See our Firearm Relinquishment policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
California has adopted clear, mandatory, and enforceable relinquishment requirements for individuals subject to civil and criminal domestic violence restraining orders and other civil restraining orders, including civil and workplace harassment, elder abuse, and gun violence restraining orders. The state has also adopted a clear, mandatory, and enforceable relinquishment law to remove firearms from people convicted of or pending trial for firearm-prohibiting crimes.
For more information on relinquishment in the protective order context, see the Domestic Violence & Firearms in California page. For information on people prohibited from possessing firearms in California, see our Prohibited Persons in California page.
Relinquishment of Firearms by People Convicted of Firearm-Prohibiting Crimes
Prior to the passage of a ballot initiative called Proposition 63 in 2016, California law had no clear mechanism to ensure individuals convicted of firearm-prohibiting crimes relinquished their guns after conviction.
In November 2016, California voters passed Proposition 63 to close this gap and made California the first state in the nation to require all people convicted of firearm-prohibiting crimes provide proof to the courts that they sold or transferred their firearms after conviction. Since January 1, 2018, Proposition 63 has required courts to order people convicted of firearm-prohibiting felonies and other serious crimes to relinquish their firearms (through a third-party designee) and to provide these defendants with a standard Relinquishment Form at the time of conviction.1 The form among other things:
- Informs defendants that they are required to relinquish all firearms within specified time periods by selling or transferring the firearms to a licensed firearms dealer, or by transferring them to local law enforcement.
- Informs defendants that they are required to declare any firearms that they possessed at the time of conviction and to name a lawful, consenting designee or law enforcement agency to relinquish those firearms on the defendants’ behalf, if applicable.
- Requires the defendant or designee to file the completed relinquishment form with the court-assigned probation officer, along with receipts from the law enforcement agency or licensed dealer who took possession of the defendant’s firearms, verifying that the offender relinquished all firearms prior to sentencing, as required.2
This law requires an assigned probation officer to notify the court about whether the offender properly relinquished all firearms indicated on the relinquishment form or by California’s automated database of firearm sale records.3Courts are generally required to verify that relinquishment occurred before final disposition of the defendant’s case.4 If the court finds probable cause that the defendant failed to relinquish all firearms, as required, the court will order the search for and removal of the defendant’s firearms at any location where the judge has probable cause to believe the defendant’s firearms are located.5
This relinquishment process implements best practices from California’s domestic violence protective order and gun violence restraining order laws by providing clear and mandatory procedures to all prohibited criminal offenders, by expressly requiring proof of relinquishment, and by requiring further enforcement action if the offender illegally retains his or her weapons after conviction.
Relinquishment of Firearms by People with Severe Mental Health Impairments
California law requires law enforcement to confiscate weapons found to be under the possession or control of any person who has been detained or apprehended for examination of his or her mental condition, or who is prohibited from possession of firearms by reason of a mental disorder.6 Law enforcement must, upon confiscation, retain custody of the firearm, issue a receipt describing the firearm, and notify the individual of the procedure for return of the firearm.7 Upon release from a mental health facility, the health facility personnel must notify the individual of the procedure for the return of a confiscated firearm.8 Health facility personnel also must notify the confiscating law enforcement agency of the release of the detained individual, and must document that the facility provided notice regarding the procedure for return of any confiscated firearm.9 California law also authorizes the issuance of a search warrant when the property to be seized includes a firearm owned by, or in the possession of, a person who has been detained for examination of his or her mental condition, or who is prohibited from possession of firearms by reason of a mental disorder.10
Recovering Illegally Owned Weapons – “APPS”
California law also requires the state Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish and maintain the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS),11 an electronic database of individuals who once legally purchased a firearm, or registered an assault weapon, and then became illegally armed by keeping those weapons after they became prohibited from possessing them under state or federal law. (This occurs, for example, when a gun owner is convicted of a domestic violence offense but fails to relinquish his or her firearms).12
State law requires DOJ, in conjunction with local law enforcement, to conduct enforcement actions to remove firearms from illegally armed individuals identified in APPS.13
The information contained in APPS can only be made available to certain entities–primarily law enforcement agencies–to actively identify persons armed yet prohibited from possessing firearms.14
In 2017 alone, APPS enforcement efforts recovered 3,685 illegally owned firearms, and over 800,000 rounds of illegally owned ammunition.15
- See Cal. Penal Code § 29810(a).
- Cal. Penal Code § 29810(b).
- Cal. Penal Code § 29810(c)(1)-(c)(2).
- Cal. Penal Code § 29810(c)(3).
- Cal. Penal Code § 29810(c)(4). For the findings form used by the court for firearm relinquishment, see https://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/cr210.pdf
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8102.
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8102(a)-(b)(1).
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8102(b)(2).
- Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8102(b)(3) . The administrative procedures regarding the return of a firearm after an individual’s release from a mental health facility are detailed under Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 8102(c)-(h).
- Cal. Penal Code § 1524(a)(10).
- Cal. Pen. Code § 30000. State law also refers to APPS as the “Prohibited armed Persons File.”
- Cal. Pen. Code § 30005.
- Cal. Pen. Code §§ 30005-30015.
- Cal. Penal Code § 30000(b), this section references Cal. Penal Code § 11105(b), (c).
- See California Department of Justice, “APPS 2017 Annual Report to the Legislature” (Revised Mar. 9, 2018), available at http://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/publications/sb-140-supp-budget-report.pdf.