Is Open Carry Legal? A Comprehensive Guide to Handgun and Firearm Carry Gun Laws in California

Irfan Eralp Kavakli

· 4 min read
Is Open Carry Legal in California? A Comprehensive Overview


The topic of gun laws has always been a subject of debate in the United States. One particular facet of this debate that is often raised in the state of California is the legality of "open carry," or the act of carrying a visible firearm in public. In this blog post, we will explore the ins and outs of open carry, concealed carry, and other related aspects of California's firearm law.

Open Carry in California: The General Rule

As of the latest updates to the California Penal Code, open carry is generally illegal throughout the state. This prohibition applies to both handguns and long guns, such as rifles and shotguns. In other words, openly carrying a loaded or unloaded firearm is not allowed under most circumstances.

Concealed Carry: An Alternative?

While open carry is prohibited, "concealed carry," or the carrying of a concealed firearm, is permitted under certain circumstances. However, to legally carry a concealed weapon in California, one must obtain a "Concealed Carry Weapon" (CCW) permit from their county’s Sheriff’s Office or city police department. Obtaining a permit involves fulfilling a variety of criteria, including a thorough background check and a firearm safety course.

What Constitutes a Loaded Firearm?

According to California law, a "loaded firearm" is defined as a firearm with a live round of ammunition in, or attached in any manner to, the firearm, including the firing chamber, magazine, or clip thereof attached to the firearm.

Penal Codes and Legal Definitions

The California Penal Code specifies various gun laws that residents and visitors must adhere to. Violations of these laws, such as carrying a loaded or unloaded handgun without a permit, can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment and hefty fines.

Special Permissions: Licenses to Carry

While the general populace is not allowed to open carry firearms, there are specific licenses that allow individuals to carry firearms in a concealed manner. The Department of Justice issues these licenses to qualified individuals who meet the stipulated criteria, which can include law enforcement officers and certain security professionals.

Possession of Firearms in Restricted Areas

It's also worth mentioning that even with a concealed carry permit, you are restricted from carrying a firearm in certain areas, such as schools, government buildings, and airports.

Recent Developments: Circuit Court of Appeals

The legality surrounding open carry and concealed carry laws are often subject to changes based on interpretations by the courts. For example, decisions by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have had a significant impact on how California’s gun laws are enforced and interpreted.


California's stance on open carry is clear: it is generally not allowed. For those looking to carry a firearm, obtaining a concealed carry permit is the most viable legal avenue. However, navigating California’s complex web of firearm law can be challenging. Always consult the most recent updates to the California Penal Code and, if in doubt, consult with legal professionals well-versed in gun laws.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Consult a qualified legal advisor for advice pertaining to your specific situation.

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