California Gun Magazine Law

The state of California has a strict law against high-capacity magazines. However, there are some outliers that make this law complicated.

What is a High Capacity Magazine?

One of the first penal codes you have to look at to find the definition of what exactly a large capacity magazine is California penal code 16740.

The definition of what the state considers to be a large capacity magazine is any magazine feeding device that has the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds and they are generally prohibited.

What is California Gun Magazine Law?

The California penal code 32310 essentially prohibits the possession, importation, manufacture, and sales of large-capacity magazines. Part B of this code is a specific section that discusses the manufacturing of large-capacity magazines. The definition of manufacturing for large-capacity magazines means fabricating or assembling.

Part C of the code is one of the main sections that involve the general prohibition on the possession of large-capacity magazines. Possession could lead to a fine, misdemeanor charge, or a combination of both.

Importation can either be a misdemeanor or a felony under a specific code. Also, whenever you are prosecuted, the individual who is prosecuting you can charge with a misdemeanor or felony.

Gun Laws Related to California Magazine Laws

Another California law that has to do with high-capacity magazines is the definition of assault weapons and how that interplays with large-capacity magazines. The law that addresses assault weapons or the definition of assault weapons in California is penal code 3051.

The main section of this code pertaining to magazines is the rifle configuration. It refers to a semi-automatic centerfire rifle that does not have a fixed magazine but a detachable magazine. They are considered assault weapons if they have any of the stated offending features:

  • a flash suppressor
  • a pistol grip
  • a forward pistol grip
  • a collapsing or telescoping stock
  • and a grenade launcher

If these offending features are on any type of rifle, it is considered an assault weapon. This has caused California residents to configure their rifles in a specific way so that they are considered featureless rifles.

The A2 section of this law deals with a completely different definition of what can be considered an assault weapon in California. These are semi-automatic centerfire rifles that have a fixed magazine and the capacity to accept a magazine or a device with more than 10 rounds.

Important history in case law about magazines law in California

Some important history that concerns California gun law magazine includes:

Duncan Vs Berra

One of the main cases in recent years is the Duncan Vs Berra that was a specific challenge to the California penal code 32310. This case went before a district court in the state of California and was heard by named judge Roger T Benitez. The judge ruled that the California penal code which prohibited the possession of large-capacity magazines and importation of cell manufacturing of large-capacity magazines was a violation of the second amendment. He issued an injunction on the enforcement of that penal code against law-abiding individuals in the state of California.

Freedom Week

Soon after, the attorney general’s office sought a stay of Judge Benitez’s decision and granted the stay. For a period of time, any individual who purchased any of the banned magazines in the state of California would not be subject to penal code 32310. This is what became known as the freedom week here in California.

The time period for the purposes of the freedom week ran from April 1st, 2019 to April 5th, 2019. What the judgment said is that any magazines purchased, manufactured, changed, and modified during that period are not subject to the penal codes.

For this, the attorney’s general’s office and the California Department of Justice sent out a letter saying that law enforcement agencies could not enforce this penal code against individuals who lawfully purchase possessed, imported, manufactured magazines during this freedom week.

The Case of Peng Yang

However, not all district attorney’s offices and law enforcement agencies got the notice because an individual named Peng Yang was arrested by some local sheriffs for the possession of a single magazine. He claimed to have acquired it during freedom week yet he was arrested and charged under that part of the law that deals with the importation, manufacturing, buying, and selling of large-capacity magazines.

The district attorney’s office was going to charge him, but the attorney’s office went through the ruling, got a notice from the Department of Justice, and decided to drop the charges. They concluded that Mr. Yang actually did acquire that magazine during freedom week, and he is allowed to have it.

Other Complicated Gun Laws in California ‘

Some other confusing California gun laws you should know include:

10-day waiting period

You must wait 10 days after you purchase a firearm before you take possession of that firearm and this is established under California penal code 26815, subsection A. The background check and the next system which is the DOJ checks to make sure you are not a prohibited person are most often very instantaneous.

Most other states can run a sale and give you possession of that firearm immediately. Bu in California they have a 10-day waiting period or a cooling-off period

Ammunition eligibility check

This is also known as California’s ammunition background check and is one of those ones that really baffles a lot of people outside the state. You have to complete a background check to purchase ammunition in the state of California and on top of that, the state does not allow you to purchase ammunition online directly.

You have to go through an FFL licensed dealer to run the eligibility check, and you have to pay either the basic fee or the standard fee. The standard eligibility check is supposed to be streamlined, whereas the basic check can take 24 hours or more.

Handgun Roster

Handgun roster law refers to the California state roster of approved handguns that normal law-abiding individuals can walk into a gun store and purchase. For any handgun that is not on that roster, you can simply not walk into an FFL shop to purchase them.

There are some other ways around that where you can do some private party transaction purchase. But the person who has that off roster handgun has to originally get it in a way that is exempt from the general California law. This is usually in a secondary market where the price of handguns off the roster is completely inflated.

Frequently Asked Questions About California Gun Laws

Some of the most asked question about Carlifornia gun magazine laws include:

Do I need to have proof of purchase if you purchase magazines during freedom week?

No, you do not necessarily need to have a receipt of your proof of purchase or any other type of proof. In the yang case, he had no proof of purchase. Also, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor to actually show that you did not purchase them during freedom week and that you are not in lawful possession of those magazines.

So you do not necessarily have to put forward your receipts to prove that you manufactured or modified a magazine during that period. But it is always good to have it for safety reasons and to validate that you lawfully purchased them during freedom week.

Can I use freedom week magazines in my CCW weapon or can I carry them if I have a lawful CCW permit?

In the state of California, this depends on your locality. There is no general law that says that you cannot. But the issue is that every local agency that issues your permits has the discretion to decide and determine the guidelines of what you can and cannot do with your CCW. 

There are some localities that may issue permits but put restrictions on their permits. This means that they have a limit of how many firearms you can have, and some limit the amount of capacity that you can have in your magazines. If you are concerned about this, just go to your issuing agency or your county sheriff and look up their guidelines.

Can I still purchase these magazines that can accept more than 10 rounds?

No, anyone who tells you you can still buy magazines that have the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds is wrong. The ruling by judge Benitez only left the window for the April 1st to April 5th time period. So if you did not acquire them during that period you are in illegal possession of a large-capacity magazine in the state of California.

Can I go to another state, purchase one of these magazines with more than 10 rounds and bring it back into the state of California?

No, once again under penal code 32310, this would be the importation of a large-capacity magazine. If you did that during freedom week it would be acceptable, but if you do it after you are not within that time period and you are illegally in possession of large-capacity magazines in the state of California.