Brandishing a Firearm/Weapon in California

The idea of brandishing a firearm and making threats might seem like it would be a fun way to liven up an otherwise boring afternoon, but if you do, you’ll find that the moment of fun isn’t worth all the legal headaches you’ll face as a direct result of your stunt. In California, it’s illegal to brandish a firearm or other weapon.

California Penal Code 417 PC was created to deal with the matter of brandishing a weapon/firearm in California. The law states that:

“Every person who, except in self-defense, in the presence of any other person, draws or exhibits any loaded firearm in a rude, angry, or threatening manner, or who, in any manner, unlawfully uses any loaded firearm in any fight or quarrel upon the grounds of any daycare center, as defined in Section 1596.76 of the Health and Safety Code, or any facility where programs, including daycare programs or recreational programs, are being conducted for persons under 18 years of age, including programs conducted by a nonprofit organization, during the hours in which the center or facility is open for use, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, or two or three years, or by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than three months, nor more than one year.

Every person who, in the immediate presence of a peace officer, draws or exhibits any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, in a rude, angry, or threatening manner, and who knows, or reasonably should know, by the officer’s uniformed appearance or other action of identification by the officer, that he or she is a peace officer engaged in the performance of his or her duties, and that peace officer is engaged in the performance of his or her duties, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than nine months and not to exceed one year, or in the state prison for 16 months, or two or three years.”

The problem with brandishing a firearm or other weapon is that the situation isn’t very clear. The first issue is that while you think you’re making a joke, other people in the area might not know that’s what you’re doing. The other issue that can make handling cases that involve brandishing a weapon complicated is that the prosecution must prove that you brandished the weapon in a threatening manner. 

Some defenses that are successful in cases that involve the brandishing of a weapon. The most common is that the weapon was brandished as a means of self-defense. The second is that while you did have the weapon, you didn’t use it in a way that the average person would have deemed threatening. 

While a brandishing a weapon conviction is serious, it is also one of the crimes that California is willing to expunge. You can seek to have the issue expunged after you’ve completed your sentencing.

The best way to avoid getting accused of brandishing a weapon in California is to make sure you always keep any weapon you carry properly secured unless you’re absolutely positive you need it for self-defense. It’s impossible to brandish a secure weapon.