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Can You Buy a Gun Online in California? | What to Know

Eligible residents of California can purchase certain firearms from online vendors, but the state has some of the most stringent gun laws in the United States. Some online gun vendors provide a list of firearms compliant with California laws since they have to know the rules to legally ship purchases to the state.   

For example, Guns.com has a California Compliant section in their online shop. Another respected online gun retailer, Palmetto State Armory, also has a California Compliant section in their online shop. They do a great job of including the guns that can be purchased in California and any precursor parts and magazines within state regulations. 

Although many shops do a great job of making the process easier for you as the customer, it is still best practice to confirm that the item you wish to purchase is legal in the state.  

Also, note that the State of California regulates gun precursor parts, too. If you’re unsure whether a firearm or a precursor part is legal to buy, own, or possess in the state, consult the California DOJ Bureau of Firearms or speak to an expert attorney on the state regulations.  

What Should I Do Before Purchasing a Gun Online in California?

If you live in California and are considering an online gun purchase, you can do a few things before buying the weapon to make the process go smoothly.  

Make Sure You’re Allowed to Own a Gun

Before making an online gun purchase, confirm that you’re allowed to own one in the state. Giffords Law Center provides a comprehensive list of prohibited persons, including but not limited to the following:

  • Persons convicted of a felony.
  • Persons convicted of certain domestic violence offenses.
  • Persons addicted to narcotics.
  • Persons convicted of crimes that preclude them from future gun ownership.
  • Persons who know they are the subject of a warrant related to firearms-prohibited offenses.
  • Persons who know they are the subject of an order or injunction that involves firearms prohibitions.
  • Prohibited persons with a stipulation of probation.
  • Disqualified persons due to a history of mental illness or alcoholism. 

Be Sure the Gun Is California-Compliant

The California Department of Justice is responsible for implementing the laws that dictate which guns are legal in the state. The department also maintains a roster of handguns permitted in the state

You can also consult a local firearms dealer to see if your intended gun is California-compliant. Another option is to search online gun dealers and navigate to the “California compliant” section of their website to see if the item is listed there for sale.  

It’s never a good idea to buy a gun that isn’t legal in California if you’re a resident of the state. At best, the online gun dealership will immediately notice the discrepancy, cancel your order, and refund you in full. Some may even refuse to take you to the payment page. 

However, online blogs are full of nightmare stories about people trying to buy non-compliant guns. You’ll probably have a hard time getting your money back. So, do your research upfront and pick a gun that meets California laws. 

Reach Out to a Local Firearms Dealer Before Buying the Gun

Online gun purchases can’t be shipped to you directly. Instead, you’ll need the help of a firearms dealer with federal and state licenses, who will complete the transaction with you in person. The dealer’s job is to ensure the following: 

  • The gun is legal to own in the state.
  • You are not a prohibited person.
  • You have proper identification.

Once all the requirements are double-checked, and your background check has cleared, the dealer will sign the registered gun over to you as the new owner.

That’s why you need to find a dealer who’s willing to take over the process and notify you once the gun arrives to complete the process. 

In California in particular, the gun laws are so nuanced that it is often best to find a well-established local dealer rather than a new shop. An experienced dealer will know the process better, can anticipate potential problems, and advise you on the best path forward.  

Newer shops lack the benefit of experience, so even minor issues may take very long time to resolve. They often lack the contacts in the state bureau to help them reach a resolution quickly as well.  

Some local dealers will only accept in-store purchases because online sales take away from local sales. Those that do accept online transactions often charge you a fee for their services. You should inquire about the fees and procedure before making an arrangement with the dealer. 

Many people have had horrible experiences when they purchased guns online without talking to a dealer, only to find that the firearm was shipped to a local dealer who won’t accept the shipment.  

You can avoid this situation by working with a local gun shop up front to be sure they can assist you with the purchase once the gun arrives in your state.  

Can You Have A Gun In Your House Without a License in California?

California residents may legally have a gun in their home without a license, provided that a few conditions are met. Most importantly, the gun shouldn’t be regulated in California, and the owner must register it. 

Let’s go over the requirements in more detail: 

First, some weapons aren’t legal in the state of California. You’re not allowed to keep those guns in your house with or without a license.  

Second, certain weapons require registration per state law. One example is handguns. If left unregistered, they are considered illegal, even in your home.  

Next, prohibited persons aren’t allowed to have a gun under any circumstances, even in their private residences. If you have a prohibited person living in your California residence, it is best to speak to an attorney before bringing a firearm into your home.  

