Minimum age for Gun sales and transfers
California generally prohibits any person from selling handguns to young people under the age of 21, or from selling, loaning, or transferring firearms of any type to minors under 18.1 These restrictions are subject to certain exceptions, such as for the temporary transfer of a firearm to a minor by the minor’s parent or legal guardian.2
Licensed firearms dealers are subject to stronger age restrictions too, including when selling firearms from their own inventory or processing firearm transfers pursuant to California law for unlicensed individuals. Under California law, licensed dealers are required to verify the transferee’s age and identity prior to delivering any firearm3 and are generally prohibited from selling, supplying, delivering, or giving possession or control of any firearm (including completed or unfinished frames and receivers)4 to people under the age of 21.5 This age restriction is subject to certain exceptions for members of the Armed Forces or law enforcement,6 as well as for the sale or transfer of certain firearms (other than handguns and semiautomatic rifles) to licensed hunters over the age of 18.7
California law also states that ammunition may not be sold to any purchaser under age 18,8 and that a person must be at least age 18 to obtain a Firearm Safety Certificate, which is required to purchase or acquire firearms in most circumstances.9 For more information, see the Ammunition Regulation in California section.
Minimum age for possession
Subject to certain exceptions, California law generally prohibits minors under 18 from possessing handguns; since January 1, 2022, California law has also generally restricted minors under 18 from possessing most semiautomatic rifles.10 (Legislation passed in 2021 will further broaden this law, effective July 1, 2023, to generally prohibit minors under 18 from possessing firearms of any type).11 Exceptions to these age restrictions include situations where a parent or legal guardian is present or has provided consent.12 In addition, minors may, with the consent of a parent or guardian, possess firearms when engaged in certain recreational sports, including, but not limited to, competitive shooting; agricultural, ranching, or hunting activities; and any motion picture, television, or video production, or entertainment or theatrical events, the nature of which involves the use of a firearm.13
Minimum age for assembling or manufacturing a firearm
California law generally prohibits the sale of both completed and unfinished firearm frames and receivers to people under the age of 21.14 Anyone who seeking to possess or produce a firearm that does not have a valid serial number must also apply for a serial number from the California Department of Justice, which is only authorized to approve serial number applications from individuals aged 21 and over.15
For other provisions related to children and firearms, see the Child Access Prevention in California section.
Related Laws Governing the Sale and Marketing of Firearms to Minors
In 2022, California also passed three substantial bills to regulate marketing of firearms and related products to minors and to promote stronger civil oversight and enforcement of California’s laws restricting the sale and transfer of firearms to young people. These include:
- AB 2571, which took effect on June 30, 2022.16 This law makes it generally unlawful for firearm industry members17 to advertise or market firearms and related products18 in a manner that is targeted at minors under the age of 18 in California.19 The law also authorizes any person harmed by a violation of these prohibitions to bring a civil action to recover actual damages and seek other court-ordered remedies; the law also authorizes the State Attorney General, any district attorney, city attorney, or county counsel to bring a civil action for any violation seeking civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation.20
- SB 1327, which takes effect on January 1, 2023. This law incorporates some of the state’s criminal laws governing the sale or delivery of firearms to underage young people into the Business and Professions Code as well, creating a process for private civil suits to enforce violations of these (among other gun safety laws too).21 Subject to certain exceptions, this law generally makes it unlawful in the Business and Professions Code for a licensed firearms dealer to sell, supply, deliver, or give possession or control of a firearm to a person under 21.22 The law also authorizes private individuals (any person who is not an officer or employee of a state or local government in the state) to file a civil action and receive court-ordered remedies and statutory damages of at least $10,000 per weapon involved in a violation of these minimum age restrictions.23
- The Firearm Industry Responsibility Act, which takes effect on July 1, 2023. This law requires firearm industry members24 to comply with a “firearm industry standard of conduct,” which (among other things) makes it unlawful for firearm industry members to manufacture, market, import, or offer for wholesale or retail sale any firearm or firearm-related product25 that is “abnormally dangerous and likely to cause an unreasonable risk of harm to public health and safety in California.”26 This law provides certain statutory presumptions that a firearm or firearm-related product is abnormally dangerous and likely to create an unreasonable risk of harm to public health and safety if the product is designed, sold, or marketed in a manner that is targeted at minors.27 Victims harmed by violations of this law, as well as the state Attorney General, or any county counsel or city attorney in the state, may bring a civil action in court seeking court-ordered remedies and compensation for damage caused by a violation of this law. See the Gun Industry Immunity and Liability in California page for more detailed information.
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- Cal. Penal Code §§ 27505; 27510.
- See Cal. Penal Code §§ 27505(b) and 27510(b) for more exceptions.
- Cal. Pen. Code § 27540(c).
- See Cal. Pen. Code § 16520(b)(15).
- Cal. Penal Code § 27510.
- Cal. Penal Code § 27510(b)(2), (b)(3).
- Cal. Penal Code § 27510(b)(1).
- Cal. Penal Code § 30300(a). Where ammunition may be used in both a rifle and a handgun, it may be sold to a person who is at least 18 years of age, but less than 21 years of age, if the vendor reasonably believes that the ammunition is being acquired for use in a rifle and not a handgun. Cal Penal Code § 30300(a)(2).
- Cal. Penal Code § 31625(b).
- Cal. Penal Code § 29610.
- See 2021 CA SB 715, Section 21).
- Cal. Penal Code § 29615.
- See Cal. Pen. Code §§ 16520(b)(15); 27510(a), (b)(1).
- Cal. Penal Code § 29182(b)(2).
- This bill was amended in part by 2022 CA AB 160.
- Defined in Cal. Bus. Prof. Code § 22949.80(c)(4).
- See Cal. Bus. Prof. Code § 22949.80(c) for definitions of “firearm-related product” and other terms.
- Cal. Bus. Prof. Code § 22949.80(a)(1). More specifically, the prohibition applies to advertising, marketing, or arrange for placement of an advertising or marketing communication offering or promoting any firearm-related product “in a manner that is designed, intended, or reasonably appears to be attractive to minors.”
- Cal. Bus. Prof. Code § 22949.80(e).
- See 2022 CA SB 1327 (effective January 1, 2023); Chapter 38 of Division 8 of the California Business and Professions Code, commencing with Section 22949.60.
- Cal. Bus. Prof. Code § 22949.62(c)(effective January 1, 2023).
- Id.; Cal. Bus. Prof. Code § 22949.65.
- The term “Firearm industry member” is defined to mean “a person, firm, corporation, company, partnership, society, joint stock company, or any other entity or association engaged in the manufacture, distribution, importation, marketing, wholesale, or retail sale of firearm-related products.” Cal. Civil Code § 3273.50(f).
- “Firearm-related product” is defined to include a firearm, ammunition, a firearm precursor part [also known as an unfinished frame or receiver], a firearm component, or a firearm accessory, that meets certain jurisdictional requirements. See Cal. Civil Code § 3273.50(d).
- See Cal. Civ. Code § 3273.519(c).
- Cal. Civ. Code § 3273.51(c)(2)(C).