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Does California allow for open carry of a firearm

When we think about the practice of open carry of a firearm, we think about the old wild west days of gunslingers carrying and shooting at anyone and at any time with little to no consequences. Then, there were towns across the state and across the west that required everyone to check their weapons with the sheriff to reduce the number of incidents. Today, the laws have changed drastically, and even more so in the State of California.

California Penal Code PC 26350 provides detailed information about California’s Open Carry Laws. In general, California prohibits people from openly carrying loaded firearms (handguns and long guns) in public, with very few exceptions.


  • One’s own home/residence
  • Their place of business
  • On their private property
  • Assisting a peace officer
  • Hunting/Gun Clubs
  • Hunting exemption
  • Restraining order

It is; however, illegal to do so in public view of any of these structures, so checking with your local law enforcement office is suggested. Openly carrying a weapon to a potentially life-threatening situation such as in self-defense may be permitted. 

Licenses to carry a loaded and exposed firearm may be permitted, but generally only in counties of less than 200,000 residents. This permit may be issued as a concealed or open carry based upon the need and the application. 

You may openly carry an antique firearm so long as it is unloaded in accordance with PC 16520 (d) (5). You are not; however, permitted to possess any ammunition while carrying or in possession of an antique firearm and the State of California does discourage the carrying of an antique firearm, if possible.

Loaded/Unloaded Firearms

A firearm shall be deemed loaded whenever the firearm or the unexpended ammunition that is capable of being discharged from the firearm are in the immediate possession of the person. A person is guilty of carrying a loaded firearm when the person carries a loaded firearm on the person or in a vehicle while in any public place or on any public street in an incorporated city or in any public place or on any public street in a prohibited area of unincorporated territory.

In order to determine whether or not a firearm is loaded for the purpose of enforcing this section, peace officers are authorized to examine any firearm carried by anyone on the person or in a vehicle while in any public place or on any public street in an incorporated city or prohibited area of an unincorporated territory. Refusal to allow a peace officer to inspect a firearm pursuant to this section constitutes probable cause for arrest for violation of this section.


Open Carry (loaded or unloaded handguns) 

  • You are openly carrying in a rural or backcountry unincorporated part of the county for self-defense. There are no federal land regulations prohibiting shooting there, there are no county ordinances that ban discharge of firearms there, and there are no seasonal shooting restrictions. Once you exit your vehicle, you load your firearm.

You are openly carrying in your business or as an employee with your business owner's permission.

  • You are openly carrying at home or on your own property or you are permitting a guest to carry openly.
  • You are transporting the unloaded gun from a place where it is legal to have it in a locked case or in the trunk (handgun, but good practice for all firearms). Most commonly, you will be:
  • Going from home to the shooting range;
  • Bringing new gun home from the gun store;
  • Taking a gun out to your hunting/fishing trip; or
  • Taking the gun from your home to your hotel room/campsite.

Regardless of the classification of the offense, it is important that you seek the assistance of competent legal counsel to help you best understand your legal defense while identifying an outcome that best minimizes your risk. We here at the H Law Group patiently await your call.

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