Penal Code 16520 PC | Definition of a Firearm

Penal Code 16520 PC – Definition of a Firearm in California

Hey y’all! Let’s talk about what California considers a “firearm” under the law. This is important to know because there are a bunch of laws about who can own guns, sell guns, carry guns, etc. The legal definition of a firearm is found in California Penal Code Section 16520. Let’s break it down!

What is Considered a Firearm?

According to PC 16520, a firearm is “a device, designed to be used as a weapon, from which is expelled through a barrel, a projectile by the force of an explosion or other form of combustion.”

This basically means any gun that shoots bullets or other projectiles using an explosion or combustion as the power source. Some common examples of firearms include:

  • Handguns
  • Pistols
  • Revolvers
  • Rifles
  • Shotguns

The definition also includes the frame or receiver of a firearm weapon. So if you have just part of a gun, that can count as a firearm too.

Here’s another interesting one – rockets, rocket launchers, and similar devices are considered firearms under California law if they contain explosives or incendiary material. Even if they are designed for like, emergency signaling purposes, they are still firearms.

Exceptions – What Isn’t Considered a Firearm

There are a couple exceptions to the firearm definition in PC 16520:

  • Antique firearms – if they are unloaded
  • Destructive devices – things like bombs or grenades possessed by law enforcement/military

Also, BB guns, pellet guns, paintball guns, and airsoft guns don’t count as firearms under California law. That’s because they use compressed air instead of explosions/combustion to shoot projectiles.

Firearm Ownership Laws in California

Now that we know what counts as a firearm, let’s talk about who can and can’t own guns in California.

You can legally own a gun in California if:

  • You are not a convicted felon
  • You don’t have any restraining orders against you
  • You are not addicted to any narcotics
  • You don’t have 2 or more convictions for Penal Code 417 – brandishing a weapon
  • You don’t have any convictions for certain misdemeanor offenses, like domestic violence
  • You have a valid Handgun Safety Certificate

You also have to wait 10 days and pass a background check before receiving a gun you purchase. And you have to store your firearms properly and securely.

Some people are prohibited from owning guns in California. That includes:

  • Convicted felons
  • Anyone addicted to narcotics
  • People convicted of certain violent misdemeanors
  • Anyone who has been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility

There is also an “assault weapons” ban in California. Penal Code 30600 makes it illegal to manufacture, distribute, transport, import, sell, or possess an assault weapon or .50 BMG rifle.

Selling Firearms in California

To legally sell a gun in California, you need a valid firearms dealer license. This applies to selling, leasing, or transferring firearms. If you sell guns without a license, you can be charged with a misdemeanor under California Penal Code 26500.

Carrying Firearms in California

California also has laws about carrying firearms in public places:

  • Penal Code 25850 – It is a misdemeanor to carry a loaded firearm in public
  • Penal Code 26350 – It is a misdemeanor to openly carry an unloaded handgun in public

There are some exceptions – like if you have a valid concealed carry permit. But in general, you can’t just walk around in public with a loaded or unloaded gun without facing criminal charges.

Sentencing Enhancements for Firearm Crimes

If you use a firearm while committing another crime, that can lead to harsher punishments. For example, armed robbery or assault with a deadly weapon may carry longer sentences than the non-armed version of those crimes. And using a gun in connection with a felony can turn a misdemeanor charge into a felony.

Criminal Charges Involving Firearms

Some other criminal charges related to firearms include:

  • Penal Code 25400 – Carrying a concealed firearm
  • Penal Code 29800 – Felon or addict in possession of a firearm
  • Penal Code 30600 – Possession of an assault weapon
  • Penal Code 417 – Brandishing a firearm
  • Penal Code 246 – Shooting at an inhabited dwelling

As you can see, the penalties for firearm crimes are no joke! If you’ve been charged with a gun-related offense, it’s really important to talk to a criminal defense attorney right away.

Legal Defenses Against Firearm Charges

If you’ve been accused of a crime involving a firearm, a lawyer may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed by arguing:

  • You were falsely accused / mistaken identity
  • The item doesn’t meet the legal definition of a firearm
  • You had a valid permit for the firearm
  • You had no knowledge the firearm was present

An experienced attorney can advise you on the best defense strategy for your specific charges.

Get Legal Help Today

I hope this overview was helpful in explaining California’s definition of a firearm and the related criminal laws. Possessing or using guns improperly can result in severe penalties, so make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities as a gun owner. If you’ve been charged with a firearm crime, don’t go it alone – speak with a criminal defense lawyer right away to protect your future.

Stay safe out there folks! Let me know if you have any other legal questions.