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Know the Laws: California

UPDATED January 2, 2017

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Below is information about state gun laws in California.  A restraining order or criminal conviction may make it illegal for an abuser to have a gun.  However, in addition to these state-specific laws, there are also federal gun laws that could apply. To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages. 

Please consider getting in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws in your area.   To find help in your area, please go to the CA Where to Find Help page.


More Information and Where to Get Help

back to topI do not have a DVRO against the abuser and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Can s/he have a gun?

In California, if the abuser is addicted to any narcotic drugs, s/he is not allowed to buy or have a gun.*  If this is your situation, please talk to a lawyer or advocate in your area about how this law is being enforced.  You can find organizations near you under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of the page.

If this situation does not apply, you can still make a plan for your safety.  See our Staying Safe page for more information.  You can also contact your local domestic violence organization for additional help.  You may want to talk to them about whether leaving the area - either long term or for a little while - might help improve your safety.  See our CA State and Local Programs page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

For additional information on gun laws in California, you can go to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence website.

 * Ann.Cal.Penal Code §12021(a)(1)

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back to topThe abuser uses a gun for his/her job. Do the state gun laws still apply?

Yes - generally, the laws banning guns for people convicted of felonies, certain misdemeanors, and people who have protective orders against them apply to everyone, even those who use guns for their jobs.*  However, under California state law, if the abuser is a peace officer and can show that the firearm is necessary for continued employment and that the employer is unable to reassign him/her to another position where a firearm is unnecessary, the judge can make an exception and allow him/her to use a gun during work hours even though you have an DVRO against him/her.**

Also, if s/he can prove that s/he needs to carry a gun for his/her personal safety due to his/her job as a peace officer, the judge can allow him/her to continue to carry a firearm (either on duty or off duty) if the judge believes that the officer does not pose a threat of harm.  Prior to making this decision, the judge has to order a psychological evaluation of the peace officer and may require the peace officer to enter into counseling or other treatment program to deal with his/her abusive behaviors.***

To find a domestic violence advocate in your area, please go to our CA State and Local Programs page.

* Ann.Cal.Penal Code §12021(a)-(c)(1)
** Ann.Cal.Penal Code §12021(c)(2)
*** Ann.Cal. Fam. Code §6389(h)

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back to topI've read through all of this information, and I am still confused. What can I do?

Trying to understand both federal and state gun laws can be confusing, but there are people out there who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law.  For more information:

  • You can write to our Email Hotline
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area (see our CA State and Local Programs page)
  • You can also contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111 x 2.

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