Safe Storage of Firearms Around People Who Legally Cannot Possess Firearms
Under California law, a person may be held criminally liable for illegally storing firearms around people who legally cannot possess firearms, if all of the following may be proven: (1) the person kept a firearm within premises under their custody or control; (2) they knew or reasonably should have known that another person who was legally prohibited from possessing firearms by state or federal law was likely to gain access to the firearm; (3) the legally prohibited person did in fact gain access to the firearm; and (4) as a result, the legally prohibited person caused injury to themselves or others, carried the firearm to a public place, or illegally brandished the firearm.1
This offense is generally classified as a misdemeanor unless the person who illegally gained access to the firearm used the firearm to cause death or great bodily injury, in which case the offense of “criminal storage of a firearm” may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.2
Safe Storage of Firearms Around Minors
California law also has rather comprehensive “child access prevention” laws that may make people criminally liable for leaving firearms accessible to unsupervised minors in various circumstances. For more information about these laws, see our “Child Access Prevention in California” page.
California Laws Regarding Gun Safes and Other Firearms Safety Devices
All firearms sold or transferred in California by a licensed dealer, including private transfers conducted by a dealer, must include a “firearms safety device” listed on the roster of approved firearms safety devices maintained by the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”).3 The firearms safety device must be listed on the roster as appropriate for that firearm.4 A “firearms safety device” is a device, other than a gun safe, that locks and is designed to prevent children and unauthorized users from firing a firearm. The device may be installed on a firearm, be incorporated into the design of the firearm, or prevent access to the firearm.5
California prohibits anyone, including a licensed dealer, from selling a “firearms safety device” that is not listed on the DOJ roster, or that does not comply with the firearm safety device standards set by DOJ.6 In addition, no person may distribute, as part of an organized firearm safety program, any firearm safety device that is not listed on the DOJ roster or that does not comply with DOJ’s firearm safety device standards.7 The sale or transfer of a firearm does not need to include a firearms safety device, however, if the purchaser or transferee either: 1) provides proof that he or she has purchased or owns a gun safe that meets the gun safe standards set by DOJ ; or 2) presents, with the firearm, an approved firearms safety device to the dealer that the purchaser or transferee purchased no more than 30 days prior, along with an original receipt.8
DOJ’s roster of approved firearms safety devices may only include firearms safety devices that have been tested by a DOJ-certified testing laboratory and that meet DOJ’s firearms safety device standards.9 DOJ may randomly retest roster samples obtained from sources other than the manufacturer to ensure compliance with the requirements of state law.10
Dealers selling long gun safes11 that do not meet DOJ’s standards for gun safes must conspicuously post or display the following warning, in both English and Spanish, on the gun safe’s packaging or with any materials that accompany the safe, and on a label affixed to the front of the gun safe:
“WARNING: This gun safe does not meet the safety standards for gun safes specified in California Penal Code Section 23650. It does not satisfy the requirements of Penal Code Section 23635, which mandates that all firearms sold in California be accompanied by a firearms safety device or proof of ownership, as required by law, of a gun safe that meets the Section 23650 minimum safety standards developed by the California Attorney General.”10
California law prohibits any person from selling a long gun safe that does not comply with DOJ’s standards for gun safes, unless the long gun safe is labeled in this manner.12 In addition, long gun safes must have a locking system consisting of either a mechanical combination lock or an electronic combination lock that has at least 1,000 possible unique combinations consisting of a minimum of three numbers, letters or symbols per combination.13
DOJ may order the recall and replacement of any gun safe or firearms safety device model that does not conform with its safety standards, or order that the gun safe or firearm safety device model be brought into conformity with those requirements.14
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- Cal. Penal Code § 25100(a), (b).
- Cal. Penal Code § 25100; 25110.
- Cal. Penal Code § 23635(a).
- Cal. Penal Code § 16540.
- Cal. Penal Code § 23660(a).
- Cal. Penal Code § 23660(b). DOJ’s firearm safety device standards exist at Cal. Code Regs. tit. 11, § 4094.
- Cal. Penal Code § 23635(b), (c). Dealers must collect and maintain records demonstrating which exception applies. Id. DOJ’s standards for gun safes exist at Cal. Code Regs. tit. 11, § 4100.
- Cal. Penal Code § 23655(d). By January 1, 2002, DOJ was required to set minimum safety standards for firearm safety devices and gun safes to significantly reduce the risk of firearms-related injuries to children 17 years of age and younger. Cal. Penal Code § 23650. A certified testing laboratory, after receiving a firearms safety device from the manufacturer, is required to test the device and submit a copy of the final test report to DOJ, along with the device. DOJ must then notify the manufacturer or dealer of its receipt of the final test report and of DOJ’s determination as to whether the device tested may be sold in California. Cal. Penal Code § 23655(c) . DOJ’s regulations regarding certified firearms safety laboratories, firearms safety device testing and standards, and standards for gun safes are detailed in Cal. Code Regs. tit. 11, §§ 4080-4109.
- Cal. Penal Code § 23655(f).
- Defined to mean a locking container designed to fully contain and secure a rifle or shotgun,which has a locking system consisting of either a mechanical combination lock or an electronic combination lock that has at least 1,000 possible unique combinations consisting of a minimum of three numbers, letters, or symbols per combination, and is not listed on DOJ’s roster of approved firearms safety devices. Cal. Penal Code § 16870.
- Cal. Penal Code §§ 23665-23670. Similarly, any person who sells a long gun safe that does not comply with state standards for gun safes, and who removes the warning label required by Cal. Penal Code § 23635, is subject to penalty. Cal. Penal Code § 23665(b).
- Cal. Penal Code § 16870.
- Cal. Penal Code § 23680(a). If the firearms safety device can be separated and reattached to the firearm without damaging the firearm, the licensed dealer must immediately provide a conforming replacement as instructed by the Attorney General. Cal. Penal Code § 23680(b) . If the device cannot be separated from a firearm without damaging the firearm, the Attorney General may order the recall and replacement of the firearm. Cal. Penal Code § 23680(c) .