Carrying a firearm for personal protection is a complex issue with many factors to consider. In California, both open carry and concealed carry are legal options, but they are subject to different regulations. This article will examine open carry vs concealed carry in California to help gun owners understand their rights and responsibilities.

An Overview of California’s Firearm Laws

California is known for having some of the strictest gun laws in the U.S. All firearm owners need to have a thorough understanding of state laws to avoid running into legal issues when carrying a gun in public. Here are some key things to know:

  • California is a “may issue” state for concealed carry permits. Local sheriffs have discretion in issuing CCW permits to applicants who can show “good cause” for carrying a concealed firearm.
  • Open carry of unloaded handguns is generally allowed, but local municipalities can impose additional restrictions. Loaded open carry is prohibited.
  • To purchase or possess a firearm, you must be over 18 and pass a background check. Additional steps like safety certificates and waiting periods also apply.
  • Guns are prohibited in many sensitive locations like schools and government buildings. There are also capacity limits and assault weapon bans.

Carefully researching California penal codes on firearm possession, carry, transport, and use is essential. An experienced criminal defense attorney can also clarify how the laws apply to your specific situation.

Understanding Differences Between Open Carry vs Concealed Carry

There are distinct differences between openly carrying a handgun in a visible holster and concealing it under clothing:

Open Carry

  • Involves carrying an unloaded handgun openly on one’s person. Ammunition must be carried separately.
  • Allowed in public places except where banned by state law or local ordinance.
  • Immediately shows others you are armed, acting as a deterrent to crime.
  • Requires very deliberate handling to avoid alarming others. Less discreet.
  • Quick access to an unloaded weapon for self-defense.

Concealed Carry

  • Involves carrying a loaded handgun concealed from view, either on your body or in a bag/purse.
  • Requires a valid CCW permit issued by local law enforcement. It is harder to obtain in some counties.
  • Provides the element of surprise for self-defense but still allows quick access.
  • More discreet. Doesn’t alarm others around you who may be uncomfortable with visible guns.
  • Must avoid printing or exposing the concealed gun. Requires concealing garments.

Each method has pros and cons, so selecting open or concealed carry depends on your priorities. Many choose concealed carry for the discretion and ability to carry loaded. Others prefer open carry for deterrence and faster deployment if needed.

Understanding Open Carry Laws in California

The 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to bear arms. However, states can regulate the carrying of firearms in public spaces. Here are key open carry laws in California that gun owners should know:

  • Openly carrying an unloaded handgun in public is generally legal for any non-prohibited person 18 and older.
  • Firearms must be carried openly in a holster and not concealed on your body. They cannot be hidden from view.
  • Ammo must be carried separately in a closed container. The gun and ammo must stay separated.
  • Exceptions exist where open carry is banned entirely, like schools, government buildings, and other sensitive locations per California penal code 171b.
  • Even where legal, brandishing or threatening others with an openly carried firearm is prohibited. It must stay holstered.
  • Bans on the open carry of loaded firearms in public spaces exist in California. Having a loaded handgun visible can result in criminal charges.
  • Local counties and cities may impose additional restrictions on open carry within their jurisdictions through local ordinances. This can create a complex patchwork of laws for gun owners to navigate.
  • Carefully review California penal codes on open carry before deciding to carry a firearm in public openly. Better yet, consult with an attorney.

Obtaining a Concealed Carry Permit in California

Concealed carry allows gun owners to have a loaded handgun on their person instead of having to carry ammo separately. However, a valid CCW permit issued by your county sheriff is mandatory. Here’s what you need to know about getting a California concealed carry permit:

  • Each county sheriff has discretion in issuing CCW permits. Some counties rarely issue them. Others are shall-issue. Know your local laws.
  • To qualify for CCW, complete required firearms training, classroom instruction, and live-fire exercises.
  • Must pass an extensive Live Scan background investigation looking for criminal records or other prohibiting factors.
  • Provide a compelling reason that shows “good cause” for needing CCW. Self-defense or personal safety alone is often not enough.
  • You’ll be issued a CCW permit if approved after background checks, required training, and demonstrating good cause.
  • A permit is only valid in the county of issuance. Separate permits must be obtained for each county where concealed carry is desired.
  • Certain locations like schools and government buildings are still off-limits for concealed carry.
  • Renewal is required every 2 years. The sheriff can revoke the permit at any time.
  • Violating concealed carry laws results in severe criminal penalties. Permits can be permanently revoked.

Navigating California’s strict CCW permit process can be complex. Partnering with an experienced weapons charges lawyer improves your chances of successfully obtaining a concealed carry permit.

Choosing Open Carry vs Concealed Carry in California

With a proper understanding of California’s firearms laws, you can now make an informed decision about open carry vs concealed carry. Key factors to consider include:

  • Location – Certain areas prohibit all carry, while local ordinances can ban open carry. Concealed carry with a valid CCW permit is allowed in more places.
  • Loaded vs Unloaded – Open carry requires ammo to be separate. Concealed carry allows loaded firearms.
  • Discretion – Open carry draws attention. Concealed carry is more discrete but requires concealing garments.
  • Accessibility – Open carry allows fast access to an unloaded weapon. Concealed carry provides the element of surprise.
  • Permitting – No permit is required for open carry. Concealed carry requires a difficult-to-obtain CCW permit.
  • Legality – Mistakes can lead to criminal charges and loss of gun rights for both forms of carry. Know the laws.

There is no definitively superior method. Prioritize discretion, deterrence, accessibility, and other factors to choose what’s ideal for your needs and lifestyle. Being thoroughly trained and educated on gun laws is imperative no matter how you decide to carry for self-defense.

Work With a Qualified Criminal Defense Attorney

Mistakes happen. If you’ve been charged with unlawful open carry, concealed carry violations, or any other weapons-related offenses, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help protect your rights.

Making an informed decision based on your needs, comfort level, and ability to meet legal requirements will help determine the right carry method for lawful self-defense. With proper adherence to California’s carry regulations, gun owners can exercise both open and concealed carry responsibly.

Contact the criminal defense team at Kolacia Law in Rancho Cucamonga today to schedule a consultation. Don’t leave your future to chance. The skilled defense lawyers at Kolacia Law are here to help.