Frequently asked questions
Where do I find laws regarding the possession of firearms?
The laws governing control of deadly weapons, including firearms, are found in Part 6 of the Penal Code, beginning at section 16000. These laws define the various types of dangerous weapons as well as restrictions and crimes related to their manufacture, sale, possession, and transportation. Of particular note, the laws relating to firearms are found in Title 4 of Part 6, beginning at section 23500, and the applicable definitions and general rules are found in Title 1 of Part 6, beginning at section 16000. Laws that pertain to both firearms and other types of deadly weapons are found in Title 2 of Part 6, beginning at section 17500.
I'm not sure whether I have a California record that would prevent me from owning/possessing a firearm. Is there a way to find out before I attempt to purchase one?
Yes, you may request a California Personal Firearms Eligibility Check (PFEC) by submitting a (PFEC) application, pdf to the Department of Justice. For more information about how to request a PFEC, please refer to the PFEC FAQ. Applications are also available through your local firearms dealer. Please be advised that a PFEC does not include a Federal NICS check. Therefore, you may still be prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm even though you receive a PFEC response indicating you are eligible to own or possess firearms.
(Pen. Code, § 30105)
What is the process for purchasing a firearm in California?
Generally, all firearms purchases and transfers, including private party transactions and sales at gun shows, must be made through a California licensed dealer under the Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS) process. California law imposes a 10-day waiting period before a firearm can be released to a purchaser or transferee. A person must be at least 18 years of age to purchase a rifle or shotgun. To purchase a handgun, a person must be at least 21 years of age. As part of the DROS process, the purchaser 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 (DMV). A military identification accompanied by permanent duty station orders indicating a posting in California is also acceptable.
If the purchaser 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 the firearms dealer with documentation containing his/her Alien Registration Number or I-94 Number.
Purchasers of handguns must 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), and either (1) possess a Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC) plus successfully complete a safety demonstration with their recently purchased handgun or (2) qualify for an HSC exemption.
(Pen. Code, § § 26800-26850.)
How can I obtain a Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) license?
Contact your county sheriff's office or, if you are a resident of an incorporated city, your city police department, for information on obtaining a CCW license. They can answer your questions and provide you with a copy of their CCW license policy statement and the CCW license application. If you live within an incorporated city, you may apply to the police department or the county sheriff's office for a CCW license. However, only residents of a city may apply to a city police department for a CCW license.
(Pen. Code, §§ 26150-26225.)
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 legal to possess (e.g., not an assault weapon). The transfer of a firearm between a parent and child or a grandparent and grandchild is exempt from the dealer transfer requirement. The exemption does not apply to step-children/step-parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, or cousins.
If the firearm is a handgun, the recipient must obtain a Handgun Safety Certificate prior to taking possession and must also submit a Report of Operation of Law or Intra-Familial Handgun Transaction and $19 fee to the DOJ within 30 days after taking possession.
The same rules apply to the return of the firearm at a later date. (Pen. Code, §§ 27870-27875, 30910-30915.)
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, pdf and the firearm is legal to possess (e.g., 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.
If the firearm is a handgun, the recipient must obtain a Handgun Safety Certificate prior to taking possession and must also submit a Report of Operation of Law or Intra-Familial Handgun Transaction, pdf and $19 fee to the DOJ within 30 days after taking possession.
The same rules apply to the return of the firearm at a later date.
(Pen. Code, §§ 16990, subd. (g), 27915, 27920, subd. (b).)
Is there a limit on the number of handguns that I can own or purchase?
There is no limit to the number of handguns that you may own but 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 purchase limit.
(Pen. Code,§ 27535.)
Does California have a law regarding the storage of firearms?
Yes. 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 including themselves unless the firearm was in a secure locked container or locked with a locking device that rendered it inoperable.
(Pen. Code,§§ 25100, 25200.)
Are large-capacity magazines legal?
Generally, it is illegal to buy, manufacture, import, keep for sale, expose for sale, give or lend any large-capacity magazine (able to accept more than 10 rounds) in California. However, continued possession of large-capacity magazines that you owned in California prior to January 1, 2000, is legal provided you are not otherwise prohibited. A person prohibited from possessing firearms is also prohibited from owning or possessing any magazines or ammunition.
