California : Frequently Asked Questions about Gun Laws...
Where do I find information on laws regarding the possession of firearms (excluding assault weapons)? The Dangerous Weapon Control Laws are found in the Penal Code beginning at Section 12000. These laws define the various types of dangerous weapons, including firearms, and restrictions and crimes relating to their manufacture, sale, possession and transportation. PC Sections of special interest include 12001 (definitions), 12025 (carrying concealed), 12026 (possession at home/private property), 12031 (carrying loaded), and 12035-36 (firearms storage / access by children).
I'm not sure whether I can legally possess and/or purchase firearms. Is there a way to find out before I attempt to purchase one? Yes. You may request the Department of Justice to conduct a firearms eligibility background check by submitting a Personal Firearms Eligibility Check (PFEC) application to the Department of Justice. For more information about how to request a PFEC, please visit our PFEC FAQ section. Applications are also available through your local firearms dealer.
What is the process for purchasing a firearm in California? All firearms purchases and transfers, including private party transactions and sales at gun shows, must be made through a licensed dealer under the Dealer Record of Sale (DROS) process. California imposes a 10-day waiting period before a firearm can be released to a buyer or transferee. A person must be at least 18 years of age to purchase a rifle or shotgun. To buy a handgun, a person must be at least 21 years of age, and either 1) possess an HSC plus successfully complete a safety demonstration with the handgun being purchased or 2) qualify for an HSC exemption. As part of the DROS process, the buyer must present "clear evidence of identity and age" which is defined as a valid, non-expired California Driver's License or Identification Card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. A military identification accompanied by permanent duty station orders indicating a posting in California is also acceptable. If the buyer is not a U.S. Citizen, then he or she is required to demonstrate that he or she is legally within the United States by providing to the firearms dealer with documentation that contains his/her Alien Registration Number or I-94 Number. Purchasers of handguns are also required to provide proof of California residency, such as a utility bill, residential lease, property deed, or government-issued identification (other than a drivers license or other DMV-issued identification). (PC Section 12071)
How can I obtain a Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) license? Contact your county's Sheriff's Office or, if you are a resident of an incorporated city, your city's Police Department, for information on obtaining a CCW license. They can answer your questions and provide you with copies of their CCW policy statement and the State's Standardized CCW Application. If you live within a jurisdiction of a city Police Department, you may apply to the county Sheriff's Office for a CCW license. However, only residents of a city may apply to a city's Police Department for a CCW license.
California law does not recognize CCW licenses issued in other states.
(PC Section 12050)
Can I give a firearm to my adult child? Can he/she give it back to me later? Yes, as long as the adult child receiving the firearm is not in a prohibited category, pdf and the firearm is a legal firearm to possess, the transfer of a firearm between a parent and child or a grandparent and grandchild is exempt from the dealer transfer requirement. However, if the firearm is a handgun, you must submit a Report of Operation of Law or Intra-Familial Handgun Transaction, pdf and $19 fee to the DOJ within 30 days. Assault weapons may not be transferred in this fashion. See Penal Code section 12285, subdivision (b).
(PC section 12078(c))
Can I give a firearm to my spouse or registered domestic partner? Can he/she give it back to me later? Yes, as long as the person receiving the firearm is not in a prohibited category and the firearm is not an assault weapon, the transfer of a firearm between a husband and wife or registered domestic partners is exempt from the requirement to use a licensed dealer to perform the transfer. However, if the firearm is a handgun, the recipient must submit an Report of Operation of Law or Intra-Familial Handgun Transaction and $19 fee to the DOJ within 30 days.
(PC sections 12076(f), 12078(i))
Is there a limit on the number of handguns that I can own or purchase? While no limitation exists for the number of handguns that you may own,you are generally limited to purchasing no more than one handgun in any 30-day period. Handgun transactions related to law enforcement, private party transfers, returns to owners, and certain other specific circumstances are exempt from the one-handgun-per-30-day limit.
(PC section 12072(a)(9))
Am I required by law to store my firearms where children cannot access them? Yes. In most cases, if you keep any loaded firearm within any premise which is under your custody or control and know or reasonably should know that a child (person under 18 years of age) is likely to gain access to the firearm, you may be guilty of a felony if a child gains access to that firearm and thereby causes death or injury to any person unless the firearm was in a secure locked container or locked with a locking device that rendered it inoperable.
(PC Section 12035-12036)
If I have a large-capacity magazine, do I need to get rid of it? No. Continued possession of large-capacity magazines (able to accept more than 10 rounds) that you owned in California before January 1, 2000, is not prohibited. However as of January 1, 2000, it is illegal to buy, manufacture, import, keep for sale, expose for sale, give or lend any large-capacity magazine in California except by law enforcement agencies, California peace officers, or licensed dealers.
