In 1999, California enacted the nation’s broadest gun show oversight legislation to ensure safe and responsible business practices at gun shows (AB 295). California has also passed other legislation to strengthen laws governing gun show events, including legislation enacted in 2022 to strengthen inspections and oversight at gun shows and limit the sale of unserialized ghost gun products, conversion kits, and other illegal products at gun shows in the state. This 2022 legislation will (commencing July 1, 2023) generally require the California Department of Justice to annually conduct enforcement and inspection activities at at least half of all gun shows or events in the state to ensure compliance with the law and to post any violations by licensed sellers discovering during such inspections on the Department’s website; the new law will also (by or before May 1, 2024) require the Department to submit an annual report to the Legislature summarizing its gun show inspection and enforcement efforts.1
Under California law, sales of firearms and ammunition at gun shows are generally subject to the same gun safety laws and requirements as sales of firearms and ammunition in other venues. Firearm transfers at gun shows must, for instance, be processed through a licensed firearms dealer, pursuant to a background check and other requirements.2 Ordinarily, licensed dealers are only permitted to sell firearms from their licensed premises; however, California law provides an exception for sales at California gun shows as long as they are not conducted from motorized or towed vehicles.3 A dealer operating at a gun show must comply with all applicable gun transfer laws, including California’s waiting period law, other California laws governing the transfer of firearms by dealers, and all local ordinances, regulations, and fees.4 Under California law, ammunition sales must also generally be processed through a licensed seller (either a licensed firearms dealer or ammunition vendor) pursuant to a background check and other requirements; these rules apply to ammunition sales that occur at gun shows as well. (For more information, see the Ammunition Regulation in California section.)
California also places some specific safety requirements on gun show organizers/producers, vendors, and attendees:
Requirements for gun show organizers or producers:
California law requires a person who promotes, produces, sponsors, operates, or otherwise organizes a gun show (“producer”) to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”), which requires a background check.5 California also requires the producer to, among other things:
• Certify that they are familiar with the California laws governing gun shows;6
• Ensure that liability insurance is in effect for the duration of a gun show or event in a minimum amount of $1,000,000;7
• Provide an annual list of the gun shows or events the applicant plans to produce, including the date, time, and location of the gun shows or events;8
• Prior to the commencement of a gun show or event, and within 48 hours of a written request by a law enforcement agency, make available to local law enforcement a complete and accurate list of all persons, entities, and organizations leasing or renting a table, display space, or area at the gun show or event for the purpose of selling, leasing, or transferring firearms;9
• Working with the facility manager, prepare an annual event and security plan and schedule to be submitted to DOJ and the local law enforcement agency. The event and security plan must include, among other things:
o The type of shows or events including, but not limited to, antique or general firearms;
o The estimated number of vendors offering firearms for sale or display, and the estimated number of attendees;
o The number of entrances and exits at the gun show or event site; and
o The number of sworn peace officers and non-sworn security personnel employed by the producer or the facilities manager who will be present at the show or event;10
• Within seven calendar days of the gun show or event, submit a list of all prospective vendors and designated firearms transfer agents who are licensed firearms dealers to DOJ for the purpose of determining whether these prospective vendors and transfer agents are eligible to process firearms transactions at the show or event;11
• Have written contracts with all gun show vendors selling firearms at the show or event;12
• Post certain signs in a readily visible location at each public entrance to the show;13 and post, in a readily visible location at each entrance to the parking lot at the show, a sign that states, “The transfer of firearms on the parking lot of this facility is a crime”;
• Inform prospective gun show vendors of the requirements of California law that govern gun shows;14 and
• Pay an annual fee.15
Requirements for gun show vendors
Prior to a gun show, each vendor participating in the gun show must provide to the gun show organizer/producer the names, driver’s license or state-issued ID card numbers, and dates of birth of the vendor, the vendor’s employees, and any other persons providing services to the public at the vendor’s display space. The producer must make the information available to law enforcement upon request.16
