Is California An Open Carry State?

California, unlike some states in the U.S., has more laws regarding the control of guns and any actions related to firearms. The state has restrictions and strict jurisdiction over gun owners. California also has limitations and prohibitions that in some states in the U.S. do not exist.

The state of California’s laws concerning open carry is sometimes confusing and somewhat contradictory to one another. However, a general rule states that open carrying in California is not allowed, but there are exemptions to this law.

People in California know that anyone cannot carry an exposed handgun even if it is unloaded anywhere in public. Violation of this law constitutes a misdemeanor in the majority of the cases. This prohibition, however, has specific exemptions, which we’ll discuss later in this article.

If an individual lives in a county with less than 200,000 in population, they may apply for a permit to carry firearms in public. The applicant shall request from the county sheriff or the chief of police of a city within the county they belong to a license to carry guns in public. But, these licenses are only valid within the county where they received them.

It can be tricky living in California and being used to the freedom of carrying guns in open-carry states. Let’s discuss all the items that are important to answer the question fully, “is open carry legal in California?”

Age Restriction For Open Carry Law In California

Generally, the state of California prohibits the selling of any firearms to anyone under the age of 21. This statute coincides with the federal law that dictates only individuals 21 years old and above may possess firearms. 

Concerning this law, it is illegal to sell, transfer, or loan any type of firearms to individuals below 18 years old. California gun laws, however, dictate that exemptions apply to long guns according to the statute. The exception only applies if the transferor is a parent or the guardian of the minor.

Gun stores are also not allowed to sell or transfer handguns and semi-automatic rifles to people under the age of 21. Although this law has exemptions. People who are not allowed to buy to may be entitled to purchase if:

  • The individual is purchasing the firearm for hunting purposes and can show a valid hunting license to the gun store
  • The individual is a member of the local law enforcement
  • The individual belongs to the Armed Forces of the U.S.

These prohibitions also apply to private party sales and transfers if the transaction is through a licensed dealer in the state of California. However, if the firearm’s transfer or sale is not through an authorized dealer, then it is legal. One exemption is transferring or selling a gun from an immediate family member to another.

While minors are generally not allowed to possess firearms, they can do so if their parent or legal guardian permits them. It is also permissible for minors to own guns if they are involved in any of these activities:

  • Shooting
  • Agricultural activities
  • Ranching
  • Hunting
  • Motion picture events
  • Shooting a television film
  • Video production
  • Theatrical events
  • Other entertainment-related activities that require the use of a firearm

Who Can Have Guns In California?

Some of the most demanding gun laws in the U.S. are in the state of California; therefore, it has several prohibitions as to who can possess guns in their state. According to federal law, felons, domestic abusers, and people who suffer from mental illnesses are not allowed by law to possess firearms. 

California’s state laws are much broader than the federal regulations. These are the people who aren’t allowed to possess firearms within the state of California:

  • Has conviction records of felony, domestic abuse, violent domestic crimes, and are addicted to drugs
  • Involved in violent felonies and misdemeanors
  • Those who are involved with hate crimes
  • Those who misuse firearms unlawfully and violated laws regarding the safe storage of firearms around minors
  • Individuals who have warrants of arrest involving an offense that may result in the prohibition of possession of firearms
  • Convicted a ward of the juvenile court due to the crime of the individual involving drugs, guns, and violence; the ban will be valid until the person is 30 years old
  • Individuals who are aware that they have a protective order, temporary restraining order, restraining order, or injunction following state laws
  • Individuals who have a history of alcoholism or severe mental illness

If an individual above 18 years old is staying in the same house with someone they know is prohibited by law to possess firearms, they can be convicted of a misdemeanor unless:

The gun is always close to the person of the gun owner and is easily accessible to retrieve it should the need arises

  • The firearm has a locking device that will make the gun inoperable
  • The gun is inside a locked trunk
  • The gun is inside a gun safe
  • A safety device is installed on the firearm disabling it

Where Is It Legal To Open Carry In California?

It is generally not allowed to open carry in California. However, once you secure a license to carry in your county, you may do so, but it comes with specific prohibitions. 

There are locations where it is legal to carry firearms in the state of California if you have a license to carry. These places are the following:

  • Roadside rest areas
  • National parks and national forests
  • State parks and state forests
  • Places of worship, however, if the church puts up signs disallowing bringing of guns inside their property, it must be followed since churches are private properties
  • Any place included in the list of locations where carrying firearms is prohibited

These are the locations where individuals may not carry guns despite having a license to carry:

  • Public and private K-12 schools, however, firearms in a locked container or inside a locked trunk of a vehicle are allowed.
  • Colleges and universities unless there is explicit permission from the school authorities
  • Courtrooms if you are involved in an action before the court
  • Gun shows and events related to guns if you bring any ammunition that fits the firearms on display
  • Within the premises of the state capitol and any office of the legislative branch
  • Office of the governor and other constitutional officers
  • Any building where a hearing of any of the committee of the senate is taking place
  • Within the area of the residence of the governor or any other constitutional officer 
  • The home of the members of the legislative branch unless there is permission
  • Wildlife reserve and management areas
  • Polling stations during any voting day
  • Bringing firearms in your person or inside your vehicle during a picket or any public legal activity related to refusal to work
  • Any place accessible to the public if you are wearing a mask or any clothing that hides your identity
  • Any place where the consumption of alcohol is allowed
  • The Cal Expo Center
  • Fresno City Hall
  • Any property of the county of San Francisco inside their area
  • Any other site where firearms are under prohibition by federal law, state law, or other legal regulation

What Is California Open Carry Law On Purchase And Possession Of Guns

Those who plan to purchase firearms in California should secure a Firearm Safety Certificate and complete a safety demonstration using the handgun they bought. They can have an exemption to this law if they qualify for an HSC exemption. HSC exemptions include those with valid hunting licenses, active or honorably discharged military personnel, active law enforcement.

All gun dealers are required to submit a background check report on every individual who buys a firearm. If you already have an existing permit to carry, you may skip the mandated background check if you have Entertainment Firearms Permits.

A waiting period is also in place in the state of California. As stated by law, any purchaser shall wait ten days before they can physically take the gun home. After the purchase, firearms registration is not required by law unless the buyer is an assault weapon owner or a personal handgun importer.

Other Gun-Carrying Laws In The State of California

Ammunition Regulation

California is among the states with the strongest laws in ammunition purchases. In 2019, they were the first state to require a point of sale background check for people who wish to buy ammunitions.

These are the following aspects that the state of California regulates concerning ammunitions:

  • Transfers and sales of ammunition
  • Individuals who are under prohibition from purchasing ammunition
  • Minimum age to possess ammunition
  • Bringing ammunition in gun events and shows
  • Types of ammunition that are allowed for the purchase

Additional Resources

California Gun Laws
California Concealed Carry Laws
California Gun Permit Laws

Get Your
Concealed Carry Weapons Permit 
Online In Minutes

About the Author

Follow me

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}