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How to Buy a Gun in California: A Step-By-Step Guide

buy a gun in California

Purchasing a firearm is an excellent way to ensure your family’s safety, but you’ll have to go through the process of buying it legally to avoid future problems. California has some of the country’s strictest gun control laws, so you’ll want to read up on how to buy a gun in California before initiating the transaction. 

One aspect to remember when buying a gun in California is the state’s 10-day waiting period. There are some detailed background check requirements too, as the state digs into your history to ensure you’re legally permitted to own a firearm. 

California residents who are old enough to purchase a gun shouldn’t have much trouble completing the transaction once they fill out the necessary documents. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about how to buy a gun in California. 

How Background Checks Work in California

Background checks are mandatory at the federal level before any American can buy a gun from a licensed dealer. California takes these investigations further by completing federal and state background checks and requiring private sales to go through a federally licensed dealer. Here’s what you need to know:

You’ll Fill Out a Dealer Record of Sale Form

Anyone looking to buy a firearm in California will need to fill out a Dealer Record of Sale (DROS) form. This application includes information on your residency and will require your right thumbprint. The dealer will then submit these forms to the Department of Justice (DOJ) electronically.

You Need Identification

The dealer will need to verify your identity before sending the DROS form to the government. You’ll have to provide a driver’s license or another form of identification with your picture, address, and age to proceed. The dealer will also scan the magnetic strip on your ID to ensure it’s valid.

The Dealer Contacts the DOJ

The California Department of Justice must receive a notification whenever anyone tries to purchase a gun in the state. The DOJ will then run background checks through the FBI’s NICS database, the state’s internal records, and the State Department of State Hospitals. The dealer can’t process the transaction if the background check fails, and they must provide the buyer with a Prohibited Notice and Transfer form when this occurs. 

The background check process takes 10 days, exactly 240 hours, at which point you can pick up your gun. Keep in mind that some dealers will require you to pay for the firearm upfront, while others will only ask for a deposit. 

8 Steps to Buying a Gun in California

The background check procedure is only part of the gun-buying process in California. There are plenty of other steps required before gaining possession of the firearm, so it’s best to start preparing a few months before you plan to buy the weapon.

1. Get a Safety Certificate 

A firearm safety certificate must accompany most firearm purchases in California. You’ll have to pass a written exam while scoring at least 23 out of 30 to receive your certification. It’ll cost you $25 to take the test, and your certificate is good for five years once you pass.

2. Consider a Concealed Carry Permit

You don’t need a firearm safety certificate if you have a concealed carry permit. California is a may-issue state, which means local law enforcement can approve or deny your application at their discretion. Getting your concealed carry license in California is challenging because you must have a valid reason for needing it and take state-approved training before applying.

3. Find a Dealer

Locating a federally licensed dealer is the first step you’ll take once you have the necessary paperwork in place. This dealer will initiate the background check and show you the available guns in stock. Remember that you’ll have to complete private firearm sales through a dealer because background checks are mandatory on all sales and transfers.

4. Listen to the Safe Handling Demonstration

checking the gun

You’ll have to take another quick training course before the gun sale can finalize. There’s usually a DOJ-certified instructor at the gun shop who will walk you through some safe handling instructions and have you sign a document saying you completed them. You can take this course when you buy the gun or before you pick it up, but the demonstration is mandatory.

5. Pay the Fees

There are several fees you’ll have to pay before finalizing the purchase. Your DROS form costs $19, and there’s a $31.19 fee for regulatory and enforcement activities. The dealer can also charge you an additional $10 when facilitating a private sale.

6. Wait 10 Days

Your 10-day wait period begins the second the dealer submits your DROS form. The California DOJ has 240 hours to complete your background check and then approve, deny, or delay your application. The dealer must cancel the sale if you don’t show up within 30 days of filing your DROS paperwork.

7. Buy a Safe

It’s a good idea to buy a gun safe or another locking device during the 10-day waiting period. California law states that you must have a state-approved gun safe or new gun lock for every firearm you purchase, and proof you own one of these safety devices is required. Proof of ownership can include a receipt or owner’s manual.

8. Pick Up Your Gun

You’ve now jumped through all the hoops and can pick up your gun from the federally licensed dealer. You’ll have to present your handgun safety certificate and proof of address again before leaving the shop. There’s also some paperwork to fill out stating that you’re now in possession of a gun.

California gun laws require you to complete multiple steps before finalizing the purchase. You should still be able to get through the process without much trouble assuming you don’t have a criminal record, are a resident of the state, and are old enough to own a gun. The training, certification, and waiting period will take some time, so prepare for a multiweek transaction.

Concealed Weapons Permit

Get the Expert Training You Need

The education component of buying a gun in California is perhaps the most time-consuming because you must prepare for and pass the test. Additional training is necessary when going for your concealed carry permit as well. Applying for a concealed carry license doesn’t guarantee you’ll receive it, but taking some training courses will undoubtedly improve your chances. 

Concealed Coalition offers a training program in California that includes in-class instruction and live-fire education. Our team of state-certified instructors can maximize your chances of receiving legal certification to carry a concealed weapon in California. Contact our team today to go over your firearm educational needs.

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