How to Buy a Gun in California

California has some of the most stringent gun laws in the United States. If you are planning to buy a gun in California, it will be helpful to understand the process.

How to Buy A Gun In California

In this article, I will cover everything you need to know to buy a gun in California.

Dealer Record of Sale (DROC) Process

All firearm trades or sales (with some exceptions) in the State of California must go through a licensed dealer. Generally you will find them at gun and ammo shops and gun shows.

Even if you are buying a gun from a friend, the transaction must go through a licensed dealer, following all of the same requirements I will detail below. Private sales at gun shows are also required to follow this process.


Some private gun sales in the State of California are exempt from the DROC process. They include:

  • Government sponsored gun buybacks
  • Transfer of ownership to nonprofit collections, historical groups or museums
  • Transfer between immediate family members
  • Transfers to licensed firearms importers and manufacturers
  • Donations to auctions that benefit a nonprofit
  • Transfers by operation of law
  • Relics, antiques or curios that are sold to licensed gun collectors
  • Certain loans that include firearms are exempt

Waiting Period

There is a 10-day minimum waiting period that starts when the background check forms are received by the California Department of Justice. The DOJ can further delay the process if they need more time to complete your background check.

Age Requirements

For the purchase of long guns, the minimum age is 18 (except for pistol grips, then it’s 21).

For hand guns, the minimum age is 21.


For any firearm purchase or transfer in California you will need the following identification:

  • California driver’s license, or
  • Photo identification from the State of California, or
  • Military ID with current station orders to the State of California.
  • Non-US citizens are also required to present documentation of legal status in United States. This documentation must include their I-94, or Alien Registration Number.

In addition, you will need to provide proof of residency in the State of California. Examples include:

  • Lease or rental contract, signed, dated and notarized
  • Recent (within the last 3 months) utility bill in your name
  • Deed to your home
  • Additional government issued identification

Background Check

The licensed dealer is required to perform a background check with the California Department of Justice during the 10-day waiting period.

Federal law prohibits sales of firearms in the following cases:

  • Convicted felons
  • Certain domestic abusers
  • Certain cases of mental illness

The State of California has the following additional restrictions:

  • Current addiction to narcotics
  • Convictions of felonies or misdemeanors involving firearm violations
  • If the conditions of probation restrict controlling, receiving, possessing or purchasing a gun
  • Juvenile convicted of drugs, violent crimes or firearm charges until they reach the age of 30
  • Anyone subject to a restraining order or protective order
  • History of mental illness (specific circumstances apply), chronic alcoholism, or lawfully incompetent

Firearms Safety Certificate (FSC)

In most cases you will need to obtain and brandish an FSC upon purchasing a firearm in California. As of 2015, an FSC is required for both long gun and hand gun purchases.

The FSC qualification process includes a 30-question multiple choice test that you can take from certified instructors usually found at gun and ammo dealerships.

The fee for the exam is $25 and you need 23 correct answers to pass. You can find the study guide for the exam here. You can retake the test after 24 hours one time without repaying the fee.


There are several classes of people exempt from the FSC requirement including:

  • Active duty or reserve service members and honorably discharged or retired veterans
  • Active, retired, or reserve California Police
  • Concealed weapon permit holders
  • Valid hunting license (only applies to long gun purchases)


While you can possess unlimited hand guns in the State of California, you are prohibited from purchasing more than one in any 30-day period (with some exceptions).

Looking for more help?

Check out this video found on YouTube:


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