California Laws on Openly Carrying Firearms – California Penal Code PC 26350

Posted by Raoul Severo | Nov 19, 2020 | 0 Comments


“Firearm” refers to a device designed to be used as a weapon, from which is expelled through a barrel, a projectile by the force of an explosion or other form of combustion. It also includes a rocket, rocket-propelled projectile launcher, or similar device containing explosive or incendiary material, whether or not the device is designed for emergency or distress signaling purposes. Lastly, the unfinished frame or receiver of a weapon that can be readily converted to the functional condition of a finished frame or receiver can also be considered as a “firearm.” However, “firearm” does not include unloaded antique guns.


“Handgun” means any pistol, revolver, or firearm capable of being concealed upon the person. Nothing shall prevent a device defined as a “handgun” from also being found to be a short-barreled rifle or a short-barreled shotgun.

Open Carry

Open carry refers to the act of openly carrying or exposing firearms in public areas where the said weapons should not be seen or should remain concealed. It can also be closely correlated to brandishing.

PC 26350

California Penal Code PC 26350 is the law that criminalizes the act of openly carrying firearms, specifically handguns. According to this article, a person is guilty of openly carrying an unloaded handgun when that person carries upon his or her person an exposed and unloaded handgun inside or outside a vehicle, whether or not the firearm is on his or her person, while in or on any of the following:

  • A public place or public street in an incorporated city or city and county.
  • A public street in a prohibited area of an unincorporated area of a county or city and county.
  • A public place in a prohibited area of a county or city and county.

The provisions of this section are cumulative and shall not be construed as restricting the application of any other law. However, an act or omission punishable in different ways by different provisions of law shall not be punished under more than one provision. Notwithstanding the fact that the term “an unloaded handgun” is used in this section, each handgun shall constitute a distinct and separate offense under this section.


There are, however, people and situations that are exempted from the scopes of PC 26350; these include (but are not limited to):

  • Law Enforcement Officers on Duty
  • Licensed Hunters
  • Military Personnel on Duty
  • Peace Officers
  • Gun Shops
  • Gun Shows
  • Licensed Entertainers

Penalties for Open Carrying Handguns

Openly carrying or exposing handguns in public places is a California misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is the level of criminal severity more serious compared to infractions but less severe than felonies. Under California Penal Code PC 26350, it is punishable by

  • Up to one (1) year imprisonment in county jail,
  • A fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both.

However, it can also be charged as a felony if the person in question was:

  • Previously convicted of a misdemeanor crime against a person or property, or a narcotics or dangerous drug crime,
  • Previously convicted of another firearm related felony, or
  • The firearm in question was possessed under unlawful circumstances.

Legal Defenses

Violating PC 26350 by openly carrying an exposed and unconcealed handgun is a serious criminal offense. Fortunately for the defendant, some conditions can be used in their favor. Some of these defenses are:

  • The defendant has a permit to carry,
  • The defendant is exempted from the scopes of PC 26350,
  • The defendant was not in a public place, or
  • The defendant was subjected to an unlawful search and seizure.

Firearm-related legal conflicts can lead to severe permanent consequences. Being convicted with one can lead to losing civil and social privileges, including lessened employment chances and the possibility of losing gun ownership privileges. When facing such disputes, it would be the concerned party's best interest to reach out to our top-notch California defense lawyers. They can ensure that justice is served by attempting to lessen, if not dismiss, any charges thrown unto the defendant.

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