(PC Section 12020 (b)(19-29))
What are the restrictions on firearms possession? Any person who has a conviction for any misdemeanor listed in Penal Code section 12021(c)(1) or for any felony, or is addicted to the use of any narcotic drug, or has been held involuntarily as a danger to self or others pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code Section 8103 is prohibited from buying, owning, or possessing firearms. Various other prohibitions exist for mental conditions, domestic restraining/protective orders, conditions of probation, and offenses committed as a juvenile.
PC Sections 12021 and 12021.1, Welfare and Institutions Code Sections 8100 - 8103)
May I carry a concealed firearm in California? Except in extremely limited circumstances, you may not carry a concealed firearm on your person in public unless you have a valid CCW license. CCW permits are issued only by a county sheriff to residents of the county, or by the head of a city police department to residents of that city.
(PC Sections 12025-12031, 12050-12054)
I live in another state and have a permit to carry a concealed handgun that was issued in my home state. Does my permit allow me to carry a concealed handgun while in California? No. Weapons permits from other states are not valid in California.
(PC Sections 12025-12031)
How much is the Dealer's Record of Sale (DROS) fee? The State's DROS fee is $19.00 which covers the costs of the background checks and transfer registry. There is also a required $1.00 Firearms Safety Testing fee and a $5.00 Safety and Enforcement fee. If the transaction being processed is a dealer sale, consignment return, or return from pawn, the dealer may impose other charges as long as this amount is clearly shown as a "dealer fee" and not misrepresented as a state fee. In the event of a private party transfer, the firearms dealer may additionally charge a fee of $10 per firearm transferred.
When settling on the purchase price of a firearm and before completing the transaction, you may want to ask the dealer to disclose and identify any and all fees he/she is charging to complete the transaction.
(PC Sections 12076, 12082, and 12806)
I want to sell a gun to another person, i.e., a private party transfer. Am I required to conduct the transaction through a licensed California firearms dealer? Yes. Firearm sales must be conducted through a fully licensed California firearms dealer. Failure to do so is a violation of California law. The buyer (and seller, in the event that the; buyer is denied), must meet the normal firearm purchase and delivery requirements. "Antique firearms," as defined in Section 921(a)(16) of Title 18 of the United States Code, and curio or relic rifles/shotguns, defined in Section 178.11 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations that are over 50 years old, are exempt from this requirement.
Firearms dealers are required to process private party transfers upon request. Firearms dealers may charge a fee not to exceed $10 per firearm for conducting a private party transfer. Example:
For a private party transfer involving one or more handguns, the total allowable fees, including the DROS, safety, and dealer transfer fees, are not to exceed $35.00 for the first handgun and $31.00 for each additional handgun involved in the same transaction. For private party transfers involving one or more long guns, or a private party transfer involving one handgun, the total allowable fees, including the DROS, safety, and dealer transfer fees, are not to exceed $35.00. The dealer may charge an additional dealer-service fee of$10.00 per each additional firearm transferred. (PC section 12072(d))
My firearm purchase was denied by the DOJ and the dealer won't tell me why. How do I find out the reason for the denial? Contact the Bureau of Firearms's Denial Review Unit at (916) 227-3749 and have a copy of your DROS form handy.
Does California law permit the use of a temporary license as a form of identification for firearm purchases? Neither temporary driver's licenses nor temporary identification cards are accepted forms of proof of identity and age.
(PC Section 12071 (c)(1)).
Under California law, can my driving record prevent me from purchasing a firearm? Yes. If you have a conviction for a firearms-prohibiting offense, such as felony drunk driving, your driving record would affect your ability to purchase a firearm. Furthermore, your driver's license must be valid. A suspension, an outstanding ticket, or fine may cause your license to be invalid.
Are there any exemptions to the waiting period? For most people - no. However certain exemptions do exist for the following:
Firearms dealers and persons who have obtained special weapons permits issued by DOJ are exempt from the waiting period.