Each vendor must also submit a certification in writing to the gun show producer certifying that the vendor acknowledges that they are responsible for knowing and complying with all applicable federal, state, and local laws dealing with the possession and transfer of firearms or ammunition, and will lawfully abide by a number of specified requirements, including certifying that they will process all sales or transfers of firearms and ammunition through authorized firearm dealers or ammunition vendors.17 Vendors must also certify in writing to the producer that they will not display, possess, or offer for sale any illegal weapons; any unserialized frame or receiver (including unfinished frames or receivers); or any attachment or conversion kit designed to convert a handgun into a short-barreled rifle or into an assault weapon.18
California law also requires gun show vendors to certify that they will not engage in any activities that incite or encourage hate crimes.19 Gun show vendors must certify that they will verify that all firearms in their possession at the gun show will be unloaded, and that the firearms will be secured in a manner that prevents them from being operated, except for brief periods when the mechanical condition of a firearm is being demonstrated to a prospective buyer.20 Ammunition may be displayed only in closed original factory boxes or other closed containers, except when it is being shown to a prospective buyer.21
Requirements for gun show attendees
No person at a gun show, other than security personnel or sworn peace officers, may possess at the same time both a firearm and ammunition that is designed to be used with the firearm. However, vendors having those items at the show for sale or exhibition are exempt from this prohibition.22 All people possessing firearms at the gun show must have government-issued photo ID in their immediate possession and display it upon request to any security officer or any peace officer.23
Minors under the age of 18 may not attend a gun show unless accompanied by their parent, grandparent, or legal guardian.24
All firearms carried into a gun show by members of the public must be checked, cleared of any ammunition, secured in a manner that prevents them from being operated, and an identification tag must be attached to the firearm, prior to the person being allowed admittance to the show. The identification tag must state that all firearms transfers between private parties at the show must be conducted through a licensed dealer in accordance with applicable state and federal laws. Before the tag is attached to the firearm, the owner must print and sign his or her name and enter the number from his or her government-issued photo identification on the tag.25
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- See 2022 AB 2552, SEC. 4. (amending Cal. Penal Code § 27310).
- Cal. Penal Code § 27305(d).
- Cal. Penal Code § 26805.
- Cal. Penal Code § 27200.
- Cal. Penal Code § 27200(b)(1).
- Cal. Penal Code § 27200(b)(2).
- Cal. Penal Code § 27200(b)(3).
- A producer must thereafter, upon written request, for every day the gun show or event operates, within 24 hours or another time specified by the requesting law enforcement agency, make available to the requesting law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the facility, a current list of the persons, entities, and organizations that have leased or rented, or are known to the producer to intend to lease or rent, any table, display space, or area at the gun show or event for the purpose of selling, leasing, or transferring firearms. Cal. Penal Code § 27205.
- The event and security plan must be approved by the facility’s manager prior to the event or show after consultation with the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the facility. Cal. Penal Code § 27210 .
- DOJ must examine its records and if it determines that a dealer’s license is not valid, it must notify the show or event producer of that fact prior to the commencement of the show or event. Cal. Penal Code § 27220.
- Cal. Penal Code § 27235.
- The signs must contain, but need not be limited to, the following notices:
• This gun show follows all federal, state, and local firearms and weapons laws without exception;
• All firearms carried onto the premises by members of the public will be checked, cleared of any ammunition, secured in a manner that prevents them from being operated, and an identification tag or sticker will be attached to the firearm prior to the person being allowed admittance to the show;
• No member of the public under the age of 18 years must be admitted to the show unless accompanied by a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian;
• All firearms transfers between private parties at the show must be conducted through a licensed dealer in accordance with applicable state and federal laws; and
• Persons possessing firearms on this facility must have in their immediate possession government-issued photo identification, and display it upon request to any security officer or any peace officer. Cal. Penal Code § 27240.
- Cal. Penal Code § 27215.
- Cal. Penal Code § 27200(e).
- Cal. Penal Code § 27320.
- Cal. Penal Code § 27305.
- Id., as amended by 2022 CA AB 2552, SEC. 3. (effective January 1, 2023).
- Cal. Penal Code § 27305.
- Cal. Penal Code § 27315.
- Cal. Penal Code § 27330.
- Cal. Penal Code § 27345.
- Cal. Penal Code § 27335.
- Cal. Penal Code § 27340.