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California Law & Prohibited Weapons

By June 28, 2021 June 30th, 2021 No Comments

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.

The attorneys at the Dolan Law Offices may help any Californian obtain the best possible result in his or her criminal matter. John Patrick Dolan is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law. Certification as a Specialist in Criminal Law is the highest achievement awarded by the State Bar of California to attorneys in the field of criminal law. The attorneys at the Dolan Law Offices have decades of experience defending individuals charged with illegal weapon possession. Call us today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.

California Law & Prohibited Weapons 


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