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California's Law Against the Negligent Discharge of a Firearm


Under California law, it is illegal to shoot a firearm in a grossly negligent manner. A person who does so commits a misdemeanor or felony crime.

Definition of the Offense

Penal Code Section 246.3 defines negligent discharge of a firearm as the willful firing of a gun in a reckless manner that puts others at risk of serious injury or death.

For example, say Sally was at a party where Jim brought a gun that he said required a lot of pressure to pull the trigger. Sally wanted to see if she could shoot the weapon, so she pointed it in the backyard and fired. Her willful intent to discharge the weapon into an area with other people present is a direct violation of the law. If she picked up the gun, not realizing it was loaded, and it accidentally went off, she may not face charges. She also might not face charges if she was alone and no one was in the area where she fired the gun.

The law applies not only to handguns but also to BB guns and pellet guns – those that use air pressure, gas pressure, or a spring load to fire a projectile.

Charges and Potential Penalties

After the prosecutor examines the facts of the case, they will determine whether a violation should be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. If the weapon that was fired was a BB gun or pellet gun, the violator could be charged with only a misdemeanor.

If convicted of a misdemeanor, the individual faces up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. The penalties for a felony conviction include a jail sentence of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

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To schedule your free criminal consultation, call us at (805) 467-6060 or contact us online.

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