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California Background Check and Gun Laws

Subject/Law
Long guns
Handguns
Relevant Statutes
Notes
State Permit to Purchase? No No §12070, §12071, §12082 All firearm sales (except long guns more than 50 years old) must be completed through a dealer. Handgun purchases require a Handgun Safety Certificate and proof of residency.
Firearm registration? No Yes None All handgun sales are recorded by the state. Longarm serial numbers are not recorded, only the sale. There is no requirement to register firearms with law enforcement. New residents must register handguns (purchased outside of California) with DOJ within 60 days.
"Assault weapon" law? Yes Yes §12280 , §12285 Illegal to possess, import, or purchase assault weapons and .50 BMG rifles, unless such weapons were acquired by the owner prior to June 1, 1989. Legally defined assault weapons and .50 BMG rifles listed by make and model by the DOJ must be registered. Their sale and transfer is prohibited. Military look-alike rifles that are not chambered for .50 BMG and are not on the DOJ roster are legal to purchase or possess, with some restrictions in configuration—known as "banned features." Active-duty military members residing out of state and assigned to duty in California may bring personally-owned assault weapons into the state. They must be registered with the California Department of Justice prior to the servicemember's arrival in California.
Owner license required? No No None  
Carry permits issued? N/A Yes §12050 May issue, depending on jurisdiction. Out-of-state permits not valid in California.
State Preemption of local restrictions? Yes Yes §53701 GC Most but not all local restrictions preempted.
NFA weapons restricted? Yes Yes §12220, §12020 Possession of automatic weapons or short-barreled shotguns or rifles prohibited without DOJ "Dangerous Weapons Permit"; permission rarely granted outside of film industry. Suppressors (aka silencers) prohibited. AOW's (Any Other Weapons) permitted, except for "pen guns."
Peaceable Journey laws? No No None  

California is a "may issue" state for concealed carry. A license to carry a concealed firearm may be issued or denied to qualified applicants at the discretion of the county sheriff or municipal police chief. California does not recognize concealed carry permits issued by other states.
 
Open carry of loaded firearms in public is generally prohibited except in unincorporated areas where the county has not made open carry illegal or where the discharge of firearms is not prohibited. Carrying of an unloaded, unconcealed firearm in plain sight is not prohibited except in areas otherwise prohibiting the carry of firearms under state or federal law, such as school zones, post offices, government buildings, state and national parks, "sterile" areas controlled by security screenings, etc.
 
The buyer of a firearm must fill out an application to purchase a particular gun. The firearms dealer sends the application to the California Department of Justice (DOJ), which performs a background check on the buyer. 
 
The approved application is valid for 30 days. There is a 10 day waiting period for the delivery of any firearm.
Sales of firearms from one person to another (private party transfers) must be through a licensed firearms dealer using a Private Party Transfer form. The licensed dealer may charge a $10 fee, in addition to the $25 transfer fee that the state charges. Any number of firearms may be transferred at one time using this method. 
 
The dealer submits a Dealer's Record of Sale (DROS) form to the state, and the purchaser must wait 10 days before picking up the guns. Federally defined curio or relic long guns over 50 years old may be sold without going through a licensed dealer.
 
Handgun purchases, except for private party transfers, are limited to one per 30 day period. To purchase a handgun, a buyer must have a Handgun Safety Certificate. This is obtained by passing a written test, given by a Department of Justice certified instructor, on the safe and legal use of handguns. The certificate is valid for five years. A buyer must also perform a Safe Handling Demonstration when taking possession of a handgun. 
Some individuals are exempt from the Safety Certificate and Handling Demonstration requirements, including active and retired military and law enforcement personnel, hunter safety certificate holders, and concealed carry license holders.
 
Dealers may not sell any handgun unless it is listed in the Department of Justice roster of handguns certified for sale. Listed handguns must include certain mechanical features and pass a set of laboratory tests. Private party transfers, curio/relic handguns, certain single-action revolvers, and pawn/consignment returns are exempt from this requirement.
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