Traveling State Spotlight: California

The following is a video transcript.

Hello, my name is Virginia Landry and I am an Independent Program Attorney for U.S. LawShield of California. Whether you are a resident or traveling here for fun, family, or adventure, I want you to be safe both in and out of your home.

Strict Gun Laws

First of all, California is not a very Second Amendment friendly state. We have some of the strictest laws across the nation. California does not have reciprocity with any other state’s concealed carry weapons permits. While grabbing your firearm back home might be second nature before you walk out the front door of your house, doing this while visiting California will get you in trouble. Unfortunately, you are not afforded the same Second Amendment opportunities while visiting California.

Application Process

Second, if you are a resident of our large and diverse state, please understand that our statutes allow the Sheriff’s Department of the county in which you reside (or the Chief of Police in the city in which you reside if the county is not provided a Sheriff’s Department policy), to devise a Concealed Carry Weapon permit application process of their own.

Before he left office, Governor Jerry Brown approved Assembly Bill 2103, which made changes to Penal Code Section 26165, effective January 1, 2019. As a result, each county has its own regulations, but now all generally have an application process which includes paperwork and documentation, a Live Scan form, and CCW courses of training for new applicants, which can be not less than eight hours, but are not required to exceed 16 hours in length.

First Aid for Gunshot Wounds 2A Institute

Non-Resident Carry

So, if you are traveling to California, what do you need to be aware of? California generally forbids non-residents from carrying a firearm outside their domicile. California does, however, allow you to transport a firearm between domiciles and to the range for target practice. Simply explained, a domicile is the place that you are staying, whether it’s at a family member or friend’s house, a hotel, a bed and breakfast, or a motel. When not traveling or driving on the roads of California, an RV can also be your domicile.

Transporting Firearms

When transporting between those approved places, you must place your handgun in a locked container. A locked container is not a console or a glove box. All firearms must be unloaded while transporting—no bullets in the chamber and no bullets in the magazine. The unloaded magazine can be locked in the same container as the handgun. The bullets must be separate from the firearm. If traveling with a shotgun or rifle, it is not necessary to have it in a locked container, but it must be unloaded. Many different types of firearms are classified as “assault weapons” in California. No form of assault rifle or weapon is allowed in California. You may not bring a magazine for any gun with a capacity of more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Castle Doctrine in California

California has what is called the “Castle Doctrine.” A man or woman is safe in their castle and can protect themselves and their family while in that castle. The home of your family or friends whom you are staying with, in the hotel where you’re staying—these are your castle during your trip. While in your domicile, you may carry or possess a loaded firearm.

When visiting California and staying in that domicile, please do not leave your loaded firearm in plain view of open curtains, as someone may easily report you to law enforcement. When leaving your domicile for a day of sightseeing, secure your firearm back in its locked container. You may not lawfully take it with you.

Prohibited Places

When transporting a firearm in California, please be aware you cannot bring your firearm into a restaurant when you stop to eat. When transporting a firearm in California, do not drive within one thousand feet of a school zone. Take a few left turns around the school zone until you can get safely back onto your route. There are enhanced penalties for having a firearm in a school zone.

Disclosing Your Handgun License

What should you do if you have a concealed carry weapon permit or license from another state? Many states like California have separate identification cards that must be carried at all times when concealed carrying a firearm. Many states are much farther ahead with technological capabilities and have the concealed carry information imprinted on driver’s licenses. If you are a license holder from another state and law enforcement casually says “Hello” (for instance, if you are being screened before going into a sporting event), you are not required to disclose your license.

California is a beautiful state with a lot to offer our visitors. However, it is not a gun-friendly state. Be aware of ordinances enacted that may be particular to the area you are visiting.

If you have any questions about traveling to California with your firearm, contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to an Independent Program Attorney.

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Comment section

17 comments on “Traveling State Spotlight: California

  1. How does California handle retired police who are LEOSA (HR218) certified?

    • Hello Owen,

      Thank you for your question.

