California Firearms Shipping Law

California places tighter restrictions on firearm shipment than federal law.

In 2008, the California Bureau of Firearms implemented the California Firearms Licensee Check System (CFLC), designed to protect consumers by creating stricter requirements on the shipment of firearms. This law tightened and placed new limitations on all such shipments within, and into, California.

Methods of Shipment

Federal law designates the ways in which firearms can be shipped. Anyone wishing to ship them must receive a Federal Firearm License, which governs all transactions, both interstate and intrastate. Either the United States Postal Service (USPS) or any common or contract carriers may be used to mail “long guns” (rifles and shotguns). Handguns, however, are not allowed to be mailed through the USPS and may only be shipped via a private carrier, such as FedEx or UPS. Gun parts may be sent without restrictions (as long as they don’t add up to a whole gun). No firearms may be carried on the person of anyone traveling on commercial transportation such as planes, trains, ships or buses–they must be mailed or shipped by the previously described methods.

California Requirements

By creating the CFLC, California placed further requirements upon all Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) doing business with anyone in the state. All FFLs are required to register with the California Department of Justice and obtain a Firearm Shipment Approval Letter for every transaction in which a California FFL is the recipient of firearms. This is done to ensure the shipper has verified their recipient is properly licensed and listed in the state database of those who may legally receive firearms. All intrastate shipments are under the same requirements.


Due to what most FFLs considered an unfair burden upon them, there was a largely negative reaction in the gun community regarding the California law. The fact that every shipment needed the new paperwork, along with requirements such as the recipient FFL needing to retain the letter for three years, caused many to say they would no longer deal with California companies. But the outcry was limited to the gun sellers, and didn’t find much sympathy elsewhere. California has made efforts to streamline the application process for FFLs and, as of 2010, the system now seems to be working smoothly.