When you walk into a toy store, you will find entire shelves full of imitation guns. Some don’t look even close to real, while others are surprisingly authentic looking. Looking at the authentic toys, it’s easy to wonder if you could get in trouble for having an imitation gun in California.
The answer is both yes and no.
It’s not technically illegal in California to have an imitation gun that looks like the real thing. It’s not even illegal to carry that fake gun into a public setting, which is why kids often bring their favorite toy gun to different gatherings.
While you can legally own an imitation gun in California, it is against the law to use that imitation gun in such a way that people around you not only think the gun is real but that you intend to use it to harm them or to commit a crime. For example, while you won’t get into trouble for having an imitation gun in your pocket, you will face serious legal consequences if you pull that gun out and act like it is a real gun while you hold up a gas station.
Another example of something that could result in you being charged with brandishing an imitation firearm is getting into a massive fight and pulling the fake gun out, and using it while you threaten their life.
In order for the charges to stick and become a conviction, the victim named in the charges must have had reason to believe the imitation gun was real and that you genuinely intended to harm them with it.
Brandishing an imitation gun in California in such a way that others believe you’re using a real gun is a direct violation of Penal Code 417.4 PC. If you’re convicted, you’ll have a misdemeanor on your criminal record. You will spend some time in a county jail. The minimum sentence is 30 days of incarceration, and the maximum sentence is six months. You’ll also have court fees, sentencing fees, and probably spend some time on probation. It’s also highly likely that you’ll face additional charges as well.
The best way to avoid ever getting charged and convicted of brandishing a fake gun in California is by only keeping fake guns that don’t look real or only using them in a way that is clearly benign while around people who know that the gun is a mere toy and not capable of harm.