Citation(s) from the GunPolicy.org literature library
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2021 ‘Concealed Carry in California.’ Guns in Public. San Francisco, CA: Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 19 October
[Editor's note: The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence regularly updates its webpages with new data as US gun regulation evolves state by state. For the most up-to-date information on US gun laws, please refer to the Giffords URL below]
Concealed Weapons Permitting in California
California prohibits a person from carrying a loaded, concealed firearm in public unless the person has been issued a concealed weapons license. Even without a license, a person may carry a loaded, concealed firearm in public if the person reasonably believes that he or she is in grave danger because of circumstances forming the basis of a current restraining order issued by a court, and the court that issued the restraining order found that the defendant poses a threat to the gun owner's life or safety.
California is a "may-issue" state, meaning that local law enforcement has discretion when issuing carrying concealed weapons ("CCW") licenses. A license may be issued only after findings that:
1) the applicant is of "good moral character" after a background check;
2) good cause exists for the issuance of a license;
3) the applicant has completed a firearms safety course (see below); and
4) the applicant meets the appropriate residency requirement. The licensing authority may require the license applicant to undergo psychological testing by the licensed psychologist used by the licensing authority for the psychological testing of its own employees.
In 2011, California enacted a law requiring the local licensing authority to provide written notice to an applicant upon making a determination of good cause, and stating which requirement is not satisfied if an application is denied.
A CCW license may include any reasonable restrictions or conditions which the issuing authority deems warranted, including restrictions as to the time, place, manner, and circumstances under which the person may carry a firearm. The license must specify the particular firearm the person is authorized to carry, giving the name of the manufacturer, the serial number, and the caliber.
A California CCW license may be granted to residents of a city by the local police department, or to residents of a county, or a city within the county, by the county sheriff. Cities may agree to let the county sheriff handle all CCW applications. Any person who spends "a substantial period of time" in his or her principal place of employment or business in the county also may apply to that county sheriff for a concealed weapons license. However, a license issued based on the applicant's place of employment or business may be valid no longer than 90 days and only in the county where it was issued (other CCW licenses last two years, and are valid throughout the state).
The city or county that has issued a CCW license must revoke the license if, at any time, either the city or county is notified by the California Department of Justice ("DOJ") or otherwise determines that a licensee is prohibited from possessing firearms. If DOJ determines that a licensee is prohibited from possessing firearms, DOJ must immediately notify the city or county of the determination.
CCW Safety Training
For new license applicants, the course of training may be any course acceptable to the licensing authority, must not exceed 16 hours, and must include instruction on at least firearm safety and the law regarding the permissible use of a firearm. Alternatively, the licensing authority may require a community college course certified by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, up to a maximum of 24 hours, but only if required uniformly of all license applicants without exception.
CCW Duration and Renewal
Subject to certain limited exceptions, a California CCW license is valid for up to two years from the date of issuance or renewal. License renewal applicants must fulfill all the same requirements for the original issuance of the license. However, license renewal applicants may fulfill the course requirements through any course of training approved by the city or county that is at least four hours long. The city or county issuing the license may require additional psychological testing of a renewal applicant only if there is compelling evidence to indicate that a test is necessary. The city or county may not require the renewal applicant to provide additional information other than that necessary to complete the original application.
Disclosure and Use of CCW Information
Cities and counties in California must maintain certain records regarding CCW applications and licenses and forward this information to the DOJ. The application and record of a CCW license are public documents unless they contain information by which the county sheriff or municipal police chief can demonstrate that the public interest served by not making such records public clearly outweighs the public interest in their disclosure. Nevertheless, certain information contained in the applications for CCW licenses and the records of CCW applicants may not be disclosed to the public. Such information includes:
- Records of state summary criminal information contained in CCW license records of a sheriff or municipal police department;
- Records of the sheriff's investigation of the qualification and fitness of a CCW applicant; and
- Information contained in CCW applications by the sheriff of a county or a municipal police chief indicating when or where the applicant is vulnerable to attack, or concerning the applicant's medical or psychological history or that of members of his or her family.
The California Department of Justice used to produce an annual report disclosing the number of CCW licenses in each California county. The most recent report lists the number of CCW licenses that existed in each county each year from 1987 through 2007. At the end of 2007, there were a total of 40,296 CCW licenses in all of California.
Reciprocity of Other States' CCW Licenses
Concealed weapons license holders from other states may not carry their concealed firearms in California…