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California Gun Laws

California has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the United States. The state continues to enact legislation that prohibits citizens from working around existing gun regulations. Further, local governments have the ability to restrict firearms purchases as they see fit. Because California is a “may issue” state, local law enforcement has total discretion to deny any concealed carry permit applications. Many different types of ammunition and hardware are banned in California, and Universal Background Checks are strictly enforced. These laws make California one of the least firearm-friendly states in the nation.

California Gun Laws at a Glance

Concealed Carry Premit Required Yes
Open Carry Premitted No
Waiting period before purchasing Yes
Lost and Stolen Firearm Reporting Yes
Firearms License Required for Purchasing Yes
Universal Background Check Yes
Firearm Registration Yes
Large Capacity Magazine Ban Yes

Firearm License Requirements

California generally requires its citizens to obtain a “Firearms Safety Certificate” (FSC) prior to obtaining a firearm. You may be exempt from this requirement:

  • If you are purchasing a long gun and have a valid hunting license
  • If you are military personnel, California federal police officer, or honorably retired from the CA federal police force.
  • If you have a Carry Concealed Weapon Permit or Special Weapons Permit.
  • If you have a Handgun Safety Certificate that has not yet expired.
  • If you have a Curio & Relic Collector license

To obtain an FSC, an applicant must pass an objective written test with a grade of 75% or higher. This test must include:

  • The laws applicable to carrying, storage, and handling firearms
  • The responsibilities of ownership of firearms
  • Current law as it relates to the private sale and transfer of firearms
  • Current law as it relates to the use of lethal force
  • Prevention strategies to address issues associated with bringing firearms into the home

Background Checks

The California Department of Justice (DOJ) is a point of contact for background checks. This means that firearms dealers must submit background checks to the DOJ. In addition to checking the federal database, the DOJ is will examine its own records, as well as those records that it is authorized to access from the State Department of State Hospitals.

California law also requires that any purchaser of a firearm submit an application to purchase said firearm (also known as a “Dealer Record of Sale” or “DROS” form) through a licensed dealer to the DOJ. After submitting the DROS form, the purchaser must comply with a mandatory 10-day waiting period before picking up the firearm.

Gun Shows

All firearms transfers taking place through gun shows must be processed through a licensed firearms dealer.

Hardware and Ammunition Restrictions

Hardware Restrictions
Assault Weapons Prohibited
50 Caliber Rifles Prohibited
Machine Guns Prohibited Without Permit
Large Capacity Magazines Prohibited
Ammunition Armor-piercing, flechette, and explosive ammo are prohibited.

Prohibited Persons

California prohibits anyone from owning a firearm who:

  • Has been convicted of a felony, domestic violence crimes, or is addicted to narcotics
  • Has been convicted of specified crimes involving violence, hate crime offenses, misuse of firearms, or the violation of any California firearms laws
  • Knows they are subject to an outstanding arrest warrant for an offense that would prohibit firearm ownership
  • Is restricted from owning or possessing a firearm as a condition of probation
  • Is a ward of the juvenile court because of an offense involving drugs, violence, or firearms. This prohibition expires when the person reaches age 30.
  • Knows they are subject to a protective order, restraining order, temporary restraining order, or injunction issued by a court

Prohibited Places

Location Restrictions Exceptions
Schools California prohibits any person from possessing a firearm in a school zone. See exceptions below.
Vehicles California does not prohibit carrying an unloaded rifle or shotgun in a vehicle. California prohibits the carrying of a concealed handgun in a motor vehicle, unless the gun is in a locked container in the vehicle’s trunk or unless the possessor has a valid concealed carry license. None.

A person may possess a firearm in a school zone:

  • Within a private place of business or property if that property is not on school grounds
  • When the firearm is an unloaded handgun and is in the trunk of a locked vehicle
  • For the lawful transportation of a firearm that is not a handgun
  • When the person possessing the firearm reasonably believes he or she is in great danger
  • When the person is a licensed gun dealer, manufacturer, importer, or wholesaler
  • When the person is the guard or messenger of a bank
  • When the person is a duly appointed peace officer

California law prohibits people from carrying a loaded firearm (open or concealed) in any public place or on any public street in an incorporated city or an unincorporated territory (if it is unlawful to discharge a weapon there).

Concealed Carry Laws

Notify Officer Not required by state law -- however, this may vary by county.
“No Gun” Signs Not enforced
In-Vehicle Carry Permitted
Restaurant Carry Permitted
State Park Carry Permitted
State Park Carry Permitted

Obtaining a Concealed Carry License

Requirements for a Concealed Carry License
To obtain a concealed carry license in California, the applicant must:
  • Be of good moral character
  • Have a good reason for wanting the permit
  • Be a resident of the county or work in the county
  • Have completed an approved firearms training class
  • Not have been convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors. This includes a lifetime prohibition from owning firearms if convicted of a domestic violence offense.
  • Not be the subject of a temporary restraining order or protective order
  • Not be addicted to drugs
  • Not be mentally ill as diagnosed by a doctor
  • Not have been hospitalized more than once in a calendar year for a mental health diagnosis
  • Meet all federal law requirements

Concealed Carry Firearms Training

The training required for a concealed carry license must consist of a minimum of 8 hours of training on firearm safety, handling, and technique. The course should also include live-fire shooting exercises and a demonstration by the applicant of safe handling and shooting proficiency with each firearm that the applicant is applying to carry.

Concealed Carry Location Restrictions

Even with a valid concealed carry license, you may not possess any concealed firearms at or in:

  • K-12 school grounds (unless the handgun is unloaded and in a locked container within the locked trunk of a motor vehicle)
  • Colleges and universities (unless permission has been explicitly granted)
  • Any courtroom if you are party to the actions being trialed
  • Gun shows if you have ammunition that fits the guns on display
  • In or on the grounds of the governor’s mansion or any residence of the governor
  • Wildlife Management Areas and Refuges
  • Polling stations
  • On your person or in your vehicle while engaged in informational activities in a public place relating to a workers’ strike or other concerted refusals to work
  • In a public place if you are masked to conceal your identity
  • Any place with the primary purpose of dispensing alcohol for on-site consumption
  • Cal Expo center in Sacramento
  • Any county property in San Francisco
  • Fresno City Hall
  • Any places restricted on your concealed carry license
  • Any place where the carrying of concealed firearms is prohibited

Disclaimer: While the information provided here is legal in nature, it is not to be construed as legal advice, and is for educational and entertainment purposes only.