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Penal Code 33600 PC - Zip Gun Laws In California


Los Angeles Criminal Defense LawyerAccording to Penal Code 33600 PC, it is against the law to have a zip gun, make one, bring it into California, try to sell it, or give it to someone else.

Violating these laws can result in misdemeanor crimes or felony crimes charges, depending on the circumstances. Even if zip guns are stored securely and have no intended use, California courts can authorize law enforcement to confiscate and destroy them.

A zip gun is a makeshift firearm that can be constructed using household or readily available hardware store supplies. Criminals may prefer to use zip guns as they are difficult to trace and can be disposed of after a single shot. The term “zip” refers to the use of a rubber band, which assists in firing these weapons.

Legal Definition: “Penal Code 33600 PC: Except as provided in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives, lends, or possesses any zip gun is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.”



According to California law, a zip gun is defined as a weapon or device that meets certain criteria. These criteria include:

  • It was not brought into the country as a firearm by a licensed importer.
  • It was not originally designed as a firearm by a licensed manufacturer.
  • No tax was paid on the weapon or device, and there was no legal exemption from taxation.
  • It is made or modified to shoot a projectile, such as a bullet.

In simpler terms, a zip gun is a homemade firearm made from easily accessible materials using simple tools and methods. These weapons are typically crude, simple, and cheap compared to regular firearms.

Zip guns can come in different forms, including small handguns and larger rifles or shotguns.

They are considered dangerous because they are difficult to trace and are often designed to be used only once. Additionally, since they are not made to proper specifications, they can also pose a risk to the person using them.


To establish a conviction for possessing a zip gun in court, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant either personally manufactured a zip gun or caused someone else to manufacture it.
  • The defendant brought a zip gun into the state from another location.
  • The defendant either sold a zip gun or offered one for sale.
  • The defendant kept a zip gun with the intention of selling it.
  • The defendant gave, lent, or offered to give or lend a zip gun to someone else.
  • The defendant had control over or physical possession of the zip gun, meaning it was either on their person or within their control.


There are certain individuals and/or situations that are exempt from prosecution for possessing zip guns or other prohibited weapons. Police officers are allowed to possess, sell, or transfer zip guns, as well as certain antique dealers.

The above code sections and statutes do not prohibit the lawful possession or use of other types of firearms. For example, it’s still legal for most adults in California to own conventional long rifles, long shotguns, pistols, and revolvers, although there are certain restrictions.

EXAMPLE 1: Samantha participates in a group project in her mechanical engineering class, and as part of the project, she helps design a zip gun. Even though Samantha never actually builds the zip gun, she can still be charged under PC 33600 for her involvement in designing it.

EXAMPLE 2: Sarah discovers a zip gun in her uncle’s garage while helping him clean up. She takes possession of the zip gun and tries to sell it to a pawn shop to make some quick cash. Sarah can be charged under PC 33600 for trying to sell the zip gun.


A violation of PC 33600 is considered a “wobbler” offense, which means that prosecutors have the discretion to charge it as either misdemeanor crime or a felony crime, depending on factors such as the severity of the offense and the defendant’s criminal history.

  • If convicted of a misdemeanor, the potential penalty is up to one year in county jail.
  • If convicted of a felony, the potential penalty is 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison, along with a fine ranging from $1000 to $10,000.

A conviction for violating PC 33600 is not considered a strike offense under California’s Three Strikes Law. This is because the offense is not classified as a violent offense under PC 667.5 or a serious offense under 1192.7. Having a strike offense on one’s record can lead to harsher sentencing in the event of subsequent criminal convictions. Therefore, a conviction for violating PC 33600 will not subject the defendant to this type of enhanced punishment.

In addition to the aforementioned penalties, a conviction for possession of a zip gun can potentially lead to various additional consequences. These may include military consequences for criminal convictions, professional licensing consequences (for professions like doctors, dentists, lawyers, teachers, nurses, etc.), court-imposed fines and fees, restitution to the victim, issuance of criminal protective orders, stricter probation terms, parole violations (if the defendant was already on parole), civil lawsuits, firearm prohibition (resulting in the loss of the right to own or possess a firearm), and other potential outcomes. These additional penalties can vary depending on the specific circumstances and the judgment of the court.



