Purchasing a firearm in California

All firearms purchases and transfers, including private party transactions and sales at gun shows, must be made through a licensed dealer under the Dealer Record of Sale (DROS) process. California imposes a mandatory 10-day waiting period before a firearm can be released to a buyer or transferee. A person must be at least 21 years of age to purchase firearm in California and either 1) possess a FSC plus successfully complete a safety demonstration with the handgun being purchased or 2) qualify for an FSC exemption.

As part of the DROS process, the buyer must present "clear evidence of identity and age" which is defined as a valid, non-expired California Driver's License or Identification Card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. A military identification accompanied by permanent duty station orders indicating a posting in California is also acceptable.  See the DOJ FAQ.

If the buyer is not a U.S. Citizen, then he or she is required to demonstrate that he or she is legally within the United States by providing to the firearms dealer with documentation that contains his/her Alien Registration Number or I-94 Number. Nonimmigrant Aliens must also provide a current hunting license or permit. This information is recorded in block 20c on the 4473.

Purchasers of handguns are also required to provide proof of California residency, such as a utility bill (government owned utility), residential lease, property deed, or government-issued identification (other than a driver’s license or other DMV-issued identification). (PC Section 12071) see the DOJ FAQ.

Federal 4473 Requirements

Valid picture ID. If the picture ID address does not match the 4473 address, then items below must be obtained.

Another valid, government-issued document showing the transferee's residence address. This alternate documentation should be recorded in question 20.b., with issuing authority and type of identification presented.

1. It must be a government issued document. Non-municipal utility bills and DMV brown change of address cards do not apply. The document should be printed or typed and not handwritten.

2. This is required for any firearm transaction whether long gun, handgun or other firearm.
Common examples are: CA vehicle registration, CA DMV printout, CCW, government utilities, and any printed hunting license documents.

CA DROS Requirements

Long Gun and Handgun requirements:

Proof of Identification: California Driver’s License or California ID Card or Military ID with orders to a duty station in California along with valid State Driver’s License/ID.

All handgun DROS must be accompanied by a copy of proof of residency.

Utility Bill from within the past three months that bears on its face the individual's name and 4473 address. Utility Bill means a statement of charges for providing service to the individual's residence by either physical or a telemetric connection.

California Compliant Handguns

Handguns in California must be state compliant. California approved firearms are listed here; http://certguns.doj.ca.gov/

Firearms Safe Handling Certificate

The Firearms Safety Certificate Program replaced the Basic Firearms Safety Certificate. Unless exempt, individuals must possess a Firearms Safety Certificate (FSC) prior to purchasing or acquiring a handgun. The FSC Test and Certificate is $25.00.

Second, unless exempt, individuals must perform a safe handling demonstration prior to taking delivery of a handgun from a licensed dealer.

FSCs are acquired by taking and passing a written test on handgun safety, generally at participating firearms dealerships and private firearms training facilities.

Prior to purchasing or acquiring a handgun, unless exempted, you must have a valid Firearms Safety Certificate (FSC). You must present your FSC to the firearms dealer at the time you begin a transaction to purchase/acquire a handgun.

California FSC FAQs; https://oag.ca.gov/firearms/fscfaqs

What documentation is required to purchase a gun?

All gun sales require proof of identity - typically a CA Driver License or ID card. See the DOJ FAQ.

Hand gun purchases additionally require proof of residency (not 'a second form of ID'); see the DOJ FAQ.

When does the 10-day wait begin?

When the dealer submits the DROS.

Why do some dealers require 11 or more days when the law says 10?

Sometimes it is because the shop will not be open on day 10. Sometimes it is an 'insurance policy' against mistakes - an FFL might lose his license if he is audited and found to have released guns early.

When does the 30 days start for the handgun one in thirty days?

When the dealer submits the DROS.

Must I buy a lock?

Generally, yes.

CA requires a safety device for every gun sale. CA will accept a safe affidavit for both long guns and hand guns. However, Feds require a safety device for hand guns, and will not accept CA's safe affidavit.

An FFL can accept the lock included in the package, simply give you a lock, or sell you one; all three practices have been reported.

What is a Private Party Transfer (PPT)?

A PPT is a special kind of transfer where a seller with CA ID (or military ID and PCS orders to CA) meets a buyer with CA ID (or military ID and PCS orders to CA) at one CA FFL to make the transfer of a gun from seller to buyer.

(To repeat, both parties must be residents of California, and both must appear at the same California FFL.)

Handguns transferred through PPT are exempt from the Roster of Handguns Approved for Sale.

Handgun transfers through PPT are exempt from the one in thirty days limit, except in the City of Los Angeles.