Vital information on California’s Assault Weapon Laws

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Assault weapon laws in California intend to protect the owners as well as other civilians.

Under California law, there are three categories of assault weapons. This list flows from the list of firearms on the original Roberti-Roos assault weapons list. The Categories are as follows:

  1. AK series,
  2. AR-15 series weapons, and
  3. Other weapons defined by specific generic characteristics.

If you’re in possession of an assault weapon, California law states it must carry the proper registration. If the firearm does not have the appropriate documents, the owner faces serious accusations firearms offenses.

Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989

Unfortunately for current assault weapon owners, the deadline to register your weapon is far behind us.  In fact, Penal Code 30510 PC (often referred to as the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989) expired in 2001.

Currently, there is no legal way for an individual other than a member of the U.S military or a peace officer to own a registered assault weapon. Unless they owned and registered the assault weapon before the 2001 deadline. Those in possession of an assault weapon registered before 2001 can expect to experience restrictions on its use.

Assault weapons are illegal to purchase in California. Additionally, they may not pass to an heir upon death. If you inherit an assault weapon, you have 90 days to:

  1. Render the weapon inoperable,
  2. Sell the weapon to a licensed gun dealer,
  3. Obtain a permit from the California Department of Justice to possess an assault weapon, or
  4. Remove the weapon from the state altogether.

It is illegal to buy or sell this weapon at pawn shops. Furthermore, attempting to sell an assault weapon online is a punishable firearms offense.

Possession of an Assault Weapon

A person in possession of an unregistered assault weapon may receive either a misdemeanor or felony conviction. If convicted of a firearms offense, they may spend up to three years behind bars. Additionally, if convicted of manufacturing, selling, or transporting an unregistered assault weapon, it’s even worse. These three convictions increase prison sentences to eight years. What’s more, the conviction increases from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Though it is illegal to be in possession of an unregistered assault weapon, the California Penal Code implies that, if arranged in advance, the surrendering of an unregistered assault weapon to the police will result in immunity from prosecution. This immunity is granted in an effort to keep dangerous and illegal firearms off the streets. Many metropolitan areas have gun buyback programs in which a ‘reward’ is given to those who turn in privately owned firearms- both legal and illegal, registered and unregistered. A 2012 gun buyback event in Los Angeles was considered a major success- 2,037 firearms were gathered, including 75 assault weapons, mostly unregistered.

Gun Registration

A common mistake many gun owners make is assuming that the California Dealers Record of Sale (DROS) means the assault weapon has been ‘registered’.  In fact, few know proper registering of an assault weapon includes a separate form and a fee submitted to the California Department of Justice. Your assault weapon is considered to be ‘registered’ only if you receive a letter back from the Department of Justice indicating the registration was successful. Unfortunately, the deadline for registration expired in 2001.

Owning an unregistered assault weapon is a serious offense in the state of California. Since there is no way to register an assault weapon legally in California, and those in possession face serious firearms offenses, it is in your best interest to participate in a gun buyback program or sell your weapon to a gun dealer in possession of a permit allowing them to legally do so.

Defend Your Rights

The Kavinoky Law firm hires the best criminal defense attorneys in California. Our excellent and experienced attorneys work hard to fight for their clients’ rights. If you find yourself on the wrong side of the law, call 1.800.No.Cuffs for a free consultation. 

About Darren Kavinoky and The Kavinoky Law Firm.

Darren Kavinoky receives recognition over and over for his commitment to clients and for being a top California defense lawyer. The Los Angeles Magazine repeatedly regards him as a Super Lawyer , and the American Trial Lawyers Association highlighted him as one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers in California. Additionally, he is the legal analyst and special correspondent for the syndicated television program The Insider, and is a sought-after guest on shows that include Entertainment Tonight, Dr. Phil, NBC’s Today Show, and various programs on CNN and the Headline News Channel. Follow Darren on Twitter @DarrenKavinoky or

Brianna Wilkins
Brianna Wilkins