Do You Need a Gun Safe in California?

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Do you need a gun safe in California?

Whether you recently moved to California or purchased a handgun for the first time, one of the very first things you should check is the state’s gun handling and storage policies.

The State of California strictly enforces firearm safety. In fact, not adhering to the local laws can put you in trouble, if not behind bars.

To help you out, we’ll give you a walk-through of gun storage requirements in California and whether or not you need a dedicated safe for your firearm.

Do You Need a Gun Safe in California?

The short answer is yes. You need a gun safe for your weapon, not just for your safety but also for the safety of those around you.

This rule applies to all gun owners, regardless if you live in California or another state.

Even so, you will find that California has one of the most comprehensive laws with regards to firearm storage.

It is among the only 11 states that require the use of gun safes or locks in the country.

In general, California requires that all firearms manufactured locally or sold by a state-licensed dealer must include a firearm safety device.

This is also true for private transfers conducted through licensed dealers.

Besides California, the other states that implement gun storage policies are Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

Why Does California Require the Use of Gun Safes?

A gun safe is primarily designed to store one or more firearms and ammunition.

It usually comes with burglary protection and other security features that prevent unauthorized people from accessing your firearm.

Some gun safes use biometric scanners and keypad controls.

Other models use mechanical lock systems, such as combination locks or dials and key slots.

With that said, why does California find it necessary to own a gun safe?

Unfortunately, according to a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, more than half of gun owners don’t lock or store their weapons properly.

Instead of keeping them in a safe, many gun owners simply keep this dangerous and potentially lethal object in unlocked areas at home.

As you probably already know, unsecured guns in homes pose a substantial risk to children and anyone not trained to use firearms.

According to the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 70% to 90% of guns used in youth suicides and unintentional shootings among children are from homes of relatives or friends.

Furthermore, unsecured weapons in homes and vehicles contribute to the large number of gun thefts across the U.S.

For these reasons, California deemed it necessary to implement gun safety rules, one of which is requiring owners to have a gun safe.

DOJ Regulatory Gun Safe Standards

All gun owners, regardless if you are in California or not, must store their firearms safely and securely.

Whether you’re leaving your gun at home, in your car, or taking it with you in your travels, you should make sure it doesn’t get into the hands of anyone prohibited from possessing a firearm.

In California and other states, it is a crime to unsafely keep a loaded gun on your property if you know that a minor can access it without parental permission.

This is covered under the Penal Code 25100 PC.

do you need a gun safe in california

About the Penal Code 25100 PC

The Penal Code 25100 PC covers three stages:

Criminal storage of a firearm in the third degree

This refers to when a gun owner carelessly leaves his weapon somewhere a child could get to it and didn’t take reasonable steps to prevent it.

Third-degree firearm storage crimes are classified as misdemeanors.

Criminal storage of a firearm in the second degree

This refers to when a child got the gun and hurt someone, took it out and angrily showed in public, or used it in a fight.

Second-degree crimes can result in up to a year in jail, a fine of $1,000, or both.

Criminal storage of a firearm in the first degree

This refers to when a child obtained the gun and killed or seriously injured someone.

These crimes are punishable by up to six months of imprisonment or a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

First-degree gun storage crimes are considered a wobbler. This means it can either be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony.

Other Persons Prohibited from Possessing a Gun

Minors are not the only persons not allowed to possess a gun in California.

Other people who are barred from handling a gun include:

  • Those under federal prohibitions, such as convicted felons
  • Illegal drug users
  • Those subject to various types of temporary restraining orders under the California “Red Flag Law”

California Gun Safe Requirements

You will find the laws concerning the use and selection of gun storage in the Regulatory Gun Safe Standards.

Note, however, that this policy refers to the construction requirement of the safe and may not conform to the burglary or fire rating standards.

According to these guidelines, a good gun safe should meet the following criteria:

  • A locking system that can be either electronic or mechanical
  • Safes that utilize lock combinations should have at least 10,000 possible combinations with a minimum of three numbers, letters, or symbols
  • A drill-resistant steel plate or a material of equivalent strength
  • Three locking bolts of 0.5-inch thickness, at the least
  • A separate handle secured by a lock

Aside from these properties, the State of California requires firearm owners to use a gun safe capable of repeated use.

A gun safe is deemed durable if it is made out of a minimum of 12-gauge steel for a single-walled safe.

Alternatively, the sum of steel walls should add up to 0.001 inches. Otherwise, the firearm safe should consist of two walls.

The doors should have a minimum of one layer of a seven-gauge steel plate for reinforced construction.

For a compound construction, it should have at least two layers of 12-gauge steel.

Furthermore, the door hinges should not be exposed outside to prevent prying.

Features like dead bars, interlocking door design, jeweler’s lugs, and locking bolts are among the recognized protective measures.

Before buying any gun safe or storage device, you should check the California DOJ’s official website to verify if your gun safe passes the said requirements.

Most DOJ-certified gun safes will also have their certifications listed on the label.

California DOJ-Approved Tips to Safely Store Your Firearms

The right firearm safety solution differs from one gun owner to the next.

Whichever method you choose, though, it must provide an adequate level of protection and prevent minors and other unauthorized persons from accessing your weapon.

That said, which gun storage system is the best for your personal needs?

Here are some DOJ-approved tips to safely and securely store your firearm:

Choose a DOJ-certified gun safe.

Check if the gun safe meets the criteria we have listed earlier.

DOJ places topmost importance on the quality and durability of gun safes. If there is any defect, you will want to have it replaced immediately.

Check the security features.

Gun safes come in different designs and features. Some have trigger locks, while others have cable locks.

Guns sold and purchased in California should include a lock.

Newer gun safes include anti-theft protection, biometric scanners, automatic lighting, and more added features.

You will also find portable units that have the features of a locking gun cabinet.

Consider the capacity.

Aside from the features, consider the capacity of your gun storage. Gun safes vary in size, from multiple-gun storage devices to single pistol storage units.


Do you need a gun safe in California? Yes, definitely. California is among the few states with a comprehensive gun safety policy.

Specifically, it holds gun owners criminally liable if a minor or anyone else prohibited from carrying a gun gets ahold of their weapon and injures or kills someone as a result.

Essentially, a good gun safe should fully contain your firearms and provide secure storage.

Thus, it should have a durable build and reliable security features that prevent theft or unauthorized access.

Before you buy one, make sure that it meets the criteria set by the California DOJ.

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