Citation(s) from the GunPolicy.org literature library
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2023 ‘Licensing in California.’ Owner Responsibilities. San Francisco, CA: Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2 February
[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]
Licensing of Gun Owners and Purchasers in California
California has no law requiring a person to obtain a license or permit prior to purchasing a rifle or shotgun, but does have some requirements related to handguns…
Handgun Safety Certificate
Under California law, a person must obtain a Handgun Safety Certificate ("HSC") and present the HSC to a licensed firearms dealer prior to purchasing or receiving a handgun. With certain exceptions, any loan of a handgun also requires that the recipient possess and present a valid HSC. Concealed weapons license holders are exempt from the HSC requirement. The firearms dealer processing the transfer of the handgun must retain photocopies of the purchaser's HSC for compliance purposes.
To obtain a HSC, an applicant must be age 18 or older and successfully pass an objective, written test with a passing grade of at least 75 percent. The test must be administered by a California Department of Justice ("DOJ")-certified instructor. The test must cover, but not be limited to, the following:
- The laws applicable to carrying and handling firearms, particularly handguns;
- The responsibilities of ownership of firearms, particularly handguns;
- Current law as it relates to the private sale and transfer of firearms;
- Current law as it relates to the permissible use of lethal force;
- What constitutes safe firearm storage;
- Issues associated with bringing a handgun into the home; and
- Prevention strategies to address issues associated with bringing firearms into the home.
DOJ is required to produce a HSC instructional manual for the test, in addition to the objective test itself, in both English and Spanish. If the person taking the test is unable to read, the examination will be administered orally and, if the person is unable to read English or Spanish, the test may be applied orally by a translator.
California law lists certain information that a HSC must contain. If an individual's HSC is lost or destroyed, the issuing instructor will issue a duplicate upon request and proof of identification.
Once issued, a HSC is valid for five years…
Safe Handling Demonstration
A firearms dealer in California must not deliver a handgun to a purchaser or transferee unless the recipient performs a safe handling demonstration with the handgun being purchased in the presence of a DOJ-certified instructor. (With few exceptions, all firearms transfers must be processed through a licensed firearms dealer, so almost all handgun transfers are subject to this requirement.) California law lists the particular actions the purchaser or transferee must perform during the demonstration. These actions differ depending on whether the firearm is a semiautomatic pistol, double-action revolver, or single-action revolver. Concealed weapons license holders are exempt from this requirement.
Entertainment Firearms Permits
To facilitate rentals of firearms for use in motion picture, television and other entertainment productions, California has created an "entertainment firearms permit." This permit allows any person age 21, after passing a background check, to be exempt from normal firearms dealer transfer requirements when possessing or receiving an unloaded firearm for use solely as a prop in a motion picture, television, video, theatrical or other entertainment production or event. Among other things, the following provisions of California law do not apply to a firearms transfer when the recipient is the holder of an entertainment firearms permit:
- The requirement that any firearm transfer be processed through a licensed firearms dealer;
- The requirement that the recipient of a handgun present a handgun safety certificate and demonstrate safe handling of the handgun;
- The prohibition against receiving more than one handgun within 30 days; and
- The ten-day waiting period.
An entertainment firearms permit is valid for one year.
Federal law does not require dealers to conduct a background check if a firearm purchaser presents a state permit to purchase or possess firearms that meets certain conditions. As a result, persons who have California entertainment firearms permits are exempt from the federal background check requirement as well. (Note, however, that people who have become prohibited from possessing firearms may continue to hold state permits to purchase or permit firearms if the state fails to remove these permits in a timely fashion.)…