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Legal Information: California

State Gun Laws

January 11, 2024

If the abuser has been convicted of a crime, can s/he keep or buy a gun?

Depending on the crime, the abuser may not be able to legally have a gun.  California state law prohibits the following criminals from having a gun in their possession:

  • Any person who has been convicted of a felony;1
  • Anyone who has been convicted of any offense involving the violent use of a firearm;2
  • Anyone who has been convicted of certain misdemeanors (including violation of a protective order) cannot have a gun within 10 years of the conviction.3

If the abuser was convicted of a misdemeanor other than the one mentioned above, you might be able to get help from a local legal organization to find out if this conviction means s/he cannot own a gun under this statute.  See CA Finding a Lawyer for resources.  You might also be able to find out this information from the police.

1 Cal. Penal Code § 12021(a)(1)
2 Cal. Penal Code § 12021(a)(2)-(b)
3 Cal. Penal Code § 12021(c)(1)

If a law enforcement officer is convicted of a domestic violence crime, can s/he have or buy a gun?

The law says that in general, anyone who has been convicted of a felony or certain domestic violence crimes cannot have or buy a gun for any purpose, including his/her official duties.1

However, there is an exception for law enforcement officials whose jobs depend on their ability to use a gun. If the abuser is a law enforcement officer who has been convicted of stalking or certain domestic violence crimes (including violation of a protective order), s/he has a one-time chance to ask the court for permission to have a gun for work purposes. If the judge believes that s/he will use the gun safely and legally, the judge can allow him/her to have a gun.2 When deciding whether or not the abuser can keep his/her gun, the judge will consider the abuser’s continued employment (whether s/he is going to be able to keep his/her job without his/her gun) as well as any relevant evidence. If the judge allows him/her to have a gun, the judge has to require that the abuser agree to participate in counseling as deemed appropriate by the court.3

1 Cal.Penal Code § 12021(a)(1) & (c)(2)
2 Cal.Penal Code § 12021(c)(2)(A)
3 Cal.Penal Code § 12021(c)(2)(C)(ii)

How can I find out if the abuser has been convicted of a crime?

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are open to the public, but they are not always easy to access. If you know the exact courthouse where the abuser may have been convicted, you can go to the courthouse and ask the clerk of court for access to those records.

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are also kept in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). However, no one other than law enforcement officials and licensed firearm sellers are allowed to search the NICS. Your local police department may be willing to search NICS for you if you ask, but they are not required to do so.

To read more about the NICS, please see the question, What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?