1. News & Issues

What Are the Gun Laws in California?

By

Antique gun shop in Leadville, Colorado John Wang/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images
Caution: This summary is meant for general purposes only. Firearm laws frequently change and the following answers may not reflect changes in the laws.

State Requirements

Rifles and Shotguns
  • Permit to purchase rifles and shotguns? No
  • Registration of rifles and shotguns? No
  • Licensing of owners of rifles and shotguns? No
  • Permit to carry rifles and shotguns? No

Handguns

  • Permit to purchase handgun? No*
  • Registration of handguns? Yes*
  • Licensing of owners of handguns? No
  • Permit to carry handguns? Yes (If concealed)

* Police record all purchases from dealers.
* Residents moving into California have 60 days to register their handguns.

Purchase

All firearms sales including private and gun show sales, transfers or loans, must go through a California licensed firearms dealer. An application for sale or transfer must be made with a licensed California gun dealer before any firearm may be sold or transferred.

The purchaser must present the dealer with a valid California Driver's License or a California I.D. Card and supply their thumbprint. The purchaser of a handgun must also provide additional proof of California residence. The dealer sends a copy of the application to the Ca. Dept. of Justice and the local police chief.

The CA DOJ will conduct a background check on each buyer at a fee. There is a 10-day waiting period before delivery of any firearm. Dealers must keep a register of all firearm transfers.

Possession of the firearm from the dealer must be done within 30 days or the entire purchase process must be repeated.

The waiting period and dealer application do not apply to:

  • Transfers to police officers

  • Other gun dealers.

  • Manufacturers or importers.

  • Antique firearms, and rifles and shotguns which are classified as curios or relics by the federal government.

  • Infrequent gifts or transfers to one's "immediate family," an infrequent temporary loan not to exceed 30 days to a person who is not prohibited from possessing a firearm.

  • A transfer of a rifle or shotgun at auctions by nonprofit or public benefit corporations.

No person shall make an application to purchase more than one pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person within a 30-day period and no delivery shall be made to any person who has made an application to purchase more than one pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person within any 30-day period. No person shall purchase or transfer a handgun to someone without a Handgun Safety Certificate (HRC).

To receive a handgun safety certificate, a person must pass a written test that includes but is not limited to laws applicable to the ownership, use, handling, and carrying of firearms, particularly handguns.

A CA DOJ certified instructor must administer the Handgun Safety Certificate test.

The HRC is valid for five years.

To receive a handgun from a dealer, a person must have or buy an approved firearms safety device. A list of firearms safety devices certified for sale can be found at California Department of Justice, Firearms Division.

Possession:

  • It is unlawful for anyone convicted of a felony, or who is a drug addict, present or former mental patient, ever committed for mental observation, or acquitted by reason of insanity to own or possess any firearm.

  • People with certain misdemeanor convictions involving force or violence may not possess or own any firearm within 10 years of the conviction.

  • A person who has been adjudicated as a juvenile offender or delinquent for any offense which would be classified as a felony or misdemeanor involving force or violence if committed by an adult may not own or possess any firearm until age 30.
  • A minor may not possess a handgun except with written permission or under the supervision of a parent or guardian.

  • A minor under 16 may not possess a handgun, unless they are accompanied by their parent or guardian while participating in a legal recreation activity involving firearms or has written permission to participate in such activities.

  • A minor under 16 may not possess live ammunition except with the written permission or under the supervision of a parent or guardian, or while going to or from an organized lawful recreational or competitive shooting activity or lawful hunting activity.

Carrying And Transportation In Vehicles:


It is unlawful to carry a loaded rifle, shotgun, or handgun in any public place or on any public street in an incorporated area or an area where firing a firearm is prohibited.

Exceptions include:

  • Persons shooting on target ranges, or while hunting on the premises of a shooting club.

  • A person who reasonably believes that he or his property is in immediate danger and the weapon must be carried for "preservation."

  • A person "engaged in the act of making or attempting lawful arrest."

  • A person carrying a firearm while at home or at his place of business, including temporary residences and campsites.

Carrying a handgun concealed is prohibited without a license. The law states "Firearms carried openly in belt holsters are not concealed within the meaning of this section."

Carrying a handgun concealed within a vehicle is prohibited without a license. A handgun carried in a glove compartment or under the seat of a vehicle is considered to be concealed. A handgun placed in the trunk of an automobile, or locked in a container in the vehicle other than the utility or glove compartment or while in a locked container carried directly to or from a vehicle is deemed not to be "concealed." A locked container means a fully enclosed secure container locked by a key lock or similar locking device.

Exceptions to this prohibition are:

  • Members of clubs organized for practice shooting while on any established target range or going to and from such range.

  • Licensed hunters and fishermen while engaged in hunting or fishing and while going to or from such hunting or fishing expeditions and members of an antique or historical collector's club while at a show, or while going to and from a display as long as the weapons are locked in a trunk or are in a locked container.

More Information

The California gun laws are complex and can not be fully explained within this section. For detailed information and clarifications of the current gun laws visit, NRAILA and the California Department of Justice, Firearms Division.
  1. About.com
  2. News & Issues
  3. Crime / Punishment
  4. Crime 101
  5. Issues / Controversies
  6. Weapons and Gun Control
  7. Gun Laws by State
  8. What Are the Gun Laws in California?

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.