Are You Ready To Own A Gun In California?

Gun ownership in California requires a huge amount of responsibility. But those responsibilities don't start after you make the purchase; you need to make sure you're ready before buying a gun by learning the laws and the requirements as well as familiarizing yourself with gun safety. Here's a quick checklist that lets you know what you need before purchasing from a licensed dealer.

Proof of Citizenship and Residency

If you're a U.S. Citizen and resident of California, you'll have to show valid proof with either a non-expired, valid driver's license or an Identification Card that's been issued by the California DMV. If you have military identification and permanent duty station orders that show you have a permanent posting in California, that's also acceptable.

Because you must be a resident of California to purchase a firearm in the state, you'll need to prove your residency. A driver's license isn't enough as people can keep them for years, even if they leave the state. Acceptable forms of proof include utility bills, mortgage deeds, or a government issued ID.

You don't have to be a U.S. Citizen to purchase a firearm in California. You do, however, need to show that you are in this country legally. Therefore, be prepared to show your Alien Registration number or I-94 paperwork.


You have to be at least 18 years of age to purchase a rifle or shotgun. In order to purchase and possess a handgun, or a rifle or shotgun that has a pistol grip, you need to be at least 21. Be prepared to perform a safety demonstration with the gun you're purchasing, unless you're exempt from doing so.

Firearm Safety Certificate

As of January 1, 2015, you must have a Firearms Safety Certificate (FSC) or prove that you're exempt from needing an FSC. You can download a study guide provided by the California Department of Justice's website and familiarize yourself with the laws and rules of safe gun ownership. Once you're ready, you'll need to pass a written test with a score of 75% or better.

Tests can be taken at most firearms dealerships, and they are administered by certified DOJ instructors. The cost is currently $25. If you successfully pass the test, your FSC is good for five years.

Criminal Background Check

If you have a criminal record, you may be prohibited from owning a firearm in California. The laws in the state tend to be broader that what federal laws outline, but the following are typically prevented from purchasing:

  • Those convicted of felonies
  • Those that are addicted to narcotics
  • Anyone with a history of mental illness or alcoholism
  • Anyone on probation who is expressly prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm
  • Those who are subject to a restraining order due to domestic violence

Those who have been convicted of unlawful or violent use of a firearm must wait 10 years after the date of conviction before purchasing again. Also, if you have a history of being a ward of the juvenile court because of a conviction involving violence, drugs, or illegal firearm use, you'll have to wait until you are 30 years of age before purchasing a gun.

Firearm Safety Training

While not required by the DOJ, the FSC study guide does recommend taking a firearms training course. After all, you don't get behind the wheel of a car without some schooling, and guns require the same amount of respect and care that a motorized vehicle does.

For information on safety training, contact a firearms dealer in your area.

Safe Storage Place

Before purchasing a gun in California, be sure you have a safe place to keep it, especially if you have children in the home.

Your firearm should be kept in a lock box or gun safe when not in use. It should not be loaded, and ammunition should always be stored separately. And lastly, the gun should be locked by a California-approved safety device.

If you are on the other side of the country, in a state like Virginia, reach out to a place like Wilcox Bait & Tackle to see how gun laws might differ and to see what guns are for sale in your area.