“Use a Gun & You’re Done”: What to Know About Current Laws, New Liabilities & the 10-20-Life Law (California’s Gun-Related Enhancement Law)

20,726. That’s the number of nationwide gun-related deaths in 2021, excluding suicides. If that number seems shocking, the 13.4% increase of mass shooting incidents in 2021 is even more so — at 693.

Let’s look at the weight of these statistics with the contrast of the number of guns sold in 2021 alone: 18.8 million, the second-highest number since 2000.

The correlation between increased gun sales and gun-related violence is no coincidence according to the troubling data of the past couple of years. In a previous blog on the subject, we addressed skyrocketing homicides rates in 2020 over 2019 (at a 31% increase) and violence-related calls for assistance involving a firearm (at 42%). At the time of its publishing, the Fresno, California, 2021 homicide rate for the first half of the year had already doubled even though it hit record levels in 2020.

While Fresno’s 2021 total of 71 homicides ended up being a lower number than expected compared to the 74 homicides in 2020, it was hardly a silver lining. In an article published late last year, Fresno police officer Lt. Larry Bowlan directly addressed guns and their connection to the murder rates, saying:

“The reality is we’ve got a lot of people out there with handguns and different types of assault rifles and we’re doing everything we can to counter that.”

In response to the rise in gun violence in California and across the nation, new laws and policies are seeking to get a handle on gun-related crime.

San Jose recently became the first city in the United States to vote to require gun owners to pay a fee and carry liability insurance. Known simply as the San Jose gun insurance law, its implementation could change the way responsible gun ownership is handled across the state and nation. And hopefully, too, it can realize its goals for reduced gun violence in turn.

In the wake of this legislation — and more that is sure to come — it is more important than ever to fully understand current ownership and related laws and the serious implications if used during a crime.


Anyone 21 years of age or older may purchase specific firearms from a California licensed dealer according to Penal Code section 27510. The sale must occur under the Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS) process and include a 10-day waiting period before releasing the firearm. Anyone with an outstanding warrant, felony conviction (or misdemeanor domestic violence conviction), or narcotics addiction is barred from gun ownership. See here for DOJ California gun laws, including a complete list of prohibited firearms (like short-barrel rifles and shotguns) and requirements for ownership. 

Even if you do meet all requirements for ownership, you’re encouraged to think twice before carrying that gun with you. California bars the open carrying of a firearm under all circumstances. A concealed-carry permit can be obtained under some circumstances. But certain places do not allow guns under any circumstances including government and public buildings, airports, and schools.

California gun laws are often hard to find all in one place. Fortunately, Attorney General Rob Bonta has consolidated all frequently asked questions into one official page. For further legal guidance involving a firearm charge, Proper Defense can help guide you as your firearms attorney (Los Angeles, Fresno, Hanford, Los Angeles, Madera, Merced, Tulare, Visalia, and Orange County are all areas we serve.)


Penal Code 12022.53, known as the “use a gun and you’re done law,” can take a misdemeanor or wobbler offense and make it a serious felony that can follow someone for life. Commonly seen in cases such as assault/battery and robberies, the implications are many for someone who uses a firearm while committing certain crimes. Enhancements can add significant time to your sentence, which is served in addition to, and after, the original offense. Enhancements can add 10, 20 or even 25 years to life!

As covered on their dedicated pages, assault/battery and robberies are two real-world examples of where these enhancements come into play.

For example, on its own, simple assault and simple battery are misdemeanor offenses. A simple misdemeanor assault is punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or $1,000 while a simple misdemeanor battery is punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or $2,000. If you use a deadly weapon (such as a gun) in a threatening way, even if you don’t use it, you will likely get charged with assault with a deadly weapon, an aggravated assault under California PC 245(a)(1). A wobbler, if still a misdemeanor, the sentence escalates to a possible 364 days in jail. As a felony, the penalty can jump up to four years in prison. Additional enhancements are up to the court’s discretion.

First-degree robbery without any other enhancements is 3, 6, or 9 years while second-degree is 2, 3, or 5 years. But use a firearm, and the enhancements abound. Using a firearm (even if you don’t shoot it, just holding it is enough) takes an already serious robbery charge to an armed robbery sentence, which will change the course of your life if convicted. Just for carrying a firearm, the enhancement is 10 years. It jumps to 20 years if you intentionally fire it and 25 years to life if someone gets greatly injured or dies.

If you find yourself facing a firearms-related charge, an immediate and proactive response will give you your best chance at an outcome that gives you an opportunity to make better decisions in the future. By hiring a skilled attorney at Proper Defense, we will work with you to learn what mitigating factors must be presented to the court in order to get you the best outcome possible. Our attorneys file briefs with supporting documents laying out the crucial factors that should be considered in your favor. One of our main focuses is conveying who our clients are to the court and the District Attorney through both writing and oral advocacy. 


Whether you are new and familiar with the legal process, it can feel overwhelming, scary, and isolating, whether as someone charged with a crime or as a victim of a crime. But it doesn’t have to be at Proper Defense. We promise peace of mind and sound guidance because you deserve a second chance and we’re here to help you realize it. 

For a true advocate that you can trust, in a judgment-free zone, contact Proper Defense Law Corporation today. For a FREE consultation in the Fresno area, call (559) 825-3800. You can reach us at our Beverly Hills location by calling (424) 284-4066. You can also schedule an appointment online on our Contact Us page. It gets better with Proper Defense, we promise.

Your search for ‘firearm lawyers near me’ can successfully conclude here.

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