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How to Legally Buy and Own a Self-Assembled Firearm in California

The legality of self-assembled firearms, such as Polymer 80s, has been called into question recently because the guns are extremely popular with gangs and criminal elements. It is still legal to buy and assemble your own firearm, but there are strict guidelines that need to be followed. The California Attorney General puts these requirements in four parts:

  1. Eligibility to possess a firearm
  2. Legality of the firearm in California
  3. Serial Numbers for self-made firearms
  4. Selling or transferring a self-made firearm
1. Eligibility to Possess a Firearm

To own a self-made firearm, you must also be eligible to own a firearm. Those who are not eligible include:

  • Individuals convicted of a felony
  • Any person addicted to narcotics
  • Any person with a dishonorable discharge from military service
  • Some individuals with misdemeanors regarding the misuse of a firearm
  • And others. A complete list can be found here

In addition, you must be over the age of 18 to own a firearm in California, or over the age of 21 to own a handgun.

2. Legality of the Firearm in California

If you intend to manufacture or assemble your own firearm, the firearm must be completely legal to own in California. Certain classes of firearms, such as assault rifles or machine guns, are illegal to manufacture or assemble at all. If you intend to assemble a handgun, California has further laws regarding unsafe handguns. These laws require a gun to have certain safety features, such as:

  • A manually operated safety device
  • Adherence to drop safety requirements ensuring that the firearm does not
  • discharge when dropped
  • A mechanism to imprint identifying information onto bullet casings when fired
  • Full requirements can be found here:
3. Serial Numbers for Self-Made Firearms

Anyone who intends to manufacture or assemble a firearm must first apply for a DOJ serial number. If you meet legal requirements to own a firearm, you can apply for a serial number here. Applying for a serial number is similar to buying a complete firearm, as you will have to go through a background check and other processes to be approved. The DOJ will issue serial numbers to those who:

  1. Have a firearm safety certificate,
  2. Complete a firearms eligibility background check verifying that they are eligible to
  3. possess firearms under state and federal law,
  4. Present proof of being 21 years of age or older
  5. Provide a description of the firearm they intend to manufacture or assemble. Once approved, the serial number must be placed on the firearm in an acceptable
  6. location, and pictures must be uploaded to the DOJ website.
  7. Selling or transferring a self-made firearm

Note that it is illegal to sell or transfer ownership of a self-made firearm. If you decide to purchase and assemble your own firearm, you will not be able to sell the gun. Consider this carefully before committing to a purchase.

If you need legal guidance regarding the legality of a firearm, or if you have been accused of possessing or using an illegal firearm, do not hesitate to contact Kroger Law Group. Clients receive a free consultation for their specific case. William Kroger has been dealing with cases like these for over 20 years, so experience and expertise are his specialties. Call us at 323-655-5700.

Here is a reference sheet from the California Attorney General:

Firearms that cannot be manufactured or assembled by an individual include:

  • Any weapon prohibited under Penal Code Section 16590
  • An assault weapon as defined in Penal Code Section 30510 or 30515
  • A machine gun as defined in Penal Code Section 16880
  • A .50 BMG rifle as defined in Penal Code Section 30530
  • A destructive device as defined in Penal Code Section 16460

California law on unsafe handguns:

  • California Penal Code Sections 31900-31910 contains definitions and requirements for handguns and their components.
  • California Penal Code Section 32000 generally prohibits manufacturing unsafe handguns.
  • California Penal Code Section 32100 contains certain exceptions to the prohibition of manufacturing unsafe handguns.

California Penal Code Sections 29180-29184 contains the law on serial number requirements and sales restrictions for self-made firearms.

California Code of Regulations Title 11, Division 5, Chapter 14 contains the full regulations concerning unique serial numbers for self-made firearms.

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