(Pen. Code, §§16150, subd. (b), 30305, 32310.)
May I carry a concealed firearm in California?
Generally you may not carry a concealed firearm on your person in public unless you have a valid Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) license. CCW licenses are issued only by a California county sheriff to residents of the county, or the chief of police to residents of the city. California law does not honor or recognize CCW licenses issued outside this state.
(Pen. Code, §§ 25400-25700, 26150-26225.)
Who is prohibited from owning or possessing firearms?
Any person who has a conviction for any misdemeanor listed in Penal Code section 29805 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 or ammunition. There are also prohibitions based on mental conditions, domestic restraining/protective orders, conditions of probation, and specific offenses committed as a juvenile. A list of prohibited categories is available on the Bureau of Firearms website.
(Pen. Code, §§ 29800, 29805, 29815, 29820, 29825, 29855, 29860, 29900, 29905, 30305; Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 8100-8103; 18 U.S.C. § 922, subd. (g), 27 C.F.R. § 478.22.)
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. CCW licenses/permits issued in other states are not valid in California.
(Pen. Code, §§ 25400-25700.)
How much is the state fee when purchasing a firearm?
The total state fee is $25. The DROS fee is $19.00 which covers the costs of the background checks and transfer registry. There is also a $1.00 Firearms Safety Act Fee and a $5.00 Safety and Enforcement Fee. In the event of a private party transfer (PPT), the firearms dealer may charge an additional fee of up to $10 per firearm.
If the transaction is not a PPT the dealer may impose other charges as long as this amount is not misrepresented as a state fee. When settling on the purchase price of a firearm, you should ask the dealer to disclose all applicable fees.
(Pen. Code, §§ 23690, 28055, 28225, 28230, 28300.)
Can I sell a gun directly to another person (i.e. non-dealer)?
Generally, no. This type of transaction is referred to as a “private party transfer” and must be conducted with both parties, in person, through a fully licensed California firearms dealer. Failure to do so is a violation of California law. The purchaser (and seller if the purchaser is denied), must meet the normal firearm purchase and delivery requirements.
Firearms dealers are required to process private party transfers upon request but may charge a fee not to exceed $10 per firearm for conducting the transfer. For 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 up to $10.00 for each additional firearm.
"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 478.11 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations, that are over 50 years old, are exempt from this requirement. For additional exceptions, refer to Penal Code sections 27850 through 27966.
(Pen. Code, § 27545.)
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?
If your DROS application is denied, you will receive a letter from the DOJ Bureau of Firearms within two weeks. The letter will explain the reason and instructions on how to get a copy of the record that resulted in the denial of your application. There will also be instructions on how to dispute and correct information in your record you believe is wrong.
Can I use a temporary license as identification for firearm purchases?
No. Neither temporary driver's licenses nor temporary identification cards are acceptable forms of proof of identity and age.
(Pen. Code, § 16400.)
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 revocation, outstanding ticket, or fine may cause your license to be invalid.
Are there any exemptions from the waiting period?
Yes, but they don’t apply to the general public. For example, waiting period exemptions include the following:
Firearms dealers and persons who have obtained special weapons permits issued by the DOJ are exempt from the waiting period.
Persons with a Curio & 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 when purchasing curio and relic firearms.
Peace officers with authorization from the head of his/her agency.
(Pen. Code, §§ 26950-26970, 27650-27670.)
Is the dealer required to give me a copy of the DROS information when I purchase a firearm?
Yes, upon request, the dealer must provide you with a copy of the DROS application. In private party transactions, the seller is also entitled to a copy of the DROS application upon request.
(Pen. Code, § 28210.)
Is there a maximum time limit for me to pick up a firearm 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 and new 10-day waiting period.
(Pen. Code, § 26835; 27 C.F.R. § 478.124, subd. (c).)
What is the Firearm Safety Certificate (FSC) requirement?
Prior to the submission of DROS information for a fiream, the purchaser must present an FSC or provide the dealer with proof of exemption pursuant to California Penal Code section 31700.
(Pen. Code, §§ 26840, 31700.)
How do I get an FSC?
To obtain an FSC you must score at least 75% (23 correct answers out of 30 questions) on the FSC Test covering firearm safety and basic firearms laws. The true/false and multiple choice test is administered by Instructors certified by the Department of Justice who are generally located at firearms dealerships.
