Penal Code 33600 PC | Zip Guns
Penal Code 33600 PC | Zip Guns
Zip guns—also known as improvised firearms or crude firearms—refer to homemade firearms that are often cobbled together from materials like metal pipes, springs, and other parts. While some people make these weapons as a hobby or out of curiosity, zip guns are illegal in California under Penal Code 33600 PC. This law bans the manufacture, sale, possession, and transport of zip guns and other weapons that haven’t been registered with the state. But what exactly does the law say, and what are the penalties for violating it? Let’s break it down.
What is Penal Code 33600 PC?
Penal Code 33600 PC is the California law that makes it a crime to make, sell, possess, or transport an unregistered zip gun or other improvised firearm. Specifically, the law states:
Except as provided in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives, lends, or possesses any zip gun is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.
This statute bans homemade or improvised firearms that haven’t been registered with the California Department of Justice. It’s part of the state’s larger web of gun control laws aimed at regulating firearms possession and use.
What is Considered an Illegal Zip Gun?
A “zip gun” refers to a homemade or improvised firearm that hasn’t been registered with the state. It dosen’t refer to a specific kind of gun, but rather any kind of homemade firearm. According to California courts, a zip gun is generally defined as:
- A weapon made from materials like pipe, wood, or metal
- Capable of firing a bullet or projectile
- But that does not qualify as an antique firearm
Some examples of illegal zip guns under PC 33600 include:
- A pipe or metal tube sealed at one end and attached to a firing mechanism at the other
- A wood plank with rubber bands, springs, or other parts that can launch a projectile
- A metal tube, pipe, or other material configured to fire shotgun shells
- A weapon made from plumbing pipes, end caps, and firing pins
- Any other homemade gun built from random parts and materials
It dosen’t matter if the weapon actually works or is capable of firing. If it’s a homemade firearm that hasn’t been registered, it’s considered an illegal zip gun.
Are There any Legal Zip Guns?
While Penal Code 33600 bans most improvised firearms, there are some exceptions. The law dosen’t apply to:
- Antique firearms made before 1899
- Firearms made before 1968 that have been registered under the National Firearms Act
- Weapons registered with the California Department of Justice as assault weapons or .50 BMG rifles
So if you have a registered assault weapon or other legal firearm that you’ve modified or “zipped” together yourself, that’s allowed. The key is having it properly registered.
The law also makes an exception for firearms manufactured by a licensed manufacturer and sold to law enforcement or the military. So zip guns made by companies with the proper licensing and permitting are legal.
Penalties for Possessing a Zip Gun in California
Under Penal Code 33600, the penalties for possessing, making, selling, or transporting an unregistered zip gun in California include:
- Up to 1 year in county jail
- A fine up to $1,000
- Both jail time and a fine
- Felony charges if you have a prior conviction under the law
If convicted of a felony, you face 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in California state prison. The judge decides based on factors like your criminal history and the circumstances of the offense.
If you’re facing charges under PC 33600 for an alleged zip gun, working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer is critical. There are several legal defenses they may be able to raise on your behalf, such as:
- You didn’t knowingly possess the weapon – If someone planted the zip gun in your house or car without your knowledge, then you arguably didn’t “possess” it.
- The weapon wasn’t yours – If other people had access to where the zip gun was found (like a shared garage), it’s possible to show the weapon belonged to someone else.
- The weapon wasn’t capable of firing – If forensic testing reveals that the alleged zip gun couldn’t actually fire a projectile, then it may not meet the legal definition.
- You had no intent to manufacture or sell – The law prohibits making, selling, or possessing zip guns. But if you only briefly possessed it with no intent to make or sell it, you may have a valid defense.
An experienced attorney can also negotiate with the prosecutor for reduced charges or punishment. For a first-time offense with no aggravating factors, it may be possible to plead to a misdemeanor and avoid jail time.
Possessing an illegal zip gun may also lead to charges under other California gun laws, including:
- Penal Code 29610 PC – Possession of a firearm by a prohibited person (if you’re a felon, domestic abuser, etc.)
- Penal Code 18710 PC – Possession of an undetectable firearm
- Penal Code 24610 PC – Unlawful possession of a firearm at specific places (schools, government buildings, airports, etc.)
A skilled defense lawyer can help fight any additional charges and seek to have them reduced or dismissed.
Getting charged with manufacturing or possessing an illegal zip gun can lead to jail time and a criminal record. But with an experienced attorney on your side, it may be possible to avoid felony penalties and protect your future. Don’t take chances by trying to defend yourself against PC 33600 charges. Consult with a lawyer as soon as possible.
- California Penal Code 33600 PC
- California “Zip Gun” Laws, Shouse California Law Group
- CALCRIM No. 2550. Manufacturing, Importing, Selling, Giving, or Possessing an Undetectable Firearm, Justia
- California Penal Code 16590 PC – Zip gun defined