      Qualified Retired Law Enforcement Officers have some quirky things to think about before visiting California. Remember that part of the problem with California is it’s basic anti-Second Amendment laws and the fact that Judges get to make their individual rulings. While most QRLEOs would not want to put their freedom on the line, there are a lot of prosecutors and judges who, without proper training and education, are not aware of the legal nuances. No one wants to come to California on vacation and leave on probation!

      As a general overview, a visiting QRLEO would have to be separated from service as a law enforcement officer, be in good standing and before separation:
      1. Was authorized to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of, or the incarceration of any persons for violations of law, and had power to arrest or apprehend under section 8770(b) of title 10, United States Code (article 7(b) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice);
      2. Served as a LEO for an aggregate of 10 years or over or due to a service connected disability after completing probation with the agency, separated from service;
      3. Has met the qualification in firearms training for active LEOs;
      4. Has not been found unqualified by a medical professional due to mental health issues or agreed to no receive the require photographic information;
      5. Is not under the influence of alcohol, intoxicants, drugs or substances; and
      6. Is not prohibited from receiving a firearm.

      Photo identification for QRLEOs require:
      1. Identification of the officer from the agency which the officer separated from indicates testing and qualification of the concealed firearm type not less than 1 year before the carrying; or
      2. Individual certification issued by the State where the officer resides or by a certified firearms instructor qualified to test active due officers within the state of the concealed firearm type not less than 1 year before the carrying.

      In California, each department general sets standards for active and retired LEO so any individual who otherwise satisfied the requirements of LEOSA and a QRLEO should be able to obtain the necessary certification from any law enforcement agency in the State of California.

      Be aware however, California PROHIBITS magazines in excess of 10 as anything over 10 is usually considered a “large-capacity” magazine. NO FIREARMS with capacity for over 10 rounds in the magazine will EVER be approved on a concealed carry weapons permit in California so the SAFE and BEST PRACTICE when visiting is to be a QRLEO with identification from the state of service or certification identification from the state where you reside within the past year, and to carry many, but “tiny” magazines.

  2. Great question Owen, do they recognize LEOSA which is Federal Law!!??

  3. The California laws just mean I’ll never travel there. Why would I spend money in a state that hates me?

  4. Bottom Line…. If you travel to ANY state with “Limited” or “Restrictive” Second Amendment legislation, you’re placing your Life and Safety on the line.

  5. It sounds like if you are traveling in California, and if an armed criminal introduces his loaded gun in your face and or threatens your family, you should politely ask him to stand by so you can unlock your trunk, gun case, load 10 rounds so you can defend yourself and protect your family. I am moving to California ASAP.

  6. I lived in CA and was a LEO for 25 years, STAY AWAY. CA is being run into the ground at every level.

  7. Owen -According to the State of California firearms summary of 2016 as listed on there Gov site: it notes “NOTE: Peace officers and honorably retired peace officers having properly
    endorsed identification certificates may carry a concealed weapon at any time .
    Otherwise, these exemptions apply only when the firearm is carried within the
    scope of the exempted conduct, such as hunting or target shooting, or within the
    course and scope of assigned duties, such as an armored vehicle guard transporting money for his employer . A person who carries a loaded firearm outside
    the limits of the applicable exemption is in violation of the law, notwithstanding
    his or her possession of an occupational license or firearms training certificate .
    (Pen . Code, § 12031(b) .) I have carried under LEOSA in and out of California while visiting family, and I have not had any issue to date, but sometimes being a local or state LEO, and being a Federal LEO may differentiate in some statues, of which it should because LEOSA is for all of us. but appears it may. Most historical law suit arrest cases under LEOSA in California were challenge and won with monetary damaged payed to the plaintiffs, But most if not all were Federal LEO carriers.


    https://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/firearms/pdf/cfl2016.pdf

  8. This is an excellent article- especially the “domicile” aspect Hotel / RV travel for CA. I am curious about the rules for RV and yacht travel thru MD, NJ and NY for non residents – is there a “domicile” clause for these three states for safe passage (RV / boat) with gun properly locked away (unloaded) in non 2A friendly states.

