Minimum age for sales and transfers
California generally prohibits people from selling handguns to people under the age of 21, and 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 also generally prohibited from selling, supplying, delivering, or giving possession or control of firearms to people under 21, subject to certain exceptions for people with valid hunting licenses, or who are members of the Armed Forces or law enforcement.3 These restrictions apply to private party firearm sales or transfers conducted through a licensed dealer, pursuant to California law. State law does, however, permit certain sales or transfers to occur without the participation of a licensed dealer, such as between certain immediate family members.4
California law also states that ammunition may not be sold to any purchaser under age 18,5 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.6
Minimum age for possession
Subject to certain exceptions, California law generally prohibits minors from possessing handguns and, effective January 1, 2022, this law will also generally restrict minors from possessing most semiautomatic rifles.7 (Legislation passed in 2021 will further broaden this law, effective July 1, 2023, to generally prohibit minors from possessing firearms of any type).8 Exceptions to these age restrictions include situations where a parent or legal guardian is present or has provided consent.9 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.10
Minimum age for self-assembling or manufacturing a firearm
In order to legally self-assemble or manufacture a firearm in California, an unlicensed person must apply to the state Department of Justice for a background “eligibility” check and firearm serial number. The Department of Justice will only approve such applications if the applicant is aged 21 and over.11 (Prior to February 1, 2019, the minimum age for such applications was 18 for people attempting to assemble or manufacture a long gun and 21 for handguns).
For age restrictions governing ammunition, see the Ammunition Regulation in California section.
For other provisions related to children and firearms, see the Child Access Prevention in California section.
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- Cal. Penal Code §§ 27505; 27510.
- See Cal. Penal Code §§ 27505(b) and 27510(b) for more exceptions.
- Cal. Penal Code § 27510.
- See, e.g., Cal. Penal Code §§ 27850 — 27970.
- 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.
- 2017 CA SB 1100, amending Cal. Penal Code § 29182(b)(2).