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California Machine Gun Permits, and The Law

Posted by attorney Kevin Thomason

I have been approached by several people who would like to own a machine gun in California. The problem is that California, unlike most other states, requires a separate “permit" in addition to the “tax stamp" required under federal NFA law.

Here’s the application for the permit: FD030DWApp.pdf

And here’s some text from the application itself:

11 CCR 4128 (b) states that no dangerous weapons license or permit shall be issued to any applicant who fails to establish good cause for such license or permit and that such license or permit would not endanger the public safety. 11 CCR 4128 (c) requires applicants to provide clear and convincing evidence that there is a bona fide market or public necessity for the issuance of a dangerousweapons license or permit and that the applicant can satisfy that need without endangering the public safety . 11 CCR 4128 (c) also enumerates the good causes recognized by DOJ to establish the bona fide necessity of issuance of a dangerous weapons license or permit.

Now – if you read “11 CCR 4128 (c)" – it also contains the following language:

“(c) To establish good cause, an applicant must provide the Department with clear and convincing evidence that there is a bona fide market or public necessity for the issuance of a dangerous weapons permit or license and that the applicant can satisfy that need without endangering public safety. Except as provided by Penal Code Section 12095, good causes recognized by the Department to establish a bona fide necessity for issuance of dangerous weapons permits or licenses include the following."

So now, you have (1) a permit application (, (2) a list of good causes contained in 11 CCR 4128(c), and (3) another list of good causes contained in “Penal Code Section 12095."

Let’s go through this step by step:

ONE:The “Application" at

The application itself is very straightforward, it even tells you what to do and where to send stuff. So now, let’s look at the real issues here. . .

TWO: The List of Good Causes in 11 CCR 4128(b)

Basically, there are eight good causes specified in 11 CCR 4128(b), and they break down like this:

  1. certain types of sales (requires a special type of FFL)
  2. training and R&D (does not necessarily require FFL)
  3. use in entertainment (does not necessarily require FFL)
  4. collectors of destructive devices (n/a)
  5. repair (does not necessarily require FFL)
  6. military use (n/a)
  7. other government use (n/a)
  8. more R&D and demonstration, etc. (does not necessarily require FFL)

See, (scroll way down to 4128).

All of the above seem to require that you have some sort of business that “needs" the permit. The only exception is #4 (collectors of destructive devices).

THREE: The List of Good Causes Specified in Penal Code Section 12095

These appear to be (a) entertainment, and (b) sales to LE and/to government – and ONLY apply to SBRs and SBSs. They do not apply to machine guns.

So, putting all of this together, here is my “take-away:"

Essentially, if you are not building and selling machine guns to law enforcement, or you are not in the entertainment industry, then you are going to have a hard time getting a machine gun permit in California. But, interestingly – here is a definition contained in the text preceding 4128:

The term, “market necessity," means a non-personal commercial need for dangerous weapons which is not being satisfied in the existing market place."

Reading this with 4128(c) (“. . . good causes . . . include the following"), you basically end up with the concept that if you can come up with a clear and convincing commercial need for the machine gun permit, you might be able to get it.

Thoughts? Comments? I’ve got a call into the DOJ right now to see if they’ve issued any permits for things “other" than the eight things outlined in 4128(c). I’ll update folks when I find out of this has ever happened. . .

As always this is not legal advice, and please do not act on this information without consulting an attorney who understands California “gun law."

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