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Penal Code 20310 PC | Air Gauge Knives

Penal Code 20310 PC | Air Gauge Knives

Despite organizations’ ongoing attempts to increase rights to own and carry various types of knives in the United States, there is still a long list of knives that are illegal, including “air gauge knives,” which are uncommon in California. But first, let’s define an air gauge knife and the actions that are illegal under California law.

What is an Air Gauge Knife?

According to the definition provided in section 16140 of California Penal Code, an air gauge knife is “an instrument, which appears to be an air gauge knife, but has concealed within it a pointed blade.” In other words, characteristics of this type of knife are:

  • Being similar or looking like an air gauge,
  • Having a hidden knife in it.

Possessing, selling, or engaging in other actions with air gauge knives, which will be discussed further in this article, is illegal under California Penal Code section 20310. Section 16590, which prohibits the manufacture, sale, and/or possession of certain dangerous weapons, applies to air gauge knives. This section among prohibited firearms, firearm equipment, martial art weapons, and other prohibited weapons also lists prohibited knives, such as ballistic knives, lipstick case knives, and air gauge knives.

Under section 16590, one can be liable for knowingly committing the manufacture, import, sales of listed general weapons.

What Actions are Illegal Under California Penal Code, Section 20310 PC?

Section 20310 PC makes it illegal for a person to manufacture, import into California, keep for sale, offer for sale, give, lend, or possess any air gauge knife. In other words, you violate this section if you:

  • Make an air gauge knife;
  • Bring one into the state of California;
  • Possess one with intent to sell it;
  • Actually sell, or offer to sell, an air gauge knife;
  • Give an air gauge knife to another person as a gift;
  • Lend your air gauge knife to someone else; or
  • Simply have an air gauge knife in your possession or under your custody or control.

In California, PC 20310 is an example of a wobbler. Wobblers are unique in that they can be classified as either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the prosecutor’s decision. Typically, a wobbler’s criminal history and the facts of the current case determine how the case will end.

A knife with an air gauge is one that:

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  • resembles or looks like an air gauge
  • has a knife hidden inside it

What Are the Penalties for Violations of Section 20310 California Penal Code?

The violation is in the category of wobble offense, thus it can be both as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the factual circumstances of the case. Charges for such violations are imprisonment in a county jail or a significant amount of penalty.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the following penalties shall be imposed:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for a term up to one year
  • a maximum fine in the amount of 1000$

In case the crime is charged as a felony, it shall be punished by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to three years
  • imposing a maximum fine of 3000$

What Legal Defenses Are Available to Help you Avoid Punishment?

A defendant can use the necessity defense to avoid being found guilty if he can show that he had a compelling reason for committing the crime. An accused could argue that he committed a crime because he had no other option in the case of an illegal act with an air gauge knife. Examples of such defenses can be:

  • The instrument, which you possessed, is not an air gauge knife. Section 16140 of the Penal Code of California gives a certain definition for the air gauge knife. As, in case the instrument you sold, imported, possessed, or gave does not correspond to the provided definition, you cannot be charged under section 20310 of the California Penal Code.
  • You are in categories of people who can not carry such knives. Certain groups of people are allowed to carry prohibited weapons if it is a requirement of their job. For example, peace officers, animal control officers, members of the military forces of California or the United States, antique firearm collectors with a valid license, etc. So, if you fall into one of these categories, you may have a defense against charges of possessing illegal knives.

If you or your friend are accused of violation of Penal Code 20310 PC of California, we invite you to contact criminal attorneys of the KAASS Law firm for consultation and further assistance. Please feel free to give our office a call at 310.943.1171.

California Law & Prohibited Weapons

California permits its citizens to purchase, own, and possess firearms. It permits the purchase, possession, and use of other weapons as well, but with restrictions. However, some weapons, such as assault weapons, are prohibited entirely under California law. California’s restrictions on the right to purchase, own, and possess firearms in California relate primarily to how firearms may be stored, transported, and carried.

Prohibited weapons in California may be broken down into the following categories:

  • firearms
  • firearm equipment/ammunition
  • knives/swords
  • martial arts weapons
  • miscellaneous weapons

A “generally prohibited weapon” under California Penal Code § 16590 refers to any of the following weapons (the specific code section that directly applies to the weapon is noted):

  • An air gauge knife, as prohibited by Section 20310.
  • Ammunition that contains or consists of a flechette dart, as prohibited by Section 30210.
  • A ballistic knife, as prohibited by Section 21110.
  • A belt buckle knife, as prohibited by Section 20410.
  • A bullet containing or carrying an explosive agent, as prohibited by Section 30210.
  • A camouflaging firearm container, as prohibited by Section 24310.
  • A cane gun, as prohibited by Section 24410.
  • A cane sword, as prohibited by Section 20510.
  • A concealed dirk or dagger, as prohibited by Section 21310.
  • A concealed explosive substance, other than fixed ammunition, as prohibited by Section 19100.
  • A firearm that is not immediately recognizable as a firearm, as prohibited by Section 24510.
  • A large-capacity magazine, as prohibited by Section 32310.
  • A leaded cane or an instrument or weapon of the kind commonly known as a billy, blackjack, sandbag, sandclub, sap, or slungshot, as prohibited by Section 22210.
  • A lipstick case knife, as prohibited by Section 20610.
  • Metal knuckles, as prohibited by Section 21810.
  • A metal military practice handgrenade or a metal replica handgrenade, as prohibited by Section 19200.
  • A multiburst trigger activator, as prohibited by Section 32900.
  • A nunchaku, as prohibited by Section 22010.
  • A shobi-zue, as prohibited by Section 20710.
  • A short-barreled rifle or short-barreled shotgun, as prohibited by Section 33215.
  • A shuriken, as prohibited by Section 22410.
  • An unconventional pistol, as prohibited by Section 31500.
  • An undetectable firearm, as prohibited by Section 24610.
  • A wallet gun, as prohibited by Section 24710.
  • A writing pen knife, as prohibited by Section 20910.
  • A zip gun, as prohibited by Section 33600.

California § 16590 bans the following firearms:

  • Short-barreled rifles
  • Short-barreled shotguns
  • Undetectable firearms
  • Zip guns

California Penal Code § 30600 makes it illegal to manufacture, distribute, transport, or import assault weapons and .50 BMG rifles. As would be expected, makes it illegal to possess assault rifles in California (Penal Code § 30605).

Violations of PC 16590 are “wobblers” meaning that the criminal offense may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances. Conviction of a misdemeanor may result in a maximum of 364 days in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. A conviction for a felony may include 16 months, two years, or three years in county jail, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.

Specific individuals and certain circumstances are exempt from prosecution under § 16590. For example, law enforcement agents, martial arts teachers, and historical societies would be exempt. Questions often arise under § 16590 and other related weapon laws about whether the alleged perpetrator knowingly possessed, manufactured, or sold the prohibited weapon. A legitimate lack of knowledge may result in the failure to convict.


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