California is a “Shall-Issue” Conceal Carry Weapon (CCW) Permit State

Summary of California Gun Laws

California is now a shall-issue state since the Supreme Court’s ruling on the NYSRPA v Bruen on June 23rd, 2022. Licenses are issued by the county sheriff’s office or local police station.

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 their firearm or sell or transfer the firearm through a licensed dealer or to a sheriff or police department. The California Department of Justice (DOJ) runs a background check and retains information about the purchaser and seller of all in-state firearms sales and transfers.

All firearms sales must be completed through a dealer. A permit to purchase, a background check and transaction report to the DOJ are required to buy a handgun. No person may sell, loan, or transfer a firearm to a minor, nor sell a handgun to an individual under 21 years of age. All ammunition purchases require a DOJ “point of sale” eligibility check with $1 paid by the consumer.

The open carry of firearms is governed in California by a set of laws that, at times, conflict with one another. Openly carrying loaded or unloaded firearms in public is generally prohibited in California. However, the sheriff of any county with a population under 200,000 people, or the chief of police of a city within that county, may issue licenses to carry a loaded, exposed handgun. Those licenses are only valid in the county where they are issued.

Concealed carry is only legal with a California Concealed Carry Weapons License (CCW). The minimum age is 18 years old, although a licensing authority has the discretion to require applicants to be older than 18 years of age. A 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. Many areas are off-limits, including schools, courthouses and businesses that sell alcohol for consumption. As of January 1, 2019, concealed carry licenses require a minimum eight-hour firearms training course that teaches California firearms laws and gun safety, including firing of a gun in a “live-fire” shooting exercise at a shooting range. California issues carry licenses to residents, individuals who work in the state and active duty military members permanently stationed in California. In terms of reciprocity, California does not honor any other states’ concealed carry permits.

A U.S. citizen or legal resident at least 18 years old may carry a handgun anywhere within his or her place of residence, place of business or on private property owned or lawfully possessed by the citizen or legal resident. A permit or license is not required for a person to carry within these locations.

*The appellate court decision that struck down California’s ban on possessing large-capacity gun magazines has been vacated as a broader panel (en banc) of the court readies to rehear the San Diego-based case. While the ban on owning large-capacity magazines stays in place for now, a lower-court ruling that prohibits enforcement of the ban while the case is being litigated also remains in effect. 



California is a Castle Doctrine state. The person using the force must have reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred and has no duty to retreat. Though California does not have a stand your ground statute, the state appellate cases have held that there is no duty to retreat before using force in public. In addition, California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) allow a jury to acquit someone based on a stand-your-ground defense. The instruction appears in CALCRIM #505 and #506, both of which deal with justifiable homicide.

Any person using force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury within his or her residence shall be presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family or a member of the household when that force is used against another person, not a member of the family or household, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using the force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred.

[Cal. Pen. Code § 198.5]

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