How do California’s strict gun laws differ from federal law?

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Waiting periods, assault weapons bans — you may have heard that California’s gun laws are among the strictest in the nation. What does that mean, exactly? We’ve done the legwork and broke it down for you.

WAITING PERIOD Ten-day waiting period before a firearm can be released to a buyer or transferee. No federal waiting period. Under the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a dealer may transfer a firearm to a prospective purchaser as soon as he or she passes a background check, which can take minutes. If the FBI is unable to complete a background check within three business days, the dealer may complete the transfer by default.
ASSAULT WEAPONS Banned in California. As of 2018 certain AR-15 rifles with "bullet buttons" are no longer exempt and must be modified. Currently legal. Banned between 1994 and 2004.
AGE REQUIREMENTS Same as federal: Individual must be at least 18 years old to purchase a rifle or shotgun, and at least 21 years old to purchase a handgun. Same as California: Individual must be at least 18 years old to purchase a rifle or shotgun, and at least 21 years old to purchase a handgun.
PURCHASE LIMIT Purchasing more than one handgun within any 30-day period is prohibited except in specific circumstances. There is no limit on the number of rifles or shotguns that can be purchased. Federal law does not limit the number of guns a person may buy in any given time period.
PERMIT No permit required. However, handgun buyers must pass a Firearm Safety Certificate test before the purchase. No
REGISTRATION OF FIREARMS New California residents must report their ownership of firearms to the DOJ or sell/transfer them within 60 days. No
PERMIT TO CARRY CONCEALED WEAPONS IN PUBLIC California requires a permit to carry a weapon, issued by a sheriff or police chief. There must be a reason — usually self defense, and the person must be of "good moral character." Some counties, including Los Angeles, refuse to issue permits. But a permit issued in one jurisdiction allows you to carry a gun anywhere in the state. None
PURCHASE AND POSSESSION OF FIREARM California prohibits other categories of people in addition to federal law, such as:
- those convicted of violent or gun-related misdemeanors
- those deemed by the court to be a danger to oneself or others
Federal law prohibits the purchase and possession of firearms by people who fall within certain categories, such as:
- convicted felons
- domestic abusers
- illegal drug addicts or abusers
- people with specific kinds of mental health histories
- undocumented immigrants
- dishonorably discharged service members — people with restraining orders
POSSESSION OF LARGE CAPACITY MAGAZINES California bans the sale or manufacture of ammunition magazines that can hold more than 10 cartridges or rounds. A ban on possessing magazines purchased prior to 2000 has been challenged in court. Possession is no longer prohibited after the expiration of the federal Assault Weapons ban in 2004.
PURCHASING A FIREARM All firearms purchases and transfers, including private party transactions and sales at gun shows, must be made through a licensed dealer under the Dealer Record of Sale (DROS) process. A transaction between unlicensed private parties in the same state does not require record-keeping. A transaction between unlicensed private parties in different states require transfer to a federal firearms licensee in the buyer's state.