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In the state of California, not only are there strict gun laws regarding when and how one possesses a firearm, but Penal Code 12556 PC also makes it illegal to display an imitation firearm in public, i.e., an object that resembles a real firearm.



File for proper insurance and filming permits (including prop gun usage on the permit) and reach out with the proper communication to local law enforcement.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has asked FilmL.A. to remind the production community that permission to use weapons/replica weapons during filming must be authorized by permit and advance notice must be provided to local law enforcement agencies. In the past, Sheriff’s Deputies have dealt with violations by issuing warnings for these infractions. Out of concern for public safety, the Department has issued new guidance.
Per the Sheriff’s Department, “Effective immediately, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not be issuing warnings for [unpermitted weapons use]. If a film production is found to be in violation of their permit, a citation will be issued. Additionally, any and all weapons/replica weapons used in the violation will be collected for evidence under the citation file number and the production will not be allowed to continue.”
FilmL.A. would like to remind the industry of the following guidelines when planning to brandish weapons/replica weapons in any jurisdiction in public view:

  •  You must notify your FilmL.A. Coordinator of the activity when applying for your film permit.

  •  You must provide notification of the activity to local law enforcement agencies at least thirty (30) minutes
    before the planned activity.

  •  You must have a law enforcement officer present during scenes where weapons/replica weapons will be brandished and/or discharged.

Failure to adhere to these guidelines will result in immediate revocation of your film permit. For answers to general production related questions, please contact FilmL.A.’s Production Planning Department at 213.977.8600.

California Penal Code 20150 prohibits people from changing the appearance of a fake gun.

Under the law, it's illegal to do any of the following to a toy or imitation gun's markings:

Alter them, Change them, Remove them, or Obliterate them

Doing any of the above is a misdemeanor. If you are convicted of this offense, you could be sentenced to jail for up to 6 months and/or be ordered to pay a maximum fine of $1,000.

An exception to this law is if you're working in the entertainment industry. If you have lawful permission to alter the appearance of a toy or imitation gun for a movie, TV show, or play, you may not be charged under this statute.

Toy gun manufacturers are required by a federal regulation to affix the marking to the false weapon before they can ship it or before a person can purchase it.Dec 30, 2019



PART 6. CONTROL OF DEADLY WEAPONS [16000 - 34370]  ( Part 6 added by Stats. 2010, Ch. 711, Sec. 6. )  

TITLE 3. WEAPONS AND DEVICES OTHER THAN FIREARMS [19910 - 23025]  ( Title 3 added by Stats. 2010, Ch. 711, Sec. 6. )  

DIVISION 4. IMITATION FIREARMS [20150 - 20180]  ( Division 4 added by Stats. 2010, Ch. 711, Sec. 6. )  


(a) Any person who changes, alters, removes, or obliterates any coloration or markings that are required by any applicable state or federal law or regulation, for any imitation firearm, or any device described in subdivision (b) of Section 16700, in a way that makes the imitation firearm or device look more like a firearm, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

(b) This section does not apply to a manufacturer, importer, or distributor of imitation firearms.

(c) This section does not apply to lawful use in theatrical productions, including motion pictures, television, and stage productions.

(Added by Stats. 2010, Ch. 711, Sec. 6. (SB 1080) Effective January 1, 2011. Operative January 1, 2012, by Sec. 10 of Ch. 711.)


Filming in certain neighborhoods also cannot be insured for music related projects of any kind.

Police respond to firearms calls with guns drawn and fingers on the trigger. In googling an incident where a fake robbery was staged in a closed restaurant, I came upon half a dozen recent articles on similar events, in 2 cases police fired shots and in one case a filmmaker was killed.

You simply must not do this.

Those professionals who do use replica or real arms have all insurance and permits in order and a prop handler or set armorer who controls safety in a very specific manner to ensure the comfort of all crew and cast, getting the scene quickly and collecting all the props before an actor steps off set.

Non professional cast and crew are known to “play" with prop arms, and that is behavior that must not happen on any set.

Any cop who sees any gun assumes it is always real and always loaded.


LOS ANGELES (AP) - For a few harrowing seconds, eight officers from a suburban Los Angeles police department had their guns drawn and pointed at a group of college filmmakers shooting a robbery scene at a coffee shop.

One of the actors immediately dropped his fake assault rifle. But another held onto his fake handgun, forcing officers to make a life-or-death choice.

"One of the officers made the decision that had the man moved, he would have been killed," said Glendora police Capt. Tim Staab. "It was just milliseconds from a tragedy occurring."

One of the officers, unaware of the filming, knocked the gun from the actor's hand and handcuffed him, drawing a peaceful climax to what could have been something far worse.

Still, police said it depicted the potential dangers in a movie-making region for amateur film crews who don't get permits and follow proper steps before taking to the streets.

"I can't think of a situation more dangerous than having a gun in your hand with cops responding," Staab said. "It was much closer than we ever want to get close to."

Attempts to reach the film's director were unsuccessful. The students declined to tell police what college they attended.

The officers responded to the shop after receiving a 911 call from a woman who reported seeing an armed, masked gunman inside Classic Coffee in Glendora, a suburb east of Los Angeles that sees relatively few Hollywood crews.

Police said there was nothing to indicate a short movie was being shot. No one was outside to warn customers, there were no signs, and no permit had been pulled.

When officers arrived, there was no question in their mind that a robbery was occurring, Staab said.

It's rare "to go into a coffee shop and see someone carrying an AR-15 rifle and wearing a mask," he said.

Under normal filming protocols, weapons carried by the actors have orange markings to indicate they are replicas. But the markings on the guns used by the students had been covered by a black pen, presumably to make the weapons look more realistic.

(An exception to this law is if you're working in the entertainment industry. If you have lawful permission to alter the appearance of a toy or imitation gun for a movie, TV show, or play, you may not be charged under this statute.)

The standoff was captured on an audio recorder carried by officers, one of whom yells, "Drop the gun! Drop it! Drop it! (Expletive) drop it!"

Staab said one of the masked men, apparently startled by the real-life response, held the fake gun by his side, pointed toward the ground. When he didn't drop it, Staab said, an officer did something unusual - he stripped it from the man's hand and sent the gun falling to the floor.

After the man was handcuffed, the officer is heard on the audio tape asking what was going on. Somebody says a film was being made.

"You are shooting a short film?" the officer asks. "In a store with a man with a gun?"

Fred Sparling, who owns the coffee shop, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune the crew had advised his manager that they were shooting a Christian movie and didn't mention the robbery scene until they arrived.

"I think he is darn lucky that the police didn't shoot him," Sparling said of the man who momentarily held his gun.

The students were allowed to keep the fake weapons and weren't facing any charges. They were given a lecture by officers about the dangers they created and went on their way.

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