Finally, taking the weapon outside your private residence requires a license and possibly a permit. It’s crucial that you understand the difference between possession and carrying a firearm and are cautious not to cross that line without the proper license.  

There is considerable nuance to California state law, so when in doubt, reach out to the California DOJ Bureau of Firearms and ask your question directly.  

Can I Bring My Guns When I Move To California From Out of State?

Yes, you can, but several stipulations apply. When bringing your firearms to California, they must all be unloaded and locked in a container. In California, the container must be something other than a glovebox or utility compartment/ trunk.  

New residents who aren’t selling or transferring firearms to a licensed dealer or a local law enforcement agency must declare their weapons on the appropriate form and file them with the state. A small processing fee is due along with the proper form.  

It’s worth noting that many guns classified as assault weapons are illegal in the state, and the term has a relatively wide definition in California. So, you should check out the list of “assault weapons” provided by the state’s DOJ. 

Also, any device that feeds ammunition into a weapon in quantities greater than 10 rounds is illegal in California. Magazine capacity restrictions often go hand in hand with assault weapon bans and that’s certainly true for California.  

However, California will issue Large Capacity Magazine Permits to qualified firearms dealers.  Strict criteria apply since these are heavily regulated for individuals in the state. For more information, visit the Bureau of Firearms’ website

California doesn’t recognize or offer reciprocity with any other state’s concealed carry laws. Therefore, If you’re moving to California from out of state and have a current concealed carry permit, you’ll need to reapply in California to be in compliance with state legal requirements.  

Can I Apply for a Gun License Online in California?

The State of California doesn’t offer a way to apply for a gun license online. You need to manually fill a paper form and mail it along with a check. The state then processes your application and decides whether you’re eligible for a license. 

The process is relatively painless, and the instructions and definitions on the form are clear. Note that you must also include a copy of your California identification.  

In certain circumstances described on the gun license form, you may be required to provide additional proof of your identification.  

A processing fee of $19 must be included with your application. Only one person may submit their information on the application, so you may have to submit multiple applications if more than one person in your household has firearms.  

Finally, the state provides contact information for their staffed offices towards the bottom of the instructions on the form. If you have questions about filling out the form or need to reach out to the registration office after sending in an application, reach out to the phone number or email address listed.  

Can I Get a Concealed Carry Permit in California?

Your ability to get a concealed carry permit in California depends on the area where you live, as licenses aren’t issued by the state but instead are managed locally.  

The state website instructs citizens interested in obtaining a Concealed Carry Weapon license to reach out for more information from local law enforcement. If you’re an urban resident, you should seek information from your city police department.

If you live outside an urban area, seek information on a CCW license from your county sheriff’s department. Most California police and sheriff’s departments will have some information about CCW licenses on their website.  

If you have a local gun shop, you can also call or speak with them about the local process for obtaining a concealed carry license in your area. They can tell you about any local requirements or nuances to the process before you apply.  

The state has a legal requirement to attend a gun safety training course, including live fire training, in order to obtain a CCW license. Your local police or sheriff’s department can help you enroll in qualifying courses in your area.  

The standard processing time for a CCW license is 90 days from the date you submit the application or 30 days from when your background check is cleared by the Department of Justice.  

Typically, you’ll see your application process close to the sooner of the two dates above. Despite the additional requirements in California, the state’s Department of Justice processes applications and notifies applicants quickly.  

Do You Need a RealID to Buy a Gun in California?

You don’t have to have a RealID to buy a gun or ammunition in California. However, those who don’t have one will have to provide additional proof of identification before purchasing and registering the weapon.  

Those who decide not to get a RealID in California will be issued a driver’s license or identification card that states, “Federal Limits Apply.” In some cases, additional identification will be requested in addition to the driver’s license.

For example, as a new resident filling out the form to report gun ownership, if your ID states “Federal Limits Apply,” there is a list of additional forms of identification that must also be included in your application for it to be accepted and processed.  

While having a RealID is not a requirement, having one when you buy, register, or transfer a gun in California could save you time and hassle. 

If you don’t have any problems with obtaining a RealID and need to renew your license, updating to a RealID can make future purchases and registrations easier.   

Conclusion

Gun laws can be complicated in any state, but there is arguably no other state as complex as California. If you want to buy a gun online but have questions, the most reliable source is the state’s Department of Justice. You can also consult a local gun shop or your local police department to ensure you have a complete understanding of the legal requirements for your area. 

For more, check out What Is the Cheapest Way to Buy a Gun? | 5 Vendors Compared.

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