Firearms laws can be complex, especially when it comes to fully automatic weapons. If you live in California and are curious whether it’s legal to own a fully automatic firearm, you’re not alone. Let’s take an in-depth look at the federal and state laws around owning full auto guns in California.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: It is legal for civilians to own fully automatic firearms in California, but there are strict regulations around acquiring them that make it very difficult.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about legally owning full auto guns as a civilian in California. We’ll look at the difference between semi-auto and full auto firearms, breakdown federal laws like the National Firearms Act and Hughes Amendment, examine California’s assault weapons ban and registration requirements, discuss options for acquiring full auto guns, and more.
The Difference Between Semi-Automatic and Fully Automatic Firearms
Understanding the difference between semi-automatic and fully automatic firearms is essential when discussing gun laws and regulations. While both types of firearms have the ability to discharge multiple rounds without manually reloading, there are important distinctions that must be recognized.
Semi-automatic firearms are the most common type of firearm owned by law-abiding citizens in the United States. These firearms are designed to fire one round with each pull of the trigger, automatically ejecting the spent casing and loading a new round into the chamber.
The firing mechanism of a semi-automatic firearm uses the energy from the fired round to cycle the action, preparing the firearm for the next shot. This operation allows for a faster rate of fire compared to manually operated firearms, but it is important to note that semi-automatic firearms do not fire continuously with a single trigger pull.
Fully Automatic Operation
Fully automatic firearms, on the other hand, have the ability to fire continuously as long as the trigger is held down. These firearms are designed to automatically cycle and fire multiple rounds with a single trigger pull.
The firing mechanism of a fully automatic firearm uses the energy from the fired round to cycle the action, load a new round, and reset the trigger for the next shot. Due to their potential for rapid fire, fully automatic firearms are heavily regulated and restricted in many jurisdictions.
Common Examples of Each
Examples of semi-automatic firearms include popular handguns such as the Glock 19 and the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, as well as rifles like the AR-15 and AK-47. These firearms are widely used for personal protection, target shooting, and sporting purposes.
Fully automatic firearms, also known as machine guns, are more restricted and less commonly owned by civilians. They are primarily used by military and law enforcement agencies. Examples of fully automatic firearms include the M4 Carbine used by the U.S. military and the MP5 submachine gun used by law enforcement agencies.
It is important to note that the possession and ownership of fully automatic firearms are subject to strict regulations in the United States. The National Firearms Act (NFA) regulates the transfer and possession of these firearms, requiring individuals to undergo a thorough background check, register the firearm with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and pay a special tax.
For more information on firearm laws and regulations, visit the official website of the ATF at www.atf.gov.
Federal Laws and Regulations on Full Auto Guns
When it comes to owning a full auto gun, the laws and regulations in the United States can be complex and vary from state to state. In the state of California, owning a full auto gun is highly regulated, and there are specific federal laws in place that govern their ownership.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the federal laws and regulations surrounding full auto guns.
The National Firearms Act of 1934
The National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934 was enacted to regulate the sale, manufacture, and possession of certain types of firearms, including full auto guns. Under the NFA, individuals who want to own a full auto gun must obtain a special license called a Class 3 license.
This license requires a thorough background check, fingerprinting, and payment of a transfer tax. Additionally, the individual must comply with strict regulations regarding the storage, transportation, and use of the full auto gun.
It’s important to note that the NFA also imposes restrictions on the transfer of full auto guns. If an individual wants to sell or transfer their full auto gun to another person, they must go through a licensed dealer and obtain approval from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986
The Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA) of 1986 further regulates the ownership of full auto guns. Under the FOPA, the manufacture and sale of new full auto guns for civilian use was prohibited. This means that full auto guns manufactured after May 19, 1986, can only be owned by law enforcement agencies and those individuals who were already registered owners of full auto guns before the enactment of the FOPA.
This restriction has led to a limited supply of full auto guns available for civilian ownership, making them highly sought after and often expensive to purchase.
ATF Rules and Oversight
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the federal agency responsible for overseeing the laws and regulations surrounding full auto guns. The ATF conducts background checks, processes applications for Class 3 licenses, and enforces compliance with the NFA and FOPA.
The ATF also provides guidance on the proper storage, transportation, and use of full auto guns. They require that these firearms be stored in secure facilities, such as a gun safe or vault, to prevent unauthorized access.
For more information on the laws and regulations surrounding full auto guns in California, you can visit the official website of the ATF at www.atf.gov.
California’s Assault Weapons Ban and Registration Laws
California has some of the strictest gun control laws in the United States, and this includes regulations on owning and possessing assault weapons. The state’s Assault Weapons Control Act (AWCA) was first enacted in 1989 and has been amended several times since then to further restrict the ownership and use of these firearms.
Key Provisions of the Assault Weapons Control Act
The AWCA defines assault weapons as specific firearms that have certain features, such as detachable magazines, pistol grips, flash suppressors, and folding or telescoping stocks. The law prohibits the manufacture, sale, or transfer of assault weapons in California, but it does provide for some exceptions.
One key provision of the AWCA is the ban on the possession of assault weapons that were legally owned before the law went into effect. However, there is a process for individuals to register their assault weapons with the California Department of Justice.
It is important to note that the registration period for these firearms has passed, and failure to register can result in serious consequences.
