California firearms laws – loaded guns

One look at the Attorney General’s website under the firearms section will show you just how convoluted California’s laws are when it comes to firearms.  The most recent information posted on their website is from 2006!  (Update – as of February 2009, the booklet is now only 2 years behind and is from 2007)  In their 65-page booklet you can download, there are references to sections of the California Penal Code that deal with dangerous weapons as well as firearms.  Often, even some police officers don’t understand the laws when it comes to carrying or transporting firearms, leading to a wrongful arrest.  To make matters worse, the prosecutor’s office may incorrectly rely on the officer’s claim of what the law is in the police report of the incident.  In this case, two wrongs definitely do not make a right.

For example, in general, it is illegal to carry a loaded firearm either on your person or in a car under California Penal Code section 12031.  But when is a gun “loaded” under this law?  The code says that

“A firearm shall be deemed to be loaded… when there is an unexpended cartridge or shell… in, or attached in any matter to, the firearm, including, but not limited to, in the firing chamber, magazine or clip thereof attached to the firearm…”

Some people (and some officers, too) read that section to mean that if the gun is unloaded, but there is a loaded magazine anywhere near the gun, it must be a violation.  That is simply not the case.  As long as your gun is carried as it should be (unloaded and in a locked container), just having a loaded magazine with (but NOT in) the gun does not make the gun loaded.  Small technicalities in the law can make all the difference in the world between your legal right to own and transport a firearm and an arrest or conviction.  If you have been arrested for any firearms violation, contact an attorney to thoroughly discuss the facts and the law.

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