Gun Sales Soar During COVID-19 Pandemic
Americans bought more than 2.5 million firearms in March of 2020, according to a report in USA Today. The report, analyzed federal gun sales data and noted that this marked the highest month for gun sales in U.S. history. The report also noted that this analysis only represents the number of gun sales where purchasers are required to submit to an FBI background check; actual gun sale numbers are likely to be higher because many states do not require a background check to purchase a firearm. March 2020 saw a record number of national background checks at 3.7 million, the highest national number for one month since 1998. In March, the State of California reported about 164,000 background checks for firearms purchases, an increase of 72% from February of this year and an increase of 34% from March of last year.
Understanding California Gun Laws
As concerns regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (and the government’s response to it) continue, it is important that gun owners and buyers understand California’s strict gun laws. Many gun crimes involve unlawful ownership/possession of a firearm. Those in violation of these laws face harsh penalties; not knowing the law is not a defense. Contact Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners if you have been accused of or charged with a gun crime in Los Angeles county.
Overview of California Gun Crimes
The majority of gun crimes in California involve the unlawful use, ownership, and/or possession of a firearm. These are the most common firearm, gun crimes prosecuted in Southern California, and, specifically Los Angeles County:
Carrying a Concealed Firearm
It is unlawful in California (Penal Code section 29800) to knowingly carry a concealed firearm on your person or in your vehicle. The prosecutor must prove you knew of the firearm. Defenses include when a gun is unloaded and in a locked container, or in the trunk of a vehicle. In most cases, carrying a concealed firearm is charged as a misdemeanor with a maximum of one year in county jail. However, certain circumstances may result in felony charges. For example, if the person possessed the firearm illegally (including when the person has a past felony conviction); had a prior conviction for a firearms charge; the person knew the gun was stolen or unregistered; or the person is actively involved in a street gang. Felony charges are punishable by heavy fines and years in prison.
Possessing a Firearm as a Convicted Felon
California law (Penal Code section 29800) makes it a felony for anyone with a felony conviction to own or possess a firearm. The law also applies to those with certain misdemeanor convictions (usually involving violence, such as domestic violence, or assault and battery) and those who are addicted to any narcotic. The penalties for this crime are severe and include up to three years in state prison and/or a fine up to $10,000.
Carrying a Loaded Firearm in Public
It is a misdemeanor in California (Penal Code section 25850) to carry a loaded gun in public. The law also makes it a crime to carry a loaded gun in a vehicle. The law requires that anyone carrying a loaded gun must have knowledge that the gun is actually loaded. The punishment for this crime is up to one year in county jail.
Brandishing a Firearm/Weapon
California law (Penal Code section 417) prohibits an individual from drawing, exhibiting, or using a firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, or a weapon, in a threatening, rude, or angry manner. The crime of brandishing a firearm can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. The unique circumstances involved will determine how the crime is charged and what penalties an offender faces if convicted. Aggravating factors that can lead to harsher penalties include brandishing a firearm at a children’s daycare facility, at a person in a vehicle, to prevent an arrest, or in the presence of a peace officer. The penalties for brandishing as a misdemeanor vary from three months to a year in county jail; felony brandishing is punishable by up to three years in state prison unless the brandishing of a weapon/gun was done at a peace officer which is punishable by two, three or four years in state prison.
Shooting a Firearm at a Dwelling, Vehicle, or Aircraft
It is unlawful in California (Penal Code section 245 & 247) to shoot at a dwelling, vehicle, or aircraft. The penalties for these crimes are serios; an individual faces even harsher penalties if the dwelling, vehicle, or aircraft was occupied and/or inhabited when the shooting took place. The maximum sentence for shooting a firearm at an uninhabited dwelling, or unoccupied vehicle or aircraft is three years in prison. But, if the dwelling, vehicle, or aircraft was inhabited or occupied at the time of the shooting, offenders face up to seven years in prison.
Firing a Gun from a Vehicle – California Drive-By Shooting
California Penal Code section 26100 makes it illegal to: to fire a gun from a vehicle; fire a gun from a vehicle at a person; allow discharge of a gun by a passenger in a vehicle you are driving; and allow another person to bring a gun into a car you are driving. Additionally, the law does not require that the vehicle has to be in motion. All the law requires is that the gun be in your car or the shots were fired from your car. These crimes may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances. The penalties for these crimes vary from 6 months in county jail to three years in state prison. There is one exception- if you or someone fires a gun at another person from your vehicle it is an automatic felony punishable by three to seven years in state prison
Grossly Negligent Discharge of a Firearm
It is a crime in California (Penal Code section 246.3) to “negligently discharge” a firearm. Negligent discharge means firing a gun in such a way that someone else could be injured or die. A person does not have to be actually injured or killed in order for you to face criminal charges for grossly negligent discharge. Additionally, the law applies to BB guns as well. Negligent discharge of a gun can be charged as a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in county jail, or as a felony, punishable by up to 3 years in state prison.
Assault With A Firearm
Assault with a firearm is a serious crime in California charged under Penal Code section 245(a)(2). The law defines assault with a firearm as an unlawful attempt to commit a violent injury on another person with the present ability to do so. The law does not require an actual injury on another person. Assault with a firearm can be charged as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail or a felony punishable by up to four years in prison. The penalty for this crime depends on the type of firearm used and the victim.
Top Los Angeles Gun Defense Attorneys
If you are facing charges for illegal possession or use of a gun in Los Angeles, call for a consultation with the attorneys at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners and learn how we can help you. You may be in danger of forfeiting your gun rights and you could be facing county jail or state prison time.
To speak to a member of our team, contact us online or call (213) 481-6811.