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Byrna HD & Self-Defense in CA

As a former Oakland Police Officer, I gave advice to citizens on how to protect themselves, such as: Be aware of your surroundings; Make noise; Carry a whistle and blow if you are assaulted; In a car, never leave belongings in plain sight; Park in well-lit areas; If you suspect you are being followed, drive to a police station; and, If you are scared, relax and try to use common sense.  

In California, the law permits you to act in self-defense, or defense of others, when it is reasonable to believe such force is necessary to protect you, or another person, from imminent death or bodily harm.  

We’ve posted blogs about Pepper Spray for self-defense, and who may, or may not, legally possess it. Now, there is a new self-defense product on the market, the Byrna HD, and many people are wondering: (1) If it is legal to possess in California; (2) If it is legal to possess if previously convicted of a crime in California; and (3) What for purpose can the Byrna HD permissibly be used?  

What is the Byrna HD?  

The Byrna HD is a non-lethal, firearm-shaped, non-firearm, self-defense product that is relatively new, and peaking a lot of curiosity from people who wish to carry a non-lethal weapon for their protection. It uses compressed CO2 gas to shoot .68 caliber round projectiles up to 60 feet away to disable an attacker or threat.  

Is it a Gun?  

Although shaped like a gun, the Byrna HD is not considered a firearm by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (according to Byrna’s website, https://byrna.com). Thus, according to Byrna, it can be purchased and possessed by anyone over the age of 18, without need of obtaining any special license or permit, without any background check, and without any necessary waiting period.  

Is it Legal in California?  

The Byrna HD is capable of firing two unique projectiles; Byrna HD Kinetic Projectiles, and Byrna HD Pepper Projectiles (which contain 5% Oloresin Capsicum (OC)). The Pepper Projectiles are currently banned in the State of California. The Kinetic Projectiles are not banned, and neither is the Byrna HD itself. Therefore, it is legal to carry a Byrna HD and Kinetic Projectiles in the State of California.  

What if I’ve Previously Been Convicted of a Felony?  

Under the Gun Control Act of 1968, (18 U.S.C. sections 921 through 930), a person convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year (i.e., a felony) may not ship or transport a firearm or ammunition in interstate or foreign commerce, possess a firearm or ammunition in or affecting commerce, or receive any firearm or ammunition that has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.  

However, the Byrna HD is not a firearm, and is more akin to a BB, airsoft, or paintball gun, albeit more powerful. Those devices are legal for felons to possess in California, and Federally. Thus, we believe the Byrna HD is legal to possess as well.  

Keep in mind however, that felons in California may not possess pepper spray (https://www.ivanmorselaw.com/blog/2020/july/use-of-tear-gas-and-pepper-spray-incalifornia/). Thus, even if the Pepper Projectiles later become permitted in California, felons will still presumably be banned from purchasing, possessing, and transporting the Pepper Projectiles.  

What if I’ve Previously Been Convicted of a Misdemeanor?  

In California, conviction of certain misdemeanors can also result in a person being banned from owning firearms (https://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/firearms/forms/prohibcatmisd.pdf), but the Byrna HD is not a firearm, so the Byrna HD may permissibly be possessed by such individuals.  

However, California also prohibits any person convicted of a misdemeanor assault or misuse of tear gas, from purchasing, possessing, or transporting pepper spray (https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN§ionNu m=22810). Thus, like felons above, even if the Pepper Projectiles later become legal in California, people convicted of misdemeanor assault or misuse of tear gas will still be similarly banned from purchasing, possessing, or transporting said Pepper Projectiles.  

What If I am Currently on Probation or Parole?  

Probation and Parole terms are more unique and typically made on a case-by-case basis. One term that is sometimes implemented, but not always, is “Not to own, use, or possess weapons.” Our advice, opinion, and interpretation are that a Byrna HD likely qualifies as a “weapon” in this context, and should not be purchased, possessed, or transported by anyone on probation or parole with such a “weapons” term.  

How May the Byrna HD Be Permissibly Used?  

The Byrna HD may be used only in self-defense or defense of others. Byrna advises the Byrna HD should never be fired at someone’s head, neck, or back.  

Comply with All Commands by the Police  

Please appreciate that, although available in a variety of colors such as “safety orange” and “bright yellow,” Police may still mistake any Byrna HD for a firearm. If confronted by law enforcement, you should be prepared to follow all police commands such as to: “drop your weapon,” “show your hands,” or “freeze.” Do not reach for your Byrna HD, or even in the general vicinity of your Byrna HD, in the presence of police. Failure to comply with such could lead to arrest, or worse, being shot and killed by police.  


At the Law Office of Ivan O.B. Morse, we simply noticed that there was a demand online for more information regarding the legality of possessing the Byrna HD in California. We do not claim any experience with, or unique knowledge of, the Byrna HD. We do not work for Byrna; we do not derive any compensation from Byrna; we have no agreements with Byrna. For specific questions about their product or products, please contact them directly (https://byrna.com).  

Contact Us  

If you are still uncertain whether or not you are prohibited from purchasing, possessing, or transporting the Byrna HD, you can contact our office. However, please understand that unless we first obtain a copy of your court record and review it (a service which we would charge a fee to perform), we will not be able to ascertain if your conviction, probation, or parole prohibits you from possessing “weapons” such as the Byrna HD. 

Call (888) 865-0741 today for more information about the Byrna HD. Our law firm serves the residents of Dublin and nearby communities such as Castro Valley, Livermore, San Ramon, Pleasanton, and Tracy, CA.