  9. As a truck driver when traveling throw California my truck is my home what should I do? I’m able to have a loaded firearm in my home but have to lock it when traveling? Gray area here for me.

  10. I retired after 28 years as a civilian working for a law enforcement agency in California. Run, don’t walk, away from this state as fast as you can. It is a cesspool that caters to perpetrators of crimes. Victims have virtually no rights, and law enforcement officers are vilified for doing their jobs. Personal freedoms are actively being eroded, while criminals barely receive a slap on the wrist for crimes committed. The two firearms I have purchased since leaving the state six months ago, a Sig Sauer P238 & the Springfield Hellcat, are both illegal for California citizens to own, essentially making ME a criminal if I were to go back with my firearms; properly stored or not.

  11. U.S. Law Shield Staff / Owen
    I carry my High Caps Magazines under QRLEO/LEOSA, from time to time while visiting California depending what duty carry I decide on traveling with. But again maybe Staff at U.S. Law Shield have something different than the sections noted here, But then again these section(s) appear to distinguish between Peace Officers and Federal to which they shouldn’t, were all the same HR 218 LEOSA is for all of us, but I guess it’s better to play it safe. Remember we all can be arrested for carrying but LEOSA is a defense to prosecution. We are hoping that congress will take up bill H.R.6105 — 115th Congress (2017-2018) which will clear up the Hi Cap mags among other changes call your congress person. Thanks all. But yes I agree with U.S. Law Shield staff “play it safe ” if unsure.

    California Penal Code
    Sec. 32405
    Section 32310 does not apply to the sale to, lending to, transfer to, purchase by, receipt of, possession of, or importation into this state of, a large-capacity magazine by a sworn peace officer, as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2, or sworn federal law enforcement officer, who is authorized to carry a firearm in the course and scope of that officers duties.
    California Penal Code
    Sec. 32406
    Subdivision (c) of Section 32310 does not apply to an honorably retired sworn peace officer, as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2, or honorably retired sworn federal law enforcement officer, who was authorized to carry a firearm in the course and scope of that officers duties. Honorably retired shall have the same meaning as provided in Section 16690.

  12. Do those procedures you mentioned in the video also apply to Over The Road Truck Drivers? This is a very dark area for the trucker. Maybe a video on that subject would be great. Specifically regarding California since most truckers are afraid to even venture there.
    I also go Mountain Biking while I am in California. This is the one time I really feel the need for protection. Is a can of maze my only option?

  13. I was raised in California and escaped to Arkansas in 1982 taxes and draconian gun laws which have gotten much worse were two of the main reasons that I left. I have had my CHL for 23 years in Arkansas and it is honored in most states. My 2 brothers live in California and I visit them about once a year I usually travel out there unarmed which really frustrates me however like the article states it is just too risky to have a gun out there. So boycott California at all costs spend money at the beaches in Florida, Texas or any other gun friendly states. If not for family I would never set foot in California BTW great article thank you

  14. A friend of mine was traveling through California yesterday. He was pulled over for going above 55 while towing a jeep with a motorhome. When he opened his glove compartment to retrieve the registration, his wife had placed her loaded. 380. The police saw and grabbed it. He handed his CCW with retired military I.D. and license. A supervisor was called, he received a lecture and a ticket for speeding, then the police handed him back his loaded gun. He was told that the State Patrol appreciates those with a CCW, even a Washington state CCW. I think that he was lucky.

  15. Years ago I used to travel to California every chance I could to enjoy “what it had to offer”. I now believe President Trump should include the border wall around the entire state as well as the southern border because of what it has become. I will never go there again.

  16. If I am traveling through California in my motorhome am I required to have my hand gun locked and magazines emptied, I am authorized CC in Louisiana.

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