Law Review: California subject to strict gun, ammunition restrictions

California has some of the strictest gun and ammunition laws in the country. Gun restrictions often do not survive Second Amendment challenges, so the Legislature has been focusing primarily on ammunition restrictions.


As of July 1, 2019, non-lead ammunition is required when taking any wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California. Of course, this new law does not fit well with the (bankruptcy-filed) National Rifle Association and some hunting and gun groups.

The no-lead ammo restriction includes hunting on public land, private land and even licensed game bird clubs. The new law applies to rifles, shotguns, pistols and muzzle loaders in any gauge or caliber. It applies for the take of any legal game species and non-game birds and mammals, and includes firearms used for depredation to take species causing property damage. Lead ammunition for duck and goose hunting has been banned nationwide since 1991.

Lead ammunition is allowed for target shooting. The no-lead ban does not apply to hunting with pellet guns which are not classified as firearms, although pellet guns if mishandled can be as dangerous as firearms. Law enforcement and other government officials are exempt from the prohibition of lead ammunition.

It has been suggested that hunters carry their non-toxic ammunition boxes when hunting to make it easy to verify they are using brass or copper (non-lead) ammunition. Violation of the law is an infraction punishable by a fine of $500, $1,000 – $5,000 for a subsequent offense.


There are options for disposing of your unused lead ammo: (1) call to see if your local police station will take the ammunition; (2) local gun ranges may take your ammo as lead bullets are legal for target practice; and (3) contact your local dump/hazardous waste facility to see if they will accept lead ammunition (Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposal will not). Do not throw your ammo in the trash, bury it in the ground or soak it in water or oil and then throw it out.


In 2016, California voters passed Prop 63, which among other gun safety provisions included new laws to comprehensively regulate ammunition sales. If this topic interests you, read up on Prop 63, which by the way, has been challenged several times in court by the NRA. In fact, one federal judge issued a preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of Prop 63, but that has since been overturned by another court, so Prop 63 in large part remains in effect.

Under Prop 63, ammo must generally be handled through licensed vendors, although you are allowed to sell or share ammunition with relatives and shooting partners unless the ammunition might be used for a criminal purpose.

California generally prohibits possession of live ammunition by anyone under age 18 although the restrictions do not apply if the minor has the written consent of a parent or is engaged in a lawful recreation sport like competitive shooting.

Most importantly, since July 1, 2019, you must go online and go through a complicated series of questions to qualify as a purchaser of ammunition, i.e., undergo a background check, which as I understand cannot be completed the day you submit the form online. As noted, there are other restrictions in Prop 63.


A series of new laws went into effect on Jan. 1, 2021, including all Californians must be 21 or over to buy a semi-automatic rifle and all Californians are limited to buying one semi-automatic rifle per month. A person banned from owning a firearm in another state can no longer legally possess one in California. Lastly, employers, co-workers and teachers will be able to ask for a gun-violence restraining order against a person beginning on Sept. 1, 2021 – no longer leaving gun seizures only to families and law enforcement.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOAs, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at or


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