Firearms Laws In California

California has strict firearms laws.

California maintains tight controls on the sale and importation of firearms. The Bureau of Firearms, a division of the California Department of Justice, is responsible for educating the public about firearms laws and safety and provides expertise to law enforcement agencies. Their website provides important information on current California firearms laws and regulations.

New Resident

A new resident to California who brings a revolver, pistol or other concealable firearm into the state, is required by law to complete and submit a New Resident Handgun Ownership Report, along with a $19 fee to the California Department of Justice within 60 days of moving to the state. The other option is for the gun owner to sell the firearm to either a licensed gun dealer or sell or transfer the gun to a California police or sheriff’s department.

Shotguns and Rifles

California law does not require new residents to report rifles or shotguns. However, firearm owners should know that certain types of rifles and shotguns are classified as assault weapons under California law. It is illegal to bring assault weapons into California under most circumstances.


The California Law Enforcement Gun Release Program became effective on January 1, 2005. This law requires that anyone claiming ownership of a firearm that is in the possession of a law enforcement agency must file an application for the return of the firearm with the California Department of Justice. The department will run background check to determine if the individual is legally eligible to own a firearm. A written account of the results is then sent to the applicant .

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Certification of Handguns

The manufacture or sale of handguns that have not passed firing and safety tests and are not certified for sale by the California Department of Justice is prohibited. The California Attorney General’s website maintains a list of 1337 handguns which are approved for sale in the state. Private party transfers, collectible handguns and pawn shop returns are exempt from the law.