The defense strategies mentioned below have been successful in challenging zip gun charges in court:

  • In situations where the police misidentify innocent items as zip guns, we could involve a weapons expert witness who can testify that the item in question does not possess firearm capabilities. This assists in establishing reasonable doubt regarding the nature of the item.
  • It is possible that the zip gun in question belongs to someone other than the accused individual. It could be a case of mistaken identity or an instance where someone intentionally planted the zip gun without the defendant’s knowledge. Unless the prosecution can definitively prove that the defendant had actual, constructive, or joint possession of the zip gun, it is possible for the charge to be dismissed.
  • If the search conducted by the police was unlawful or involved misconduct, it provides grounds for the defense to request the judge to exclude (suppress) the evidence obtained through that search. Successfully suppressing such evidence may weaken the prosecution’s case significantly, potentially leading to the dismissal of the charges.
  • Necessity defense applies to cases where the defendant only takes possession of the zip gun to ensure the safety of others. It is necessary to demonstrate that the defendant acted out of a genuine belief that possessing the zip gun was the only way to protect others from harm.
  • When faced with an imminent and unjustified threat of force, an individual has the right to defend themselves. In the context of possessing a zip gun, the defendant may argue that they possessed it solely for the purpose of self-defense against an immediate threat of severe bodily harm or death. It is crucial to establish that the level of force used was reasonable and proportionate to the perceived threat.


A conviction for Possession of a Zip Gun under Penal Code 33600 in California may have immigration consequences for non-citizens, particularly if the offense involves moral turpitude.

If the conviction is considered a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT), non-citizens, including green card holders, may be inadmissible and/or deportable under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). A crime involving moral turpitude is one that involves dishonesty, fraud, or intent to harm a person or property.

However, since possessing a zip gun is not inherently considered a crime of moral turpitude, the immigration consequences depend on the specific facts of the case. For example, if the offender used deceitful means to obtain or possess the zip gun, it may be considered a crime of moral turpitude.


Non-citizens who are charged with a crime should always seek advice from an experienced immigration attorney to understand the potential immigration consequences of their conviction and to explore all available legal options.

If you do not have or know of an immigration lawyer, the Tabibnia Law Firm can refer you to one.


Several California laws are related to Penal Code 33600 zip guns, such as the following:

  • Penal Code 12556 PC – imitation firearms
  • Penal Code 21510 PC – possession of a switchblade
  • Penal Code 22010 PC – possession of nunchucks
  • Penal Code 21110 PC – ballistic knife
  • Penal Code 22210 PC – possession of a baton
  • Penal Code 20610 PC – lipstick case knife
  • Penal Code 20910 PC – writing pen knives
  • Penal Code 16470 PC – carrying a dirk or dagger
  • Penal Code 20410 PC – belt buckle knives
  • Penal Code 24410 PC – possessing a cane gun
  • Penal Code 22410 PC – shurikens
  • Penal Code 22610 PC – stun guns
  • Penal Code 22810 PC – tear gas
  • Penal Code 171.7 PC – weapon at public transit
  • Penal Code 417.6 PC – brandishing a firearm causing injury
  • Penal Code 12022,3 PC – use of a firearm in a sex crime
  • Penal Code 12022.4 PC – aiding or abetting a felony with firearm
  • Penal Code 17500 PC – possess a deadly weapon to assault
  • Penal Code 11418 PC – weapon of mass destruction
  • Penal Code 29610 PC – Possession of a firearm by a prohibited person (if you’re a felon, domestic abuser, etc.)
  • Penal Code 18710 PC – Possession of an undetectable firearm
  • Penal Code 24610 PC – Unlawful possession of a firearm at specific places (schools, government buildings, airports, etc.)


Being charged with manufacturing or possessing an illegal zip gun can have serious consequences, including potential jail time and a criminal record. However, it is possible to mitigate these penalties and protect your future with the help of an experienced attorney. Instead of risking your defense by representing yourself, it is crucial to consult with Cyrus Tabibnia, a skilled criminal defense lawyer at Tabibnia Law Firm. Cyrus will provide a thorough explanation of your rights, available defenses, and potential options to achieve the best possible outcome. In certain situations, he may even draft pre-litigation defense letters to prevent the filing of criminal charges altogether.

If you or a loved one is charged with possession of a zip gun, or PC 33600, contact Cyrus Tabibnia at 866-713-2159 to discuss your case and take the necessary steps to protect your rights.


Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia, also known as Shahrooz Tabibnia, is a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, California. With a law degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, he has been practicing law since 2005 and holds license #237348. With over 18 years of experience, Cyrus specializes in various misdemeanor and felony criminal Law including Domestic Violence, Theft Crime, Sex crime, DUI & DWI, Personal Injury, Employment Law, and Cannabis & Marijuana Drugs Law. Being bilingual in English, Persian, and Spanish enables him to effectively communicate with a diverse range of clients. From 2014 to 2018, he served as a board member of the Iranian American Bar Association. An expungement attorney in Los Angeles who can assist you in clearing your criminal record in the state of California.

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