If you are a paintball enthusiast living in California looking to buy, use or purchase a paintball gun, there are a few points of law you should be aware of to avoid running afoul the state's fairly stringent laws governing such devices. Just so long as you keep these laws in mind, there is no reason why you and your buddies can't have all the paintball fun in California your hearts desire.
Definition Under Law
Under California law, paintball guns fall under the banner of "imitation firearms," along with BB guns, pellet guns and toy guns. All of these types of "imitation firearm" are classified under California law as "BB devices," which are defined as "any instrument that expels a projectile, such as a BB or a pellet, not exceeding 6mm caliber, through the force of air pressure, gas pressure, or spring action, or any spot marker gun"--"spot marker gun" is California lawmaker speak for "paintball gun." And the universal size of paintball ammunition is 6mm. Therefore all laws applicable to this broad category of firearm are applicable to paintball fans and their paintball activities.
In California it is against the law to display any imitation firearm--including paintball guns--in public unless it is displayed in a commercial transaction (such as may take place in the store when purchased or when the gun is presented for repair at a shop), if the gun is being use in the filming of a commercial film production, if the gun is being used in a certified and regulated sporting event or if it is being used on a certified and regulated private or public shooting range.
Under this section of the law, some private property accessible to the general public, such as an individual's front yard, is included in the definition of public places and a first time violation of this law may result in a $100 fine. A second violation may result in a $300 fine. A third or any subsequent violations may result in a misdemeanor conviction.
Some paintball guns may be exempt from these public display restrictions if they are painted white, bright red, bright orange, bright yellow, bright green, bright blue, bright pink, bright purple or if they are transparent or translucent to the degree where their entire contents are visible.
Under California law, any person who brings a paintball gun into any state or local public building or to any meeting required by law to be open to the public is in violation of state law governing the use of such weapons and may face up to a year in jail or in a state prison. Similarly, it is illegal to bring a paintball gun into the "sterile" area (such as terminals or any point beyond passenger security checkpoints) of any airport in the state.
Under California law, it is illegal for any individual to sell any "BB device"--including paintball guns--to a minor (17 years or younger). It is also illegal for any individual to give or otherwise allow access of a paintball gun to a minor. A violation under this section of state law is a misdemeanor and may result in fines, jail time or probation.