Penal Code 626.10 PC | Weapons on School Grounds

Penal Code 626.10 PC | Weapons on School Grounds

Bringing a weapon onto school grounds can lead to serious criminal charges in California. Penal Code 626.10 PC is the law that prohibits weapons on school grounds, including firearms, dirks, daggers, ice picks, knives with a fixed blade longer than 2.5 inches, tasers, stun guns, and tear gas. Let’s break down this law so you understand what’s illegal, potential defenses, and penalties if convicted.

The Law – What’s Prohibited

Penal Code 626.10 PC states that you can’t bring or possess “any dirk, dagger, ice pick, knife having a fixed blade longer than 2 1/2 inches, folding knife with a blade that locks into place, razor with an unguarded blade, taser or stun gun” on the grounds of any public or private school providing instruction for kindergarten through 12th grade.

This law also bans having any “instrument that expels a metallic projectile, such as a BB or pellet” through force of air pressure, CO2 cartridges, or spring action. That includes any spot marker gun, air gun, or paint gun.

And you can’t possess any weapon replica firearms, such as a BB device made to look like a real gun. Possessing fireworks or other dangerous explosives is also prohibited.

What about firearms? It’s illegal to bring any firearms onto school grounds under Penal Code 626.9 PC. The only exception is if you have a valid concealed carry license – but firearms must remain concealed at all times. Open carry is strictly prohibited.

Where Does This Law Apply?

Penal Code 626.10 PC applies to any public or private school providing instruction for grades K-12, or on the grounds of that school. This includes:

  • Public and private elementary, middle, and high schools
  • Charter schools
  • School parking lots, sports fields, stadiums, or other school property

The law also bans these weapons at school-sponsored activities, like football games, dances, or graduation ceremonies. It doesn’t matter if the event is on school grounds or somewhere else.

What about colleges or universities? There may be school rules prohibiting weapons, but Penal Code 626.10 does not apply to postsecondary schools. However, there are other California laws restricting firearms on college campuses.

Penalties for Violating PC 626.10

If your convicted of bringing a prohibited weapon onto school grounds, penalties include:

  • Misdemeanor – up to 1 year in county jail, a max $1,000 fine, or both
  • Felony – 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in state prison

If the weapon is a firearm, you’ll be charged with a felony. And if convicted, you’ll also face:

  • 3, 5 or 7 years in state prison
  • A max $10,000 fine

Judges tend to punish weapons violations on school grounds harshly. Even if it’s a misdemeanor with no criminal intent, expect more than just probation if convicted. The court will likely impose some jail time as a condition of probation to send a strong message.

Legal Defenses

If your facing charges under PC 626.10, possible legal defenses include:

  • You didn’t knowingly bring the weapon – For example, you inadvertently left a pocket knife in your backpack from a camping trip over the weekend. Or someone else placed the weapon in your car or locker without your knowledge.
  • You had no criminal intent – You brought the weapon onto campus by accident or for an innocent purpose, not to threaten or harm anyone.
  • The weapon doesn’t meet the definition – For example, the knife blade was under 2.5 inches long or the firearm wasn’t real.
  • You have a valid concealed carry license – If charged with possessing a firearm, having a CCW permit is a defense (but it must stay concealed).

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can evaluate the details of your case and decide the best defense strategy. This may lead to reduced charges or a dismissal.

Recent Cases

There have been several high-profile arrests for weapons on school grounds in California. For example:

  • In 2021, an 11-year old student was arrested after firing a gun on campus at Magnolia Elementary School in Anaheim, CA. No one was injured.
  • In 2019, a 16-year old brought a ghost gun and ammunition to Watsonville High School. He was charged with felony weapons violations.
  • In 2018, a teacher at Seaside High School was arrested for threatening to shoot up the school. Prosecutors charged him with making criminal threats.

As you can see, law enforcement takes these incidents very seriously. Even if no one is harmed, there are severe consequences for the student or teacher who brings a weapon on campus.

Policy Considerations

Some people argue that penalties for violations of Penal Code 626.10 are too harsh:

  • Students may bring a weapon to school unintentionally, without criminal intent.
  • Teenagers often don’t consider the consequences and use poor judgement.
  • Felony convictions can ruin a young person’s future.

They believe judges should have more discretion to reduce charges to misdemeanors or grant probation in appropriate cases. Sending a student to prison for a mistake only makes them more likely to reoffend later.

On the other side, many say the strict penalties are necessary:

  • Weapons on campus jeopardize the safety of students and teachers.
  • Harsh penalties deter students from taking risks.
  • Security must be paramount, even if it means ruining one student’s future.

Overall, the California legislature and courts emphasize school safety over second chances. Don’t expect much leniency if facing charges under this law.


Penal Code 626.10 PC prohibits a wide range of weapons on public or private school grounds in California. Violations are prosecuted aggressively, often as felonies. While you may raise legal defenses like lack of criminal intent, the penalties for convictions remain severe. So understand the risks before deciding to bring any prohibited weapons onto school property.


California Penal Code 626.10 PC – California Legislative Information
California Penal Code 626.9 PC – California Legislative Information
“Student opens fire at Magnolia Elementary School in Anaheim, shooting into classroom,” Los Angeles Times (November 2021)
“Watsonville student arrested after police find gun in his backpack,” Santa Cruz Sentinel (May 2019)
“Seaside High teacher arrested for alleged gun threat,” Monterey Herald (February 2018)