Persons with curio and relic collector's licenses issued by the ATF and who have a valid Certificate of Eligibility issued by the DOJ are exempt from the waiting period only when purchasing curio and relic firearms. (PC sections 12078 (a)(r)(t))
Is the dealer required to give me a copy of the DROS information when I purchase a firearm? Upon request, the dealer must give you a copy of the DROS application. In private party transactions, the seller is also entitled to a copy of the DROS application upon request. (PC sections 12076(b))
Is there a maximum time limit for me to pick up a gun after the dealer submits the DROS information? Yes. If you do not take physical possession of the firearm within 30 days of submission of the DROS information, the dealer must cancel the sale. If you still want to take possession of the firearm, you must repeat the entire DROS process, including payment of DROS fees.(PC sections 12071, 12072)
What are the Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC) requirements? Prior to the submission of DROS information for a handgun purchase, individuals purchasing handguns must present an HSC or provide the dealer with proof of exemption pursuant to California Penal Code Section 12081. (PC sections 12071, 12081)
How do I get an HSC? You may obtain an HSC by passing the DOJ HSC test administered by a DOJ Certified Instructor. (PC sections 12800 - 12809)
If I lose my HSC, can I get it replaced? Possibly. The HSC Instructor who issued your original HSC is required to issue you a duplicate HSC and may charge no more than $15 for issuance of such duplicate. If you are unable to locate the instructor who issued the original HSC, you will need to obtain a new HSC by retaking and passing the HSC test and paying $25.
I am a collector of firearms and I want to purchase a pair of consecutively-numbered pistols. Does the one-handgun-per-30-day restriction apply? No. If you possess a valid federal Curio Relics Collector's license and a valid California Certificate of Eligibility, you are exempt from the one-handgun-per-30-day restriction. (PC section 12072(a)(9)(x))
I am moving into California and I own several handguns. What are the new-resident registration requirements? You are considered to be a personal handgun importer as defined by California law. You may bring all of your otherwise California-legal firearms with you, but you must report all of your handguns to the DOJ within 60 days as required utilizing the New Resident Handgun Ownership Report, pdf. You are not required to report rifles or shotguns. You may not bring ammunition feeding devices with a capacity greater than ten rounds, machineguns, or assault weapons into California. (PC sections 12001(n), 12072(f)(2))
How do I know if my firearms need to be registered? There is no firearm registration requirement in California except for assault weapon owners and personal handgun importers. However, you may submit a Firearm Ownership Record to the DOJ for any firearm you own. Having a Firearm Ownership Record on file with the DOJ may help in the return of your firearm if it is lost or stolen. With very few and specific exceptions, all firearm transactions must be conducted through a firearms dealer.
Can I get a list of the firearms for which I am listed as the purchaser, transferee, or owner? Yes. To obtain a list of firearms listed in your name, complete and submit an Automated Firearms System Records Request, pdf form to the Automated Firearms Unit, P.O. Box 820200, Sacramento, CA 94203-0200. The letter must be signed, notarized, and include a photocopy of your photo ID card (ie., driver's license or DMV ID).
How is the waiting period for firearm purchases calculated? The waiting period for the purchase or transfer of a firearm is ten (10) 24-hour periods from the date and time of the submission of the DROS information to the DOJ.
I’ve been working in a firearms store for several years. My duties include showing potential buyers various types of firearms. My employer recently told me I have to get a COE. Does he have a right to require that? Yes. Effective January 1, 2004, licensed firearms dealers may require employees who handle, deliver or sell firearms to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the Department of Justice. Upon application, a firearms eligibility check will be conducted to determine whether the applicant is eligible to lawfully possess firearms. If so, the applicant is issued a COE. A copy of the COE must be provided to the employer by the Employee COE holder, and must be renewed annually, as required by the licensee. For more information, please see the Firearm Dealer FAQs. Back To Top
Does sales tax apply to the DROS fees? No. The DROS fees are not subject to sales tax. Questions regarding firearms transfer fees can be directed to the DOJ through this website or by calling (916) 263-4887. Questions regarding sales tax can be made to the California Board of Equalization at its website www.boe.ca.gov.
My firearm is in the possession of a court or law enforcement agency. What do I need to do to get it back? To get your firearm back, you must complete a Law Enforcement Gun Release (LEGR) Application, pdf and send the application along with the appropriate processing fee to the Department of Justice. The processing fee for a Law Enforcement Gun Release Application is $20.00 for the first firearm (long gun or handgun), and $3.00 for each additional handgun listed on the application.
If the court or agency in possession of your firearm determines that the firearm was reported stolen, the fee for the stolen firearms(s) will be waived. You must send documentation from the court or agency confirming that the firearm was reported stolen along with the Law Enforcement Gun Release Application to qualify for the fee waiver.
Once DOJ receives your Law Enforcement Gun Release Application, a firearms eligibility check will be conducted to determine if you are lawfully eligible to possess firearms. You will receive a notice of the results. If this notice states that you are eligible to possess firearms, you then take the notice to the court or agency in possession of your firearm to claim it. The notice must be presented to the court or agency within thirty (30) days of the date of the notice. Failure to do so will result in the need to submit a new application and fees to undergo another firearms eligibility check.
Typical DOJ processing time for a Law Enforcement Gun Release Application is four to six weeks.
Submission requirements and processing fees are available on the Law Enforcement Gun Release Application, pdf.