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California Open Carry: Laws, Requirements, Application & Online Training

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.

Open Carry California

The state of California’s laws concerning open carry are 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.

Understanding California’s Open Carry Laws

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.

Obtaining a Permit to Carry Firearms in California

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.

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.

Exceptions for Young Gun Owners

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.

Special Considerations for Gun Purchases

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 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.
See also  New Mexico Open Carry

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.

Additional Restrictions in California

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 is addicted to drugs
  • Involved in violent felonies and misdemeanors
  • Those who are involved with hate crimes
  • Those who misuse firearms unlawfully and violate 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

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.

Places Where You Can Open Carry With a License

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
  • In places of worship, however, if the church puts up signs disallowing the 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
See also  Illinois Open Carry

Places Where You Can’t Carry Even With a License

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

  • In 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 committees 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, and active law enforcement.

Background Checks and Waiting Period

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 an Entertainment Firearms Permit.

See also  Idaho Open Carry

A waiting period is also in place in the state of California for Weapons laws. 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.

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 ammunition.


California’s open carry laws are complex and detailed, designed to balance public safety with individual rights. While it is generally not allowed to open carry in California, obtaining a license and understanding the specific prohibitions can allow for some exceptions. It’s crucial for anyone planning to carry firearms in California to be aware of these laws and follow them closely.


Q1. Can I open carry in California without a license?

No, open carry in California is generally not allowed unless you have a valid license to carry firearms.

Q2. What are the age restrictions for purchasing firearms in California?

Individuals must be 21 years old or above to purchase firearms in California, with some exemptions for long guns for those under 18 years old if the transferor is a parent or guardian.

Q3. Who is prohibited from possessing firearms in California?

Felons, domestic abusers, individuals with mental illnesses, and those convicted of certain crimes are prohibited from possessing firearms in California.

Q4. Where can I open carry in California with a license?

You can open carry in roadside rest areas, national parks, state parks, state forests, and places of worship with a valid license. However, some locations are still off-limits even with a license.

Q5. Do I need a background check to purchase ammunition in California?

Yes, California requires a point-of-sale background check for anyone buying ammunition, making it one of the strictest states in ammunition regulation.

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