Contact Us Today (424) 372-3112


Legal Self-Defense Weapons

Posted by Sam Israels | Jul 08, 2024

Let's review a common question of which self-defense weapons are permissible in California. All states recognize the right to self-defense, but there are limits on the weapons a person can legally possess.

Sometimes, people find themselves in legal trouble over firearm-related matters, so it's essential to understand the laws. California legalizes various self-defense weapons, including tasers, stun guns, personal alarms often attached to keychains and designed to release deafening sounds when triggered, certain categories of knives, and specific firearms.

Legal Self-Defense Weapons in California
California law says some weapons are legal to use for the purpose of self-defense.

In other words, California law permits the purchase, ownership, and carrying of tasers or stun guns for genuine self-defense purposes. However, this does not apply to people with a prior felony conviction, those with a history of misusing a stun gun, people addicted to drugs, or anyone under the age of 16.

On the issue of knives, California residents can legally carry folding knives, excluding switchblades, if they are in their folded state. These include pocket knives, Swiss army knives, box cutters, and similar utility knives.

Regarding firearms, it's important to note that California enforces numerous regulations that determine the type of firearms one can own, their intended use, and the guidelines for their safe storage and transportation. Mostly, people over 21 can legally own and possess conventional firearms, such as handguns and shotguns.

California has restrictions on the use of specific firearms for self-defense. Penal Code 16590 PC bans creating, selling, owning, and using certain hazardous weapons. These include brass knuckles, leaded canes, blackjacks, and certain martial arts weapons like shurikens.

In California, certain knives and weapons possession or use are outlawed. Penal Code 21310 PC prohibits concealing dirks and daggers, and Penal Code 30605 PC makes it a crime to own assault weapons. Zip guns, undetectable firearms, and short-barreled shotguns are similarly prohibited.

What is the Right to Self-Defense in California?

California's self-defense laws permit someone to take a stand and defend themselves if they reasonably sense imminent physical danger. This includes believing that using force is essential to ward off the perceived threat. However, the force must be proportionate and be at most what's considered necessary to alleviate the perceived risk.

 Right to Self-Defense

California law acknowledges the right to self-defense and permits the use of certain weapons. It has "Stand Your Ground" and "Castle Doctrine" laws.

PC 198.5 says, "Any person using force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury within his or her residence shall be presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family, or a member of the household when that force is used against another person, not a member of the family or household, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using the force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred.

As this section uses, great bodily injury means a significant or substantial physical injury."

California has strict regulations regarding which weapons can be possessed and carried and who can take them. Not all self-defense weapons are legal, even those with some restrictions.

Generally, if you're a civilian living in California, almost any weapon you're legally allowed to possess can be used in self-defense. Still, many have questions about which weapons are legal in California and which are prohibited.

What is Acting Lawfully in Self-Defense?

California law allows citizens to use legal weapons in self-defense but has specific criteria for what counts as lawful self-defense.

You could be exposed to criminal charges and civil actions if you exceed or fail to meet these criteria. The requirements for acting lawfully in self-defense are as follows:

  • You must reasonably believe you are in immediate danger.
  • You must reasonably believe using force is necessary to stop the danger.
  • You act with only a level of force reasonably required to stop the threat.

Self-Defense - Quick Facts

  • "Stand Your Ground" means that if someone threatens you, you are not obligated to retreat to defend yourself. You have the legal right to remain present and protect yourself.
  • The "Castle Doctrine" states that you are not obligated to retreat if an intruder enters your home or other personal space, such as a vehicle.
  • California Penal Code 198.5 PC states that a home intruder is considered a situation in which there is a reasonable fear of imminent harm.
  • Adults can legally carry a handgun that is lawfully possessed within their home, place of business, or private property without a permit or license.
  • It's illegal for residents to openly carry loaded handguns in public as codified in Penal Code 25850 PC, with a few exceptions in small counties.
  • Convicted felons are prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm as codified in Penal Code 29800 PC, including anyone addicted to narcotics.
  • Anyone with outstanding felony warrants is forbidden from owning or possessing a gun.
  • As codified in Penal Code 22610 PC, purchasing, possessing, or carrying a stun gun or taser is legal for lawful self-defense.
  • You are prohibited from possessing a taser if you are a convicted felon, drug addict, under 18, or have a prior conviction for misuse of a stun gun.
  • Stun guns are proximity devices requiring you to be in physical contact with your attacker, which uses a painful shock.
  • A taser uses projectile prongs that attach to a target at distances of up to 15 feet.
  • People with restraining orders or declared mentally ill are also disqualified from carrying legal weapons.

Which Self-Defense Weapons Are Legal in California?

  • Stun guns and tasers are legal, with some restrictions. You cannot own a stun gun if you are a convicted felon, a minor, addicted to narcotics, or have a prior conviction for misuse of a stun gun. Also, certain areas, such as public buildings and schools, are prohibited.
  • Folding knives such as Swiss army knives, pocket knives, and box cutters are legally carried in a folder position, but switchblade knives are prohibited.
  • Certain types of firearms, such as handguns, rifles, and shotguns, are legal, but you must be of lawful age, pass a background check, have no felony convictions, and pass a safety course to own one. You must obtain a concealed carry permit (CCW) to carry one in public.
  • Pepper spray is allowed for self-defense if the canister size does not exceed 2.5 ounces of active product.
  • There are no restrictions on possessing or using personal alarms.

Which Weapons Are Prohibited?

California has a lengthy list of weapons that are illegal in the state, either to possess or to use in self-defense, as codified in Penal Code 16590 PC, including the following:

  • Penal Code 21510 PC - Switchblades.
  • Penal Code 21810 PC - Brass Knuckles.
  • Penal Code 22010 PC - Nunchucks.
  • Penal Code 21310 PC - Dirks and Dagger.
  • Penal Code 21110 PC - Ballistic Knife.
  • Penal Code 22210 PC - Batons and Leaded Canes.
  • Penal Code 22410 PC - Throwing Stars.
  • Penal Code 33600 PC - Zip Guns.
  • Penal Code 30605 PC - Assault Weapons.
  • Penal Code 32310 PC - Large-Capacity Magazine.
  • Penal Code 33215PC - Short-Barreled Shotguns.

Contact our California criminal defense lawyers for more information. Cron, Israels & Stark has offices in Los Angeles, CA.

Related Content:

About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

Contact Us Today

Cron, Israels & Stark is committed to answering your questions about All Misdemeanor and Felony Crime law issues in Santa Monica and Los Angeles, California.

We offer a free consultation and we'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.