Whether you’re new to owning a firearm or have had a gun for home defense for years, getting a concealed carry license may seem daunting. It doesn’t have to be. There are many reasons and ways to carry a concealed weapon, but the first step is knowing the laws. Applying for a CCW varies by state. Read about the process for getting a California Concealed Carry Weapons License (CCWL) below.
Similar to license requirements, states vary greatly in their processes for how an applicant obtains a concealed carry license, what their licenses/licenses are called, whether licenses include photographs, whether fingerprinting is required, license duration, license costs and turnaround times. Some states allow an applicant to complete an application online, while others require an in-person visit to the office of the respective issuing authority. There are even states that require the applicant to provide a list of non-related character references.
Concealed Carry Weapons License Basics
California is a may-issue state with concealed weapons licenses issued at the county level by a county sheriff’s office or local police station. May issue means that applicants must pass basic requirements and the issuing authority (county sheriff, police department, etc.) is allowed to use its own discretion in either issuing or denying a permit. California requires an applicant to be of “good moral character” and to show “good cause” for obtaining a license. The various local law enforcement agencies in California use their discretion for issuing to varying degrees ranging from virtually no issue to shall issue. In addition, a California CCWL may include any reasonable restrictions or conditions which the issuing authority deems warranted, including restrictions as to the time, place, manner and circumstances under which the person may carry a firearm.
The California CCWL allows holders of the license to carry pistols, revolvers and other firearms capable of being concealed upon the person. Applicants must be at least 21 years old and have completed a firearms training course, including firing of a gun in a “live-fire” shooting exercise at a shooting range. CCWLs are issued to residents, individuals who work in the state and active duty military members permanently stationed in California. A CCWL is valid for just two years. Any resident of this state who has not previously reported ownership of a firearm or anyone moving into California with a firearm is considered a “personal firearm importer” and must provide a report to the DOJ regarding the firearm or sell or transfer the firearm through a licensed dealer or to a sheriff or police department.
Federally Prohibited Persons
The Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Federal Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997 make it illegal for a person who fits into any of the prohibited categories to ship, transport, receive or possess firearms or ammunition. These laws prevent a state from issuing a concealed carry license/license as it would be illegal for people who fit in these categories, by federal law, to own or possess a gun.
What Are the License Requirements in California?
An applicant must:
- Be of good moral character
- Have good cause for the license
- Be a resident of the county or work in the county
- Have completed an approved firearms training class (minimum of 8 hours) or provide proof of exemption pursuant to California Penal Code section 31700
- Not have been convicted of a felony or certain types of misdemeanors, including a lifetime prohibition if convicted of domestic violence
- Not be subject to a temporary restraining order or have been the subject of a protective order
- Not be addicted to drugs
- Not have been diagnosed as mentally ill
- Not have been hospitalized more than once in a year for a mental health diagnosis (lifetime prohibition)
- Meet the federal law requirements mentioned above
Do I Need Firearms Training in California?
Yes, although there are exemptions for active or honorably retired members of the United States Armed Forces, peace officers and law enforcement agents, to name a few. The training may consist of a minimum of 8 hours of training on firearm safety, handling and technique acceptable to the licensing authority. The course includes live-fire shooting exercises on a firing range and a demonstration of safe handling of and shooting proficiency with each firearm that the applicant is applying to be licensed to carry. The licensing authority may require either a course not to exceed 16 hours or a community college course not to exceed 24 hours certified by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.
For license renewal applicants, the course of training may be any course acceptable to the licensing authority, shall be no less than 4 hours and shall include live-fire shooting exercises.
How Do I Get a Concealed Carry License in California?
Step 1: Contact your county sheriff’s or local police chief’s office for approved training courses.
Step 2: Complete an approved training course or provide proof of exemption (active duty or honorably retired military, law enforcement, etc.) pursuant to California Penal Code section 31700.
Step 3: Some jurisdictions may require psychological testing.
Step 4: Download the application. Sections 1 through 5 of the application may be completed prior to going to the county sheriff’s office. Sections 6, 7 and 8 must be completed in the presence of an official of the licensing agency. Review Section 7 and be prepared to answer these questions orally. Do not write anything in Section 7 unless specifically directed to do so by the licensing agency.
Step 5: Take your application to your county sheriff’s office. You will be directed to bring in up to three firearms. You will also need the following:
- Your training certificate
- Proof of residency
You will be fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed.
Step 6: You will be notified by mail within 90 days if your application has been approved or denied.
For more information, visit the USCCA California gun laws page now…
The information contained on this website is provided as a service to USCCA, Inc. members and the concealed carry community, and does not constitute legal advice. Although we attempt to address all areas of concealed carry laws in all states, we make no claims, representations, warranties, promises or guarantees as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information disclosed. Legal advice must always be tailored to the individual facts and circumstances of each individual case. Laws are constantly changing, and as such, nothing contained on this website should be used as a substitute for the advice of a lawyer.