California Gun Buying FAQ

California Firearm Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the minimum legal age to purchase a firearm in California?

  • 21 years of age for rifles or shotguns. (Hunting license exemption for long guns other than semi-auto centerfire rifles; also LE or Military exemption on all long guns.)
  • 21 years of age for handguns, lower receivers* and “pistol-grip only” shotguns*.
    *Federal regulations prohibit the sale of “non-shoulder fired” firearms to persons under the age of 21 (Click here for ATF Newsletter November 2009)

How long is the waiting period for firearm purchases in California?

  • 10 days, calculated as ten, consecutive, 24-hour periods commencing at the initiation of the DROS process. Qualified persons such as peace officers may be exempt from the 10-day waiting period.
  • Once the 10-day period has passed, purchasers must pick-up their firearm within 30 days of the initial background check.

I was notified that my background check status was “undetermined”; what does that mean?

  • If the DOJ cannot determine a buyer’s eligibility, they will place a delay on the background check. Typically, those are resolved with an approval, or sometimes with an outright denial, usually within 30 days or sooner. On occasion, the DOJ cannot determine the buyer’s eligibility within 30 days; at that point the background check becomes “undetermined”.
  • CA law permits a dealer to cancel the transaction and issue a refund or to deliver the firearm. If your background check status becomes undetermined, we will issue a refund for the firearm and will encourage you to contact CA DOJ in order to learn what created the delay/undetermined status so that you can rectify the issue in order to avoid future occurrences of the same status on future purchases.

Do I have to pass a background check to purchase ammo?

  • Beginning July 1, 2019 customers buying ammo must undergo a background check to purchase ammo. While most customers can utilize the $1, usually instant, background check, customers who have moved since they last purchased a firearm in CA and/or other persons without a firearm of record in the CA database will have to utilize the more expensive $19 background check. See staff in-store for more info.

Who is prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms in California?

  • Persons convicted of felonies or certain misdemeanors, persons addicted to narcotics, persons adjudicated to be mentally defective, persons who are under the restrictions of a temporary restraining order (domestic violence) are amongst the persons who may not purchase or possess firearms. A very specific list of felony and misdemeanor offenses that prohibit firearms ownership is available here.

What are the additional requirements necessary for purchasing a firearm?

  • Firearms Safety Certificate
  • Since Jan. 1, 2015, purchasers must possess a Firearm Safety Certificate (or present a qualifying exemption) to purchase a firearm. You can obtain the FSC by successfully passing the written FSC test. The test consists of 30 questions; passing scores are 23 answers correct or more. The cost of taking the test is $10; upon passing the test, the FSC card costs $15. Study materials will be available online. The test may be taken during normal store hours. The FSC is valid for 5 years from date of issuance.
  • Safe Handling Demonstration
  • The SHD is a set of firearm handling skills that must be performed by the purchaser with the gun they are purchasing or with a gun of the same model as the one that is being purchased. The skills include checking that the firearm is empty, unlocking it, loading it with a dummy round, then unloading it and relocking it. This demonstration is performed at the time of DROS. Some buyers are exempted; ask store staff for details.
  • Proof of Residency (Handgun purchases only)
  • CA law mandates that customers purchasing handguns provide proof of residency secondary to a CA Driver’s License or ID card. Utility bills from within the last 90 days, property deeds, lease or rental agreements, or government issued permits, licenses or registrations are acceptable proofs of residency that meet the CA handgun residency requirements.
  • Certain ID’s Require Additional Documents
  • If you possess a CDL/CID with the words “Federal Limits Apply” printed on your CDL/CID, you will need to present other documents such as a certified copy of your birth certificate or a passport/passport card. Contact store for more info.

The address on my CA Driver’s License has changed or the address is a business address or P.O. Box. Why do I have to provide additional proof of residency if I have already done so in my handgun purchase or if I am purchasing a rifle or shotgun?

  • Federal law mandates that a dealer may not sell or transfer a firearm unless the purchaser provides the dealer with a current and valid government-issued picture ID that includes the purchaser’s residence address. If the address on your CA Driver’s license is not current or if the address reflects a business address or P.O. Box, you will be required to provide a government document (such as vehicle) registration that reflects your current residence address.

Why do I have to buy a gunlock or trigger lock with the purchase of my gun?

  • California law requires that all firearms sold, be transferred with a trigger lock, cable lock, qualifying gun cabinet or lock box, or gun safe. These devices may include CA approved trigger/cable locks that come with most new firearms or one that was purchased within the last 30 days, provided that it is accompanied by a receipt.
  • State law allows persons who already own a safe or lock box to sign an affidavit attesting to ownership of those devices. However Federal law, which went into effect after the passage of CA law, mandates that a trigger lock accompany any handgun transfer without consideration of CA law. Effectively this means that safe affidavits are no longer acceptable for handgun transfers.

What if the gun I am purchasing comes with a gunlock, trigger lock or other safety device?

  • If the device that comes with your gun is on the “CA approved” list than you will not need to purchase another gunlock or cable.

Is there a limit to the number of firearms that a person can purchase at one time?

  • California law limits the purchase of handguns to no more than one handgun transferred from a dealer to an individual within any 30-day period. Note that firearms transferred between individuals that are transacted through dealers, (known as Private Party Transfers), are exempt from the one-handgun-a-month restriction, as are consignment handgun purchases made from CA dealers.
  • Currently California law does not limit the number of long guns (rifles or shotguns) purchased by one person or within any specific time period. But, beginning July 1, 2021 most CA gun buyers will be restricted from purchasing more that one handgun or one semiautomatic, centerfire rifle in any 30-day window. (Some exemptions apply- ie. private party transfers, law enforcement officers, etc.)

I am selling my gun to a friend, how do I do it?

  • Sales conducted between unlicensed individuals are called Private Party Transfers. PPT’s must be brokered through licensed dealers. Both parties must be present at the time of the sale. The purchaser bears the cost of the transaction ($37.19 in DOJ fees and $10 per gun in dealer fees) and must meet all the qualifications as outlined above. The firearms will remain at  Auburn Guns & Ammo during the 10-day waiting period.

Why are some models of handguns not legal for sale in California?

  • CA law dictates that only those guns deemed “not unsafe” may be sold. In order to be listed, handguns must be submitted to the state for testing and must include certain features such as magazine disconnect safeties or loaded chamber indicators. Since July 2013, CA law also requires that handguns imprint a “microscopic array” on fired shell casings in order to be added to the list. At the current time, no new models of handguns feature “microstamping”.

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