Registration Requirements for Assault Weapons
To register an assault weapon in California, individuals had to meet certain criteria. They had to be at least 18 years old, have a valid California driver’s license or identification card, and provide proof of residency.
The registration process required submitting detailed information about the firearm, including the make, model, and serial number.
Additionally, individuals had to pay a registration fee and undergo a background check. The registration fee varied depending on the number of firearms being registered. Once registered, assault weapon owners were required to maintain their firearms in compliance with state laws, including storing them securely and not transferring them without proper authorization.
Penalties for Non-Compliance
Failure to comply with California’s assault weapons ban and registration laws can result in severe penalties. Possessing an unregistered assault weapon is a felony offense and can lead to imprisonment, fines, and the confiscation of the firearm.
It is crucial for gun owners in California to understand and abide by these laws to avoid legal trouble.
For more information on California’s assault weapons ban and registration laws, individuals can visit the official website of the California Department of Justice: https://oag.ca.gov/firearms/awguide.
Obtaining Full Auto Guns in California as a Civilian
California has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States, and owning a full auto gun is no exception. However, there are certain ways in which civilians can legally obtain these firearms.
Buying Pre-Ban Full Autos
One way to legally own a full auto gun in California is by purchasing a pre-ban firearm. These are firearms that were manufactured before the enactment of the 1986 federal ban on the manufacture of new full auto guns for civilian use.
While these firearms can be quite expensive due to their limited availability, they are considered legal to possess and purchase in California.
For more information on purchasing pre-ban full auto guns, you can visit the website of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) at www.atf.gov.
Conversion of Legal Semi-Autos
Another way to legally obtain a full auto gun in California is by converting a legal semi-automatic firearm. However, it is important to note that this process is heavily regulated and requires obtaining the necessary permits and complying with strict guidelines set by both state and federal authorities.
For a detailed understanding of the legalities and requirements for converting semi-automatic firearms, you can refer to the California Department of Justice’s website at www.oag.ca.gov.
Special Dangerous Weapons Permit
Obtaining a Special Dangerous Weapons (SDW) permit is another avenue through which civilians can legally own full auto guns in California. This permit is issued by the California Department of Justice and requires meeting specific criteria, including proving a legitimate need for the possession of such firearms.
To learn more about the application process and requirements for the Special Dangerous Weapons permit, you can visit the California Department of Justice’s website at www.oag.ca.gov.
It is crucial to understand that owning a full auto gun in California as a civilian requires compliance with stringent regulations and obtaining the necessary permits. Failing to do so can result in severe legal consequences.
Therefore, it is recommended to thoroughly research and consult with legal experts before pursuing the ownership of full auto firearms in California.
Owning and Using Full Auto Guns Responsibly in California
While owning a full auto gun in California is not impossible, it is highly regulated and comes with strict laws and regulations. However, responsible gun owners can still enjoy the privilege of owning and using these firearms within the legal boundaries.
This article will explore some key aspects of owning and using full auto guns responsibly in California.
Proper Storage and Transportation
One of the essential elements of responsible gun ownership is ensuring the proper storage and transportation of firearms. This is especially true for full auto guns, which require extra caution. California law mandates that all firearms, including full auto guns, must be stored securely in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant lock.
This helps prevent unauthorized access and ensures the safety of those around you.
When it comes to transportation, full auto guns must be unloaded and stored in a locked trunk or a locked container separate from ammunition. This helps prevent accidental discharge and ensures compliance with the law.
It is also important to note that transporting full auto guns across state lines requires additional permits and compliance with federal regulations.
Staying Within the Limits of the Law
To own a full auto gun in California, individuals must obtain a Class 3 Federal Firearms License (FFL) and comply with the National Firearms Act (NFA). This involves undergoing a thorough background check, submitting fingerprints, and paying the necessary fees.
Additionally, California law restricts the possession of high-capacity magazines, limiting them to 10 rounds or less.
It is crucial to stay updated with any changes in laws and regulations regarding full auto guns. Regularly checking the California Department of Justice website or consulting with legal experts can help gun owners stay within the limits of the law and ensure responsible ownership of full auto guns.
Joining a Local Gun Club
Joining a local gun club can provide a safe and supportive environment for full auto gun owners. These clubs often have designated ranges where members can legally and responsibly shoot their firearms.
Additionally, being a part of a gun club allows individuals to engage in discussions with other responsible gun owners, share knowledge, and stay informed about any new developments in gun laws.
Gun clubs may also offer training courses or workshops on responsible gun ownership, which can enhance the skills and knowledge of full auto gun owners. These courses cover topics such as gun safety, proper handling, and shooting techniques, ensuring that owners are equipped with the necessary skills to use their firearms responsibly.
Owning a full auto gun in California requires a high level of responsibility and compliance with the law. By properly storing and transporting firearms, staying informed about legal requirements, and joining a local gun club, gun owners can enjoy the privilege of owning and using full auto guns while prioritizing safety and responsibility.
While it is legal for civilians to own fully automatic firearms in California, there are considerable federal and state restrictions that make acquiring them extremely difficult. For those interested in owning full auto guns, the best options are purchasing registered pre-1986 machine guns, converting legally owned semi-automatic firearms, or obtaining a special permit. Responsible ownership and use is critical to staying in compliance with all applicable laws. With the right licenses and registrations, law-abiding citizens can legally own fully automatic firearms in California despite the challenges.