Shooting a criminal in California as a non-resident?

California laws about guns have me so confused.

As someone who visits California often, I’m curious about what would happen if I shoot a criminal in self defense? For instance, in a hotel or Airbnb, and we have an intruder. Let’s say I managed to load my gun in time and shoot him. What’s the recourse? Am I protected by the law? Is the law on my side? Am I still going to jail because I inadvertently broke their gun law to protect myself?

What’s the situation for us who are not resident of California, just visiting, and end up having to shoot someone for protection?

California law makes it seem like you can’t shoot anyone at all, even if you need to defend yourself. Such as having your gun unloaded and no open carry and no conceal carry, or no guns in the hotel, etc. Like what else am I supposed to do?


You have to start from your closest surroundings:

  1. is it legal to possess the firearm in that hotel?
    if yes:
  2. is it legal to possess your type of firearm in that City?
    If yes:
  3. is it legal to possess your type of firearm in California?
    If yes:
  4. call “The USCCA Critical Response Team”

You are always gonna be under investigation, perhaps handcuffed or arrested… but this is your least problem once you call your attorney on time.
If you are legally carrying as non Resident you have the same rights to self defense as legally carrying Californian.

Am I still going to jail because I inadvertently broke their gun law to protect myself?

This applies to every State… unfortunately not knowing the Law is not an excuse.

Ignorantia juris non excusat - ignorance of law excuses no one.


California actually has pretty good defensive laws for things such as castle doctrine (hotel, airbnb, car, etc) and there is no duty retreat (aka “stand your ground”). IIRC, stand your ground is not codified (written into law), but has a long track record of case law.

So if you are legally allowed to be wherever you are, and someone breaks into your hotel/airbnb/car/etc you have the right to defend yourself.

As @Jerzy points out though, where you can find yourself in trouble is in the minefield of state and local laws restricting what firearms you can have, where you can have them, and what state they must be in (unloaded, etc).

So you may have a valid self-defense claim, maybe be arrested while the police figures things out, but be let go for that… and then end up with a massive fine or few months/years in prison because your magazine holds too many rounds.


Check out for lots of good info on CA regulations.

As a non resident you cannot carry but you can transport firearms if you follow all the regulation- unloaded and locked in a case, not passing through school zones, etc., etc, etc…. They can’t be considered “assault” weapons and you have to not be in possession of “high” capacity magazines. You can have a firearm in your “residence” including hotels and campsites (though campsite is not defined). It can even be loaded in at your residence in some circumstances though County, City and child safety laws may prevent this. Some hotels have No Firearms policies and they don’t always make it obvious so this could lead to issues if you needed to defend yourself.

CA laws are ever changing and many CA DAs would rather arrest you for practicing your 2A rights than arrest criminals robbing people on the streets. So use extreme caution in CA.


I’m not sure this applies in California.


CA does blatantly deny the rights of Non Residents to carry in public. There may be a loophole if you do a “significant” amount of work in the State but I have not explored that yet.


Perhaps I didn’t write it as clear as I thought… :sunglasses:
The point was to know your rights for carrying:

If you are legally carrying as non Resident

… that means… if CA Law deny carrying for Non Residents, you are carrying illegally.
My original statement remains correct.

I’m not aware of limitations in CA.

1 Like

I am not an attorney, and an attorney is probably the only one who would be able to give you the best and most accurate answer. Maybe @MikeBKY can offer some advice?

The one thing that I CAN offer is that it is important to remember magazine capacity laws. I know in CA it has been back and forth recently, but currently, the 10 round limit is still in place.


i wish I could give you sound advice but the web of state and local laws in CA are too much for me to try to comprehend. My choice is to not visit California.


My fear is that using a fire arm to defend myself in a unfriendly state like California would lead to a terrible outcome. Certainly the prosecutors and judges couldn’t be trusted to charge/rule favorably if there was any question about legal/illegal possession of a gun. A jury seated from the unfriendly citizens would be sketchy. I guess it all comes down to “Would you rather be judged by a jury of 12 or carried by 8 pallbearers?”.

1 Like

Study the rules backwards and forwards. Follow them to the letter (though in CA they are convoluted and contradictory so professional legal advice is a very good idea). If you feel confident you can travel with a firearm in CA legally under their many restrictions and you understand the situations under which you can legally defend yourself in CA then the legal consequences are something you would have to deal with after the fact. Which could be better than the alternative. But if you don’t follow the many unconstitutional laws you could lose your right to own firearms and/or your right to live outside a prison cell. So decide which is the bigger threat - over zealous DAs or armed criminals? Based on my experience in SoCal they booth present a clear and present danger.


I thought all the criminals in Kalifornia were Nuisance Newsom voters? :wink:

1 Like

I find myself in Commifornia from time to time one of the few states I can’t carry but I do leave it loaded snd in reach in my truck and last Commifornia truck insp the trooper asked because it popped up on my drivers license and I answered yes in the overhead locked and loaded he said you sleep in your truck right I said yes he said ok just leave it there during your inspection and we will be good friends I said ok and that was that…Tim


I just left the CRC and I think a wrist rocket slingshot is actually illegal. I could not find a way to bring a firearm in of any kind.

You are very lucky you ran into a pro 2A police officer since transporting a loaded firearm without a license in CA is a crime punishable by up to 1 year in prison. My understanding is having it loaded while you are stopped to sleep would be allowed. The cops in CA do seem to give truckers extra leeway.

Specifically the reason that I don’t visit California, drive through California and try not to even fly through California. I turned down a business trip to California several years ago. I basically just don’t go to states where my guns(2A) are not allowed.


I often gave truckers a break. That sleeper is their residence. And that was in Southern California. Same rule for a motorhome.

And a prior poster is correct. CA law regarding self defense with a firearm is pretty clear cut. Especially in your residence. A section of the CA penal code says that when someone, not a family member. forcibly enters your residence their is a legal presumption you are in danger of great bodily harm or death. That is the modified “castle doctrine” a prior poster referred to. There is no “duty to retreat” in CA.

Self defense shootings happen often in CA. In homes, businesses.

Of course every shooting will be looked at closely. I arrested a man for a fatal shooting of a 16 year old boy and staging a break in.

Know the law. The best shooting is the one that never happens. Until you have no choice.


“Don’t hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

My understanding is that you could still be charged with illegally transporting a firearm if it is not unloaded and in a Locked container even if you are driving in the vehicle you reside in at night? I often sleep in the back of my SUV when I am working so it clearly is my residence but I doubt many CA LEOs would see it that way. Glad you gave folks practicing their 2A rights a break!

I work in a lot of power plants and refineries, most have lock ups for guns at the guard shacks. When they ask, if you say yes, they ask you to place it in the electronic safe where you put in a number to lock/unlock it. Out here, it’s pretty well known that truckers carry loaded guns.

1 Like