March 18, 2019 By Paul Wallin

Is It Illegal to Shoot a BB Gun in California? (PC 246.3)

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” Every holiday season, you can’t turn on your TV without hearing that warning from Santa Claus to Ralphie in the classic movie, A Christmas Story. All Ralphie wanted from Santa was “an official Red Ryder carbine action, two hundred shot range, model air rifle.”

People usually think of BB guns like the one Ralphie wanted for Christmas as harmless. However, shooting a BB gun could lead to you facing serious criminal charges.

Battery (PC 242)

Battery is defined under PC 242 as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” To be convicted of battery, you must intentionally use force or violence against the body of another person.BB Gun in California (PC 246.3)

Battery is broadly used to include any use of force, no matter whether a person is injured as a result of the force. You can be charged with battery for anything from throwing a punch to throwing a baseball, as long as the force makes contact with that victim’s body. Therefore, if you intentionally shoot someone with a BB gun, you could face battery charges.

Under California law, battery is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

Assault (PC 240)

Battery requires contact with the other person’s body, but what if you shoot a BB gun at someone and miss? That too is potentially a crime. Assault is defined under PC 240 as “an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.” Another way to think of an assault is that it is an attempted battery in which you do not make contact with the other person’s body.

Like battery, assault is a misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon (PC 245)

Under PC 245(a)(1), it is illegal to commit assault on another person with a deadly weapon or instrument other than a firearm. Under PC 16700, BB guns are considered “imitation firearms” and therefore are “an instrument other than a firearm.”

The difference between this crime and simple assault under PC 240 is the potential for the assault to have caused great bodily injury. In other words, if you intentionally shoot a BB gun in a way that would have caused a serious injury if it would have made contact with the victim, you could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon under PC 245(a)(1).

This crime is a “wobbler” offense, which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If convicted of a misdemeanor, you face up to 364 days in jail and fines of $1,000. A felony assault with a deadly weapon conviction is punishable by up to four years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

Shooting in a Grossly Negligent Manner (PC 246.3)

What if you shoot a BB gun without aiming at anyone? Can you still face criminal charges? The answer is yes.

Every year, people are injured or killed by stray bullets that were fired into the air to celebrate holidays like the Fourth of July or New Year’s. In response to those tragic events, California’s lawmakers passed a law that makes it a crime to shoot a firearm or BB gun into the air. To be convicted of this crime, the prosecutor must show that you:

  • Intentionally shot a firearm or BB gun
  • Shot the firearm or BB gun with gross negligence
  • The shooting could have resulted in the injury or death of a person; and
  • You were not acting in self-defense.

This crime is a “wobbler.” A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by up to 364 days in county jail, while a felony conviction carries up to three years in county jail.

Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today

If you or someone you care about is charged with a crime for firing a BB gun, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich are ready to help you. Our skilled criminal defense attorneys have more than 40 years of experience successfully defending clients against criminal charges such as assault, battery and the use of deadly weapons. Let us help you now.

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles and San Diego, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.

Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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