check that it’s actually on the California roster before trying to buy it. Lots of popular handguns aren’t allowed here.

Assault Weapons Ban

California has had an assault weapons ban since 1989. Anything considered an “assault weapon” under California law is illegal to buy or bring into the state.This includes things like:

  • Semi-auto rifles with detachable magazines and certain features like pistol grips, forward grips, flash hiders, etc. Basically trying to ban AR-15 style rifles.
  • Semi-auto shotguns with pistol grips and adjustable stocks.
  • Semi-auto handguns with detachable mags and features like threaded barrels.

There’s a whole laundry list of features and models that qualify as assault weapons here. If you already owned any before the ban, you can keep them but their use is restricted.


Gun magazines over 10 rounds are banned in California. The only exceptions are for .22 caliber tube magazines in lever-action rifles and tubular magazines in some pistols.You also can’t buy or import any magazines over 10 rounds but you can keep any you owned before 2000. Just don’t get caught carrying them in public except to specific exempted locations like shooting ranges.

Ammo Laws

Starting in 2019, you gotta pass a background check every time you buy ammo here. It doesn’t matter where – gun store, big retailer, gun show, doesn’t matter. Background check required.You also can’t buy ammo online and have it shipped directly to your home. It has to go through a licensed vendor that will do the background check before giving it to you.And you can’t bring more than 1,000 rounds into the state in a 30 day period. Yeah, they literally keep track of how much ammo you’re bringing into California.

Concealed Carry

Getting a concealed carry permit in California is tough. Basically you gotta prove that you have a very specific need for it beyond just wanting to carry for self defense. For normal folks, almost impossible to get one.If you do get a CCW, there’s still tons of restrictions on where you can actually carry – schools, government buildings, hospitals, public gatherings, etc are mostly off limits. And your home county sheriff gets to add even more local restrictions.

Transport and Storage Laws

When you’re transporting firearms in California, as a general rule they gotta be unloaded and in a locked container. For handguns, the locked container can be the vehicle’s trunk or a locked container other than the glove box. For rifles and shotguns, the trunk or a locked case is okay.At home, you gotta store guns so they are inaccessible to minors. Either locked away or using a CA-approved firearm safety device. Leaving an unsecured firearm around where a kid could access it can get you in serious trouble.There’s also laws about reporting lost or stolen firearms here. And you can’t leave a handgun in an unattended vehicle unless it’s locked in the trunk – if it gets stolen you can be held liable.

Gun-Free Zones

Schools, government buildings, airports, public parks, hospitals, bars, stadiums, etc are all gun-free zones in California. Don’t try to carry there even with a CCW. You’ll end up in handcuffs.Cities and counties can also declare other public areas as gun-free zones. And businesses on private property can ban guns on their premises too. So always be aware of signage wherever you go.

Age Restrictions

You gotta be 21 to buy a handgun in California. For rifles and shotguns it’s 18.You can possess a handgun at 18 if it’s gifted by immediate family or you get a hunting license. Otherwise, it’s illegal until you turn 21.

Mental Health Issues

If you’ve been hospitalized against your will for mental health treatment, or placed on a psychiatric hold, you become prohibited from owning guns for 5 years in California.You can petition the courts to get your rights restored after 6 months, but it’s a process. The state takes mental health history very seriously when it comes to guns.

Domestic Violence

If you have any type of domestic violence conviction or restraining order against you, say bye bye to your gun rights. These bans can last a lifetime and be nearly impossible to reverse. Don’t let yourself end up as a prohibited person over domestic issues.

The Bottom Line

California has a boatload of gun laws and they keep piling on more each year. Do your homework before buying, selling, carrying, or transporting firearms here. Stay up to date on the latest requirements. And consult a lawyer if you have any questions – don’t just rely on your buddy’s advice.The penalties are severe if you end up breaking any of these California gun laws, even unintentionally. We’re talking felony charges and big fines. The state does not mess around on this stuff.So be a responsible gun owner, know the laws, and stay safe out there! That’s my casual take as a resident of this fine gun-regulating state. Let me know if you have any other questions!