California gun laws are considered the most restrictive of any U.S. state, maybe only compared to New York Laws. California is a “May Issue” state which means the local sheriff has the final say in who is issued a permit. This can range from “shall Issue” in rural counties to no issue in mostly urban counties. Restrictions can be placed on a permit limiting where it can be used. Law enforcement varies with urban counties strictly enforcing all firearms laws and rural counties tending to be more lenient. California law also requires all guns to be registered.
California Gun Laws Quick Facts
|Open Carry Permitted?||Yes/No – California residents are only allowed to open carry under 2 conditions. First, the individual must have a CCWL (California Concealed Weapons License). You can also only carry in a county with a population under 200,000 people. If either of these criteria are not fulfilled then California prohibits people from openly carrying a firearm (loaded or unloaded) on them.|
|Carry In Vehicle?||Yes – Individuals are allowed to carry in a vehicle if they have a CCWL. If you do not have a CCWL then California requires your firearm to be unloaded and in a locked container in a compartment other then your glove compartment. For example, your trunk would count as a different compartment you could put your firearm in. For reference, California defines a locked container as a holding container with some form of a locking device on the container.|
|Carry In State Park?||Yes – Individuals may carry within state or national parks provided they have a CCWL that is valid in the county where the park is located.|
|Carry In Restaurants?||Yes/No – Technically there’s no code stating the legality of concealed carrying a firearm (so long as you have the appropriate CCWL) in a bar or restaurant. Yet, when you get a CCWL you have to agree not to carry your firearm into any location where they primarily sell alcohol. It’s better to error on the side of caution, which is our recommendation.|
|Constitutional Carry?||No – California does not recognize constitutional carry for their residents.|
|No Weapon Sign Enforced?||No – We couldn’t find any code referencing the enforcement of a no weapon sign for buildings.|
|Must Notify Officer?||Yes/No – There’s no indication of a duty to inform on the state level. Although some counties do have specific requirements to notify which is discussed when getting the county specific CCWL|
California CCW Reciprocity List
States Honoring CCW
- North Carolina
- South Dakota
States NOT Honoring CCW
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Honors These States CCW Permits
California does not honor any other states concealed carry weapons permit due to the county nature of their concealed carry program. In order to carry your firearm in California you must get the county specific CCWL.
How Reciprocity Works In California
California will not honor any other states concealed carry permit. There are 24 states that will accept a California permit.
Reciprocity Agreements In California
California: Where Is CCW Allowed?
- State parks
- State and national forests
- Road side rest areas
- All areas of the state not listed as Off-Limits
Places Not Allowed
- School grounds, colleges and universities
- Child care facility
- Courthouse or Court room
- Public buildings or meetings
- Social rehabilitation facility
- Gun show or event if you have ammunition that fits firearm
- State Capitol, any legislative office, any office of the Governor or other constitutional officer, or any hearing room in which any committee of the Senate or Assembly is conducting a hearing, or upon the grounds of the State Capitol, which is bounded by 10th, L, 15th, and N Streets in the City of Sacramento.
State wildlife management areas
- Polling station – this includes any person, uniformed peace officer, private guard, or security personnel or any person who is wearing a uniform of a peace officer, guard, or security personnel, who is stationed in the immediate vicinity of, or posted at, a polling place without written authorization.
- Demonstrations related to refusal to work
- While masked to conceal your identity.
- Any place that serves alcohol for consumption
- Cal Expo center in Sacramento
- You may not carry a firearm if you are consuming alcohol
- You may not display a concealed firearm
- You cannot carry a concealed weapon not listed on the permit.
- You cannot carry a concealed weapon at times or circumstances other than those specified in the permit
- Any place where the carrying of firearms is prohibited by Federal Law.
California: Conceal Carry Laws
California is unique in it’s gun laws as they recognize the counties rights to determine if residents are allowed to open carry a firearm. As mentioned below, the state does not recognize constitutional carry either. For California residents there are two criteria which must be met in order to open carry a firearm:
- You must have a CCWL in the specific country where you’re trying to open carry.
- You can only open carry in a California county with a population under 200,000 people.
If just one of these criteria is not met then you will be unable to open carry your firearm.
Carry In Vehicle
If you don’t have a permit, and you’re 18 or older and reside in California you can carry a handgun in a vehicle so long as the handgun is stored in a locked container outside the glove compartment and is unloaded. If you’re carrying the handgun it must be in a locked container. If you have a CCW permit than you’re legally allowed to carry in a vehicle without following the above. The Law Penal Code 16850
Carry In State Parks
You can carry in parks so long as you have the appropriate CCWL for the county, however it is illegal to carry in the buildings of state parks.
State Parks: YES
State/National Forests: YES
State Game Management Units: NO – Fish & Game code 10500
Road Side Rest Areas: YES
Carry In Restaurants
California is a little odd with this specific scenario. For a state with such stringent firearm laws they don’t provide a lot of clarity when it comes to carrying in a restaurant. From our research we found that there’s no specific law stating you cannot concealed carry in a restaurant or bar. However, when you get the CCWL there’s language stating that you agree not to concealed carry in an establishment that primarily serves alcohol. We believe California does not have specific language because of what’s agreed upon when getting the CCWL. Because of this reason we advise you to error on the side of caution and not concealed carry into a restaurant that primarily sells alcohol.
California does not recognize or allow residents to constitutional carry.
No Weapon Signs Enforced
In California, “No Weapons” sign do not have the weight of the law behind them.
Must Notify Officer
We didn’t find any specific reference on a duty to inform or to notify an officer you’re carrying a firearm. However, we did find some specific counties have language which do state that you must notify officers upon being asked if those offers are approaching you on official business.