The recent felony weapons charges against Aldon Smith have led many on here to opine as to what California gun laws actually say and what they ought to say. I'm not here to argue what gun laws should or shouldn't say but only clarify what THEY DO SAY, because I would hate for anyone's ignorance on here to lead them afoul of the law. So let's begin with a little Q&A:.
QUESTION: Is the gun I own legal in California, and do I have to register it?
ANSWER: Please see flow chart provided by Calguns.net to see if your gun is legal and if it requires registration with the California Department of Justice (DOJ).
QUESTION: Where can I find a summary of California gun laws?
QUESTION: Are there local and federal gun laws I must comply with?
ANSWER: Yes. Federal gun laws apply to all persons in the United States. The United States DOJ posts a quick reference guide to federal gun laws. They also post a summary of federal gun laws. If you can't find information on local firearm ordinances online, contact your county clerk's office or city hall for more information.
QUESTION: But don't I have a right to bear arms to protect myself under the 2nd amendment of the US Constitution?
ANSWER: Yes, in McDonald vs. Chicago (2010), the United States Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that Americans have a fundamental right to bear arms within their respective states. This ruling clarified that a right to firearms ownership need not be connected to military service or participation in a state militia. The ruling also effectively struck down the City of Chicago's long-standing 'handgun ban'. However, the Supreme Court did NOT strike down state or municipal attempts to 'regulate' firearms within their jurisdictions.
QUESTION: Is it possible for me to lose my 2nd amendment rights to bear arms?
ANSWER: Yes. If you have a felony conviction, have been adjudicated as mentally ill by a court of law, or are convicted of even misdemeanor domestic violence, you LOSE your right to legally obtain and own a firearm (See Gun Control Act of 1968)
QUESTION: What does California law specifically say regarding firearms ownership and use?
ANSWER: Please see the California Penal Code (Part 6. Control of Deadly Weapons).
QUESTION: Can I legally purchase or own a fully automatic weapon (e.g. sub-machine gun)?
ANSWER: No. Although there are some exceptions for collectors/dealers pursuant to the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act, civilian ownership and purchase of new fully automatic weapons has been functionally banned in the United States since 1986.
QUESTION: How old do I have to be to purchase a gun? What requirements do I have to meet?
ANSWER: Generally, you must be 18 years of age to purchase a rifle or shotgun and 21 years of age to purchase a handgun (pistol or revolver). While both purchases require passage of a DOJ background check and mandatory 10-day waiting period, those seeking to purchase a handgun in California must also pass the Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC) program. Cal DOJ also provides a study guide for the HSC.
If you have other firearms questions, feel free to check out Cal DOJ's FAQ page