Are California gun laws strict enough? Or are there already too many restrictions? (Joe Klamar/AFP-Getty Images)
Are California gun laws strict enough? Or are there already too many restrictions? (Joe Klamar/AFP-Getty Images)

Last week’s shootings in Isla Vista have once again rekindled the debate over gun regulation. Richard Martinez, whose son, Christopher, was one of the victims shot and killed by Elliot Rodger, voiced his anger at “craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA” for their roles in preventing further gun regulation.

California’s gun laws are some of the strictest in the country, featuring mandatory background checks, 10-day waiting periods and a limit of one gun purchase every 30 days. Even in the face of those restrictions, Rodger was able to lawfully purchase multiple handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition — despite a long history of mental health problems and the concerns of his family that he might be a threat to others.

In response, state legislators proposed multiple new regulations last week, designed to further restrict Californians’ right to bear arms.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), along with multiple legislators, introduced AB1014, a bill that would create a “gun violence restraining order” — allowing family or friends to initiate a process of court-ordered prohibition of firearm possession or purchase.

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg proposed an additional piece of legislation Wednesday that calls for expanded training of law enforcement officers on how to handle people with mental illness.

This got us thinking: Who is currently not allowed to purchase and own guns in California? The basic requirements for buying a handgun (listed above) are relatively straightforward. But, there is, perhaps not surprisingly, a long and complicated list of prohibitions.

Here is a curated version of that list:

Lifetime Bans

  • Any felony conviction
  • Conviction of a violent offense, or the violent use of a firearm
  • Conviction of brandishing a firearm in the presence of a peace officer
  • A domestic violence misdemeanor
  • Registered sex offenders
  • Anyone ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial, or found not guilty by reason of insanity (regardless of crime)
  • Anyone who is addicted to narcotics
  • Anyone found by a court to be a “danger to himself, herself, or others because of a mental illness”
  • Two or more gun-related convictions, regardless of severity
    (“Every person who, except in self-defense, in the presence of any other person, draws or exhibits any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, in a rude, angry, or threatening manner, or who in any manner, unlawfully uses a firearm in any fight or quarrel,”Penal Code section 417, subdivision (a)(2))

Additional federal prohibitions exist as well.

10-Year Prohibitions
Any misdemeanor conviction for any of the following:

  • Assault, including assault with a deadly weapon, or with a stun gun or taser
  • Battery, including sexual battery
  • Threatening public officers, employees and school officials
  • Intimidating witnesses or victims
  • Discharging a firearm in “grossly negligent manner”
  • Violating a domestic protective order
  • Threatening to commit a crime that would result in death or great bodily harm
  • Stalking
  • Criminal possession of a firearm, as well as various violations for illegal sale and transfer of guns (More detailed list on Page 2 of the Department of Justice’s “Firearms Prohibiting Categories.”)

Five-Year Prohibitions

  • Any person taken into custody as a danger to self or others, and admitted to a mental health facility for a 72-hour hold. This is the oft-cited Section 5150, which is unique to California and stricter than the standard federal mental health gun regulation. Gun rights advocates argue that the newly proposed AB 1014 is redundant because of section 5150.

Additional Prohibitions

  • Any person who spent time in juvenile court is prohibited from owning firearms until they reach the age of 30.
  • Prohibition as condition of probation

Watch a panel discussion below from last Friday’s KQED Newsroom about whether legislation can prevent would-be-killers before they go on rampages?

KQED NEWSROOM is a weekly news magazine program on television, radio and online. Watch Fridays at 8 p.m. on KQED Public Television 9, listen on Sundays at 6 p.m. on KQED Public Radio 88.5 FM and watch on demand here.

Who is Denied the Right to Bear Arms in California? 2 June,2014Adam Grossberg

  • John Wood

    Not every problem has a legislative solution.

  • vincewarde

    Speaking as someone with 10 years as an EMT/Paramedic – which entailed working with the mentally ill on a daily basis. We already have ample laws and this additional law is not only “constitutionally challenged”, is not only written to be abused, it is dangerous. If a person is really a danger – and enough evidence exists to deprive them of their gun rights – then why are they not placed on a 5150 hold and examined by mental health professionals. This alone – the simple act of a cop or doctor sending them in for a 5150 evaluation – triggers a 5 year gun ban. If they are committed for inpatient or outpatient treatment – that triggers a lifetime ban. This law leaves a supposedly dangerous person on the streets – free to use a knife, or a car, or an illegally obtained gun. We need better training for our cops and better mental health care – not this new law.

  • vincewarde

    By the way, you missed the federal ban upon anyone who is the subject of a restraining order or order protection.

  • Roger V. Tranfaglia

    Soo… If somebody or a group of people (with ill intent or “agenda”) are after you,your basically SCREWED………..


Adam Grossberg

Adam Grossberg is a video producer at KQED News. Prior to coming to KQED, he produced videos for PBS, The New York Times, Current TV and The Center for Investigative Reporting. His work has received an Excellence in Journalism award from the Society of Professional Journalists, a regional Murrow award and two Northern California Emmy awards. He is a graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Email:

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