Open-Carry Laws in California

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Open-carry laws vary around the country. Recently, litigation over the past few years continues to change the laws. It can be confusing to most, trying to keep up with these rapidly changing regulations.

Open-Carry in California

In the past, the state of California permitted individuals to carry unloaded firearms in public. As long as they were displayed in plain sight and the individual wasn’t in a prohibited area, this was fine. At the time, prohibited areas included government buildings, school zones, and post offices. However, since 2012, it is now illegal to openly carry unloaded handguns in the state of California.

The California Assembly Bill 144 of 2011 makes it a misdemeanor to carry an exposed and unloaded gun in public or in vehicles. Violators of the law can face up to a year in prison, or a fine of up to $1,000. The bill exempts those who use guns for hunting or shooting events. Also, it doesn’t apply to those who have permits to carry concealed weapons by law enforcement officials.

Though the Second Amendment protects those who are exercising their right to bear arms and lawfully carry their firearms, the California legislature makes it illegal to carry a weapon openly in public, which can prove to cause complications among gun owners in California.

Decrease in Gun Presence

Backed by California’s top law enforcement group, the law was a response to a proliferation of guns in public. Additionally, doubled with the anxiety and tension that can arise when someone sees another person carrying a firearm in public, encounters can quickly escalate – especially when it’s unknown if the gun is loaded. In an effort to cut back on gun violence, California lawmakers have made the act of carrying an unloaded gun in public illegal.

It’s important to note that the California Assembly Bill 144 is a separate and distinct offense from carrying a loaded firearm in public and carrying a concealed firearm – both of which are crimes in the state.


Most people convicted of violating California’s open-carry laws either serve up to one year in county jail or pay a fine of up to $1,000. However, in some cases, offenders may get both penalties. So, those who are at risk for both need to know their rights. These people include individuals who are also carrying unexpended, dischargeable ammunition who are also not the lawful owner of the gun. Additionally, these penalties are for each gun the offender has in his/her possession.

Legal Defenses

If you’ve been arrested for violating the open-carry law in the state of California, there are several defenses an experienced criminal defense attorney can make on your behalf. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. Owner has a valid firearm permit in the state of California
  2. Defendant engaged in activity specifically exempt, like hunting or attending a gun event.
  3. Not carrying the gun in public
  4. The police engaged in misconduct, or
  5. An illegal search and seizure brought about the finding of the gun.

In California, most adults may legally own firearms and ammunition. People who may not legally possess a firearm include:

  • Felons,
  • Narcotics addicts,
  • Anyone with two or more convictions of brandishing a weapon,
  • Anyone convicted of certain misdemeanor offenses, like stalking,
  • Those with mental illness(es), and/or
  • Anyone under 18.

If you are under arrest for violating California’s open carry law, you may face multiple weapons offense violations.  Additionally, you can expect more severe penalties. In which case, call a California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Hire Defense

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. 

Brianna Wilkins
Brianna Wilkins