Disclaimer: It is our goal to keep the information on this page, and this website, as up to date as possible. With that said, it is ultimately your responsibility to verify the handgun law in your states of interest. The information on this page is for informational purposes only. The information presented on this page and on this website is not legal advice, and should not be treated as such. This content is subject to change without notice. We recommend subscribing to be notified when the content on this page and on this site changes.
Note: The processes listed below apply to the majority of people. If you are active-duty military, honorably discharged military, law enforcement, or retired law enforcement, the processes below may be slightly different (easier) when applying for a concealed carry permit.
Types of Concealed Carry Permits
- Must be a minimum of 21 years old to apply
- Must reside in California
- Valid for 2 years, renewable by mail or in person
- Cost varies, but can run anywhere between $100-$400 after completing all the necessary steps (explained further in Process to Apply)
Is it Required to Carry Concealed?
Yes – you cannot open carry in CA. In certain smaller counties, i.e. those with populations under 200,000, the sheriff can issue an open carry license. However, this license is only valid in the county of issue.
May Issue or Shall Issue?
California is a may issue state, meaning the law states that they may issue a permit if you meet all requirements.
Process to Apply
CA concealed carry permits are issued at your local police department, often referred to as your local issuing authority. Depending on your town of residence, this will either be your county sheriff’s office or your city police department.
- Contact your county sheriff’s office or your city police department for an application.
- Complete psychological testing (if required by your licensing authority). This is required by certain counties when initially applying for a concealed carry permit. Your licensing authority will refer you to a psychologist. The cost of completing psychological testing will vary, but cannot exceed $150.
- Complete the application paperwork and include the following items where necessary:
- You must establish good cause for receiving a concealed carry permit.
- Present your CA state issued I.D. or driver’s license.
- Present a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. Passport, Alien Registration number (with 90-day proof of residency), or other legal documentation that proves you are lawfully in the United States.
- Submit fingerprints and photographs in connection with your application (fingerprinting can be conducted at your local police department). The costs vary for this service, but should be minimal
- Submit to a background investigation. This will include a criminal history check.
- Criminal background check fee: this fee varies, and will cover the costs of the Department of Justice to conduct your criminal background check.
- Local application fee: this fee varies, but cannot exceed $100. The fee will cover the costs of processing your application. Initially when applying, you only need to pay 20% (so $20 or less) of this local application fee. If your application is accepted, you will pay the remaining balance when you are issued the concealed carry permit. This fee may not be collected – it depends on your town of residence.
- After these steps are completed, the department processing the application is legally required to inform you of the outcome within 90 days of the initial application for a new license, or 30 days after receipt of the your criminal background check from the Department of Justice, whichever is later. A denial may be appealed.
- If your application is accepted, you are required to complete a handgun safety course pursuant to CA penal code 26165.
- Note: Check with the department you’re applying to ensure the course you take is approved. CA is not specific about which courses are approved. Some counties require everyone take 24 hours of training certified by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training at the local community college. For the most part, penal code 26165 gives the licensing authorities (your local county) full discretion in determining what is acceptable.
- Present evidence (certificate) of completing the approved handgun course to your local issuing authority.
- Pay the remaining balance on the local application fee, if applicable.
Reasons an Applicant Won’t Be Approved
If you meet any of the following conditions, your application is almost guaranteed to be denied:
- You are illegally in the United States.
- You’ve been convicted of a felony.
- You’ve been convicted of a violent crime, including domestic violence.
- You’ve been convicted of a crime punishable by a prison term greater than 1 year.
- You are subject to a restraining order or other similar court order.
- You are a drug addict, habitual drunkard, an unlawful user of any controlled substance, or are determined to be of unsound mind.
- You have a mental illness.
- You’ve received voluntary or involuntary treatment in a psychiatric hospital, mental institution, or similar treatment facility for any reason.
- You’ve been ordered by a court to complete an alcohol or substance abuse treatment program in the last 3 years.
- You are a fugitive from justice.
- You’ve been dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces.
- You are subject to a firearms seizure order.
Location Restrictions for Carrying
It is unlawful to carry a handgun, even if you have a concealed carry permit, in the following locations:
- Federal buildings.
- Federal prisons.
- Indian reservations.
- Post offices.
- Military bases.
- On any school property, including colleges and universities.
- When picketing or performing another informational activity in public related to a coordinated refusal to work.
- The State Capitol, including all State Capitol grounds.
- Legislative offices.
- Hearing rooms where any Senate or Assembly committee is conducting a hearing.
- Offices of the Governor or other state constitutional officers.
- Residences of the Governor, Members of the Legislature, or other state constitutional officers.
- In any polling place.
- Passed the security checkpoint at airports.
- On the grounds of the Cal Expo center in Sacramento.
- Gun shows. Vendors at the show are exempt.
- Establishments (bars) that have the primary purpose of selling alcohol for on-site consumption.
- Anywhere you decide to consume alcohol. You cannot carry a firearm if you consume any alcohol.
- Any other location or time that is determined by your local license issuing authority to be prohibited.
Transporting a Handgun Through & Throughout CA
With a Concealed Carry Permit
If you have a CA concealed carry permit, you may transport a handgun in a vehicle while it is loaded and on your person.
Without a Concealed Carry Permit
If you do not possess a CA concealed carry permit, you must abide by the following guidelines when transporting a handgun through (from another state into CA) and throughout (within CA) the state:
- You must legally possess the firearm.
- The firearm must be unloaded and secured.
- The firearm (and ammunition) cannot be readily accessible by the driver or any passengers.
- The firearm and the ammunition cannot be stored in the glove compartment or passenger console.
- If the vehicle does not have a compartment separate from the glove compartment, the firearm and ammunition must be stored locked in the trunk or within a compartment/container that is securely affixed to the vehicle’s interior.
- The firearm must remain in a locked container when carried to and from the vehicle.
Additional Notes About CA Handgun Law
Does CA Law Incorporate Stand Your Ground?
The Stand Your Ground law permits you to use force, and not retreat, when faced with a threat. Stand Your Ground protects your use of force, even deadly force, when used to protect yourself or others if you reasonably believe there is an imminent threat of serious harm or death. To be protected under Stand Your Ground, you must be in a place where you have the lawful right to be.
CA law dictates that you must be defending yourself, meaning you can’t strike first, when you believe there is an imminent threat. Additionally, you must believe deadly force is necessary, and you can only use enough force to defend yourself.
Does CA Law Incorporate the Castle Doctrine?
The Castle Doctrine is similar to Stand Your Ground. The Castle Doctrine permits you to use force (even deadly force), and not retreat, when you’re in your own home. This again assumes you reasonably believe there is an imminent threat of serious harm or death on yourself or others in your home.
This ‘castle’ is sometimes broadened to cover you when you’re in your yard, car, etc. Each state’s Castle Doctrine law is written differently – consult your state’s law to confirm if your state extends the meaning of a ‘castle’ to cover more than just your home.
Large Capacity Magazines, i.e. any magazine that can accept greater than 10 rounds of ammunition are banned in CA.
Reciprocity – What State Permits Does CA Recognize?
None. CA does not honor any other states’ permits.
Reciprocity – Where is the CA Permit Recognized?
The CA concealed carry permit is recognized in the following states: