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

Possess a Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC) plus successfully complete a safety demonstration with the handgun being purchased or
Qualify for an HSC exemption. Under California Penal Code Section 12081, active police officers are exempt from this requirement when they purchase a firearm for their use at work.
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 are also acceptable.
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 driver’s license or other DMV-issued identification).

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, 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 and $19 fee to the Department of Justice (DOJ) within 30 days. Assault weapons may not be transferred in this fashion. See Penal Code Section 12285, subdivision (b).

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 a Report of Operation of Law or Intra-Familial Handgun Transaction and $19 fee to the DOJ within 30 days.

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-days limit.

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.

What are the restrictions on firearms possession?

Any person who has a conviction for any misdemeanor listed in Penal Code Section 12021©(1) or for any felony, 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).

How much is the DROS fee?

The state’s DROS fee is $19, which covers the costs of the background checks and transfer registry. There is also a required $1 Firearms Safety Testing fee and a $5 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.

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. Firearms 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 firearms 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 as being 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. Examples: 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 for the first handgun and $31 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. The dealer may charge an additional dealer-service fee of $10 per each additional firearm transferred.

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 from 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 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives 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.
The waiting period can be waived if the firearm you are purchasing is for your use as a police officer and your commanding officer provides you with a signed gun letter.

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.

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.

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).

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. You are not required to report rifles or shotguns. You may not bring ammunition feeding devices with a capacity greater than 10 rounds, machine guns or assault weapons into California.

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 (i.e., driver’s license or DMV ID).

How is the waiting period for firearms 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.