California prohibits carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle in most locations. This prohibition is subject to certain exceptions, including for people who have a valid concealed weapons license. (See the Other Location Restrictions in California section for further information).
California law generally does not prohibit carrying an unloaded rifle or shotgun in a motor vehicle.
California generally prohibits a person from carrying a concealed handgun in a motor vehicle, unless the handgun is in a locked container or the vehicle’s trunk,1 or the person has a valid concealed weapons license.2. (Firearms carried openly in belt holsters are not considered “concealed”).3 A “locked container” is defined as a secure container which is fully enclosed and locked by a padlock, key lock, combination lock, or similar locking device. A locked container includes the trunk of a motor vehicle, but generally not the utility or glove compartment.4
Unloaded and exposed handguns
California generally prohibits carrying an exposed and unloaded handgun in or on a motor vehicle on a public street or public place, if the street or place is in an incorporated city or city and county, or if it is otherwise unlawful to discharge a weapon in that location.5 It is also unlawful for a driver or owner of a motor vehicle to knowingly permit another person to carry into or bring into the vehicle a firearm in violation of this prohibition.6
Handguns in Unattended Vehicles
California generally requires all individuals, including law enforcement officers and CCW permit holders, to safely store handguns when leaving them in unattended motor vehicles. This law requires that the unattended handgun be secured either in a locked trunk; in a locked container that is placed out of plain view or permanently affixed to the vehicle’s interior; or in a locked toolbox or utility box that is permanently affixed to the bed of a pickup truck or other vehicle that does not have a trunk.7
Under California law, it is generally unlawful to knowingly possess any firearm within the sterile area of a public transit facility, if the sterile area is posted with a statement providing reasonable notice of the prohibition.8 A public transit system includes the vehicles used in the system, including, but not limited to, motor vehicles, streetcars, trackless trolleys, buses, light rail systems, rapid transit systems, subways, trains, or jitneys, that transport members of the public for hire. “Sterile area” means any portion of a public transit facility that is generally controlled in a manner consistent with the public transit authority’s security plan.9 This prohibition does not apply to individuals licensed to carry a concealed weapon.10
Our experts can speak to the full spectrum of gun violence prevention issues. Have a question? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.Contact
- Cal. Penal Code § 25610. See also Cal. Penal Code §§ 25505-25595 (exempting, from the prohibition on carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle, firearms that are being transported to certain locations, such as target ranges and gun shows, if they are in a locked container). Exceptions to the license requirement are included in Cal. Penal Code §§ 25505-25595 and 25600-25655.
- Cal. Penal Code §§ 25400(a), 25655
- Cal. Penal Code § 25400(b).
- Cal. Penal Code § 16850. Even without a license, a person may carry a loaded, concealed firearm in a motor vehicle if the person reasonably believes that he or she is in grave danger because of circumstances forming the basis of a current restraining order issued by a court, and the court that issued the restraining order found that the defendant poses a threat to the gun owner’s life or safety. Cal. Penal Code § 25600. Additional exceptions exist. See Cal. Penal Code §§ 25505-25655.
- Cal. Penal Code §§ 17030, 26350. See §§ 26361-26391 for exceptions.
- Cal. Penal Code § 17512.
- Cal. Penal Code §§ 25140, 25452, 25612, 25645; 2016 Cal. SB 869 and 2017 Cal. SB 1382.
- Cal. Penal Code § 171.7(b)(1).
- Cal. Penal Code §§ 171.7(a)(1)-(2) .
- Cal. Penal Code §§ 171.7(c)(2), 25655.