(Pen. code, §§ 31610-31670.)
If I lose my FSC, can I get it replaced?
Yes. A replacement FSC is available only through the DOJ Certified Instructor who issued your FSC. The FSC replacement cost is $5. The replacement FSC will reflect the same expiration date as your original FSC.
(Pen. code, § 31660.)
I am a collector of firearms and I want to purchase a pair of consecutively-numbered pistols. Is there an exemption from the one-handgun-per-30-day restriction for curio or relic collectors?
Yes, but it applies only to the acquisition of curio & relic firearms and you must have a valid federal Curio & Relic Collector's license and a valid Certificate of Eligibility.
(Pen. Code, § 27535.)
I am moving into California and I own several firearms. What are the new-resident registration requirements?
You are considered a personal firearm importer as defined by California law. You may bring all of your California-legal firearms with you, but you must report them all to the California Department of Justice within 60 days as required utilizing the New Resident Firearm Ownership Report (BOF 4010A), pdf. You may not bring ammunition feeding devices with a capacity greater than ten rounds, machine guns, or assault weapons into California.
(Pen. code, §§ 17000, subd. (a), 27560.)
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 must submit a Firearm Ownership Report (FOR) Application (BOF 4542A), pdf to the California Department of Justice (the Department) for any firearm you are seeking return where no other record is on file with the Department identifying you as the most recent owner/possessor. Having a FOR application on file with the Department will authorize the return of your firearm in the event it is subsequently lost or stolen. With very few and specific exceptions, all firearm transactions must be conducted through a firearms dealer. If you purchased a handgun from a properly licensed California firearms dealer and underwent a background check via the state’s Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS) process, a record of your handgun purchase is already on file with the Department. Therefore, it should not be necessary for you to submit a FOR application for handguns previously purchased in California. Unfortunately, this is not the case with regards to rifles or shotguns. Prior to January 1, 2014, the Department was prohibited by law from retaining DROS long gun information.
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 to the Automated Firearms Unit, P.O. Box 820200, Sacramento, CA 94203-0200. The request must be signed, notarized, and include a photocopy of your photo ID card (i.e., 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 the DROS information is submitted to the DOJ.
I’ve been working in a firearms dealership for several years. My duties include showing various firearms to customers. My employer recently told me I have to get a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). Is it lawful for him to require a COE?
Yes. Licensed firearms dealers may require their employees who handle, deliver, or sell firearms to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the DOJ. 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/applicant, and must be renewed annually, as required by the licensed dealer. For more information, please see the Firearm Dealer FAQs.
Who answers questions regarding the applicability of sales tax to the DROS fee?
Questions regarding sales tax should be directed to the California Board of Equalization. Their website address is 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?
Once the court or law enforcement agency in possession of your firearm notifies you the firearm is available for return, you must submit a completed Law Enforcement Gun Release (LEGR) application, pdf with the appropriate processing fee to the California Department of Justice (the Department). The processing fee for an LEGR application is $20.00 for the first firearm and $3.00 for each additional firearm 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 firearm will be waived. You must send documentation from the court or agency confirming the firearm was reported stolen along with the LEGR application to qualify for the fee waiver.
Once the Department receives your LEGR application, a firearms eligibility check will be conducted to determine if you are lawfully eligible to possess firearms. DOJ will also confirm the firearm is recorded in the Department’s Automated Firearms System (AFS) as being owned by or loaned to the individual seeking its return. If you have not previously reported your firearm to the Department, you must also submit a Firearms Ownership Report (FOR) application (BOF 4542A) along with the appropriate fees to the Department. If the firearm you are seeking return is a rifle/shotgun, the prior completion of a Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS) background check does not satisfy the aforementioned firearm reporting requirement. However, if the rifle/shotgun was registered as an assault weapon or 50 BMG rifle, the reporting requirement has been satisfied.
You will receive a notice of the results. If this notice states that you are eligible to possess firearms and the firearm is recorded to in your name, you should then take the notice to the court or law enforcement agency in possession of your firearm to claim it. The notice must be presented to the court or law enforcement agency within thirty (30) days of the date listed on the notice. Failure to do so will result in the need to submit a new application and fees and undergo another firearms eligibility background check.