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Buying a gun in California

Friends, colleagues, and other people I meet have often asked me what they need to do in order to purchase a firearm in California. Here’s a little info for all of you first time gun buyers in California.

2014 SHOT Show

As of the present time (February 2016), in order to buy any long gun (rifle, shotgun) or handgun (pistol), you must have a Firearms Safety Certificate. This is a State mandated requirement. There is the grandfathering of older Handgun Safety Certificates, which were issued before the FSC requirement went into effect, but an HSC only satisfies the safety certification for handgun purchases, and is invalid for purchasing a long gun. You can no longer obtain an HSC.

There are a few exemptions to the FSC requirement for gun buyers. The most common are active duty, reserve, and retired military. For the full list of exempt persons, as well as official Firearms Safety Certificate information, visit the California DOJ Bureau of Firearms FSC FAQ: https://oag.ca.gov/firearms/fscfaqs.

For rifles, shotguns, and other “long guns”:

  1. You must be at least 18 years of age.
  2. You must have a valid non-expired CA DMV issued Driver’s License or State ID.
  3. You must have a valid non-expired CA Firearms Safety Cerificate.

If you can satisfy the above requirements, you can go to your local gun store, fill out the forms at time of purchase (which will initiate your background check), and then pick-up your gun in ten (10) 24-hour periods (basically ten full days from the time the sale is recorded by the dealer).

For pistols (handguns), there are a few extra requirements for CA residents.

  1. You must be at least 21 years of age.
  2. You must have valid non-expired CA DMV issued Driver’s License or State ID (same as with a long gun purchase).
  3. You must have a second form of evidence of CA residency with address matching the CA DMV issued identification. Examples:
    • Utility bill (from past three months) for hard wire/line such as phone line, cable TV or (fixed) satellite service, gas or electric service, etc.
    • Property deed or residential lease
    • State issued permit or registration such as vehicle registration
  4. You must have a valid non-expired Firearms Safety Certificate or Handgun Safety Certificate.

With all of the above, you can go to your local gun store, purchase a pistol with the same process as a long guns and pick it up after the ten 24-hour periods.

This is a cut and dry outline of what you need to purchase a gun in California as of February 2016 (the date I am writing and posting this). This is simply an unofficial reference and the OFFICIAL source of information is the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms at http://oag.ca.gov/firearms.

For further details or to confirm the current laws and regulations for firearms purchases in the State of California, refer to the CA DOJ Bureau of Firearms website.

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