This week’s question comes from an East Bay reader who wishes to remain anonymous:
Q: “I read your article last month on guns and crazy neighbors while riding home on BART. It got me to thinking: I know some shifty dudes who have a lot of guns. Some of them are felons, and some have restraining orders out on them for domestic violence. They have some heavy pieces including AK-47s and other assault weapons, machine pistols and silencers. I’ve also seen some bullet-proof vests. They deal a lot of drugs and use the guns to “protect their interests.” Isn’t there some restriction on criminals owning guns? Can people still buy AK-47s in California? What about body armor?”
A: With all of what you described, I can understand why you would want to be anonymous. As I said in my last article, California has some of the most restrictive and progressive gun-control laws. Unfortunately, as your question points out, those involved in criminal activity don’t concern themselves with the letter of the law, and illegal guns often wind up in the hands of people engaging in illegal activity.
Where these laws do have an effect is in assisting law enforcement to take them off the streets when they find them and sending a message to others that, if they are caught with one of these weapons, they face jail time or, in the case of a crime committed with one, additional jail time as an enhancement. Likewise, they ostensibly reduce the number of assault weapons being added to the collective arsenal by making their sale illegal.
California prohibits felons and some drug addicts from owning or possessing fire arms. Penal Code Section 29800 states that any person who has been convicted of, or has an outstanding warrant for, a felony under the laws of the United States, the State of California or any other state, government or country, or who is addicted to the use of any narcotic drug, may not own, purchase, receive or possess, have in their custody or control any firearm. Violation of this law constitutes a felony.
The same restrictions apply to individuals who has been paroled or put on probation or parole for certain crimes. California Penal Code 3067 states that a criminal on parole is subject to search and/or seizure by a probation or parole officer or other peace officer at any time of the day or night, with or without a search warrant and with or without cause. Therefore, if any of these individuals you reference is under such probation or parole, notification to the probation department may lead to a search for and seizure of any weapons as well as a subsequent revocation of parole or probation and return to prison for the remainder of their sentence plus an additional year in jail.
California Family Code Section 6389 states that a person subject to a protective/restraining order shall not own, possess, purchase or receive a firearm or ammunition while that protective order is in effect. This includes domestic violence restraining orders, stalking restraining orders and/or similar orders against people who use the phone or internet to make threats of violence. Pursuant to California Penal Code Section 29825, every person who owns, possesses, purchases or receives, or attempts to purchase or receive a firearm or ammunition while the protective order is in effect is punishable with a fine of $1,000, imprisonment up to one year or both.
Assault weapons are banned in California. The long list of what constitutes an assault weapon can be found in California Penal Code Sections 30510 and 30515. Likewise, under California Penal Code Section 30515, weapons with a magazine of more than 10 rounds, a folding or telescoping stock, flash suppressor, grenade launcher, threaded barrel capable of receiving a silencer, silencers and shotguns with a revolving magazine are illegal. Pursuant to California Penal Code Section 30605, any person who possesses any assault weapon — with limited exceptions for those with permits or those who owned them before the law went into effect who registered the guns and obtained permits — shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not exceeding one year and a fine of $500.
Except for peace officers, possession of large-capacity magazines (more than 10 rounds) is unlawful and may subject the offender to imprisonment of up to a year and fine of $100 for each magazine. Body armor including “bullet-proof vests” and other such protective gear is not unlawful to own or possess.
I hope this information provides you with a better understanding of just some of California’s gun laws.