California's Handgun License Law
by Ron Godwin, General Manager
12/10/02, Re-edited 11/1/15
Multiple phone conversations with CA-DOJ personnel
Penal Code Section 12071(b)
DOJ Information Bulletin 2002-03-FD dated 11/22/2002.
DOJ Information Bulletin 2002-05-FD dated 11/22/2002.
Handgun Safety Certificate Manual, Nov 2002
NRA Sacramento Office
It was called the Basic Firearm Safety Certificate (BFSC) AKA the California handgun license, (NRA assumed the self appointed role of lead
negotiator). It was supposed to be good forever, only applied to handguns and Honorably Discharged vets were exempt.
Webster's New College
Dictionary defines license as 1. a) Official or legal permission to do or own a specified thing. b)
proof of permission granted, as in the form of a document a driver's license. The same dictionary
defines a certificate as 1. A document testifying to truth or accuracy. 2. A document issued to a
person completing a course of study not leading to a diploma. The current Firearm Safety Cerificate (FSC)
is permission to buy a handgun. It won't surprise me if at some future date it will be required to
own a handgun. We will continue to refer to the old Basic Firearms Safety
Certificate (BFSC), the old Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC), and the current Firearm Safety
Certificate (FSC) as licenses. I'm guessing the NRA and the anti-gun Democrats that wrote the
law will continue to call it a certificate.
The difference is in the legal implications. The State of California has now figured
out how to license a Constitutionally guaranteed right - the 2nd Amendment. Further, while
the NRA may argue that they negotiated out some of the more pernicious
provisions, they must also admit that their "negotiation" left anti-gun legislators
with the foundation and vehicle to add future restrictions. It is unreasonable to assume
that future impediments to the private ownership of firearms in California will not
be added - and indeed they already have!
So, after a time had passed, the Democrats changed the BFSC into the Handgun
Safety Certificate (HSC), AKA the revised California handgun license,
and Honorably Discharged vets were no longer exempt, it cost $25 instead of $5,
and it was only good for 5 years.
NOTE: Back when this mess started, the Democrats were calling this
a "Handgun License" law.
The change to "certificate" allowed our CA NRA lobbyist to claim to dealers
and their membership that they had "defeated"
the Handgun License and "forced" the Democrat anti-gun legislators to stick to a
The Dems were fine with this request from the NRA spin doctors - they don't
care what you call it as long as they get what they want. This was a small
price to pay for NRA acquiescence.
The NRA should have taken a dictionary to the negotiations. What we got
is a LICENSE!
Not the old BFSC nor the old HSC nor the current FSC are certificates;
they are all licenses; you pay
a fee, have to pass a test, and must have the "paper document" in hand,
or have proof that you are specifically exempt, to be able to buy a handgun.
Best response to this self-serving NRA exercise of semantics and, in my opinion,
unnecessary compromise, is to call Gun Owners of California at (916) 967-4970 and
sign up with a zero compromise organization.
Now, today, the Democrats have once again overhauled this so-called certificate -
it is now the Firearm Safety Certificate (FSC) and does the same thing as the BFSC and HSC
before it except that it has been expanded to apply to all firearms; rifles,
shotguns, handguns, even stripped recievers! You still must take and pass a test, pay
a $25 fee; it is valid for 5 years after which it must be renewed.
Don't forget! When this tripe was first sold to us by the Dems and the NRA,
the BFSC was supposed to be just one test, the fee was $20, and
it was supposed to be valid indefinitely.
NOTE: Many more unreasonable impediments to handgun ownership have been added since
the original BFSC law and you can read about them at length in the California Penal Code.
Compromising with the left is never enough, they always come back for more.
If you are into pain keep reading - otherwise please note that we do everything we
legally can to make this as easy a process as we can.
As stated the FSC took effect Jan 1, 2015, costs $25 ($15 to DOJ and $10 Instructor
fee), be valid for 5 years, and requires you to pass a test. The test will be
administered by interested gun dealers who must be qualified as CA-DOJ Firearms
Instructors. In addition to having an FSC, prospective handgun buyers must also
provide proof of residency in the State of California. At present this means that the
dealer must retain photocopies of one of the following: utility bills or residential
lease from within the last 90 days or a property deed, or military Permanent Change of
Station (PCS) orders. At least one problem with this is that
a spouse whose name does not appear on these papers is prevented from buying a handgun.
Once the prospective firearm buyer gets through the FSC and pays the $25 fee,
provides the residence documentation if buying a handgun, and goes through the 10 day
wait, the delivery process kicks in. The buyer must have an approved by California
Firearm Safety Device (FSD, gun safe, or lock box. This can take several forms, depending
on what is or is not approved for the firearm in question.
There are locking devices (locks/trigger/cable), lock boxes and lockers, and gun safes.
The buyer must have the original receipt for locking devices that shows it was purchased
within 30 days (the federal 2005 Child Safety Act requires within the 10 days
prior to pickup of a handgun), and that identifies the specific device by brand and model.
Ditto for CA approved lock boxes that are single firearm containers. The same receipt
is required for CA approved lockers designed for multiple handguns but the receipt
can be older than 30 days - again the federal 2005 Child Safety Act requires within the 10 days
prior to pickup of a handgun. Older HOMAKS and Stack-On lockers that were not
California approved may not be used. Gun safes that are UL Residential
Security Containers (RSC) or that meet a specific technical description require a
receipt or you may sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury. Safes and lockers need
not be present at time of delivery but an affidavit must be filled out and again, signed
under penalty of perjury. Locking devices and locks must be present at time of delivery,
CA approved and approved for the specific firearm being delivered.
NOTE: The federal 2005 Child Safety Act effectively outlaws the use of a CA
approved gun locker or gun safe unless the handgun gun buyer actually acquired it
within 10 days of the handgun delivery date. This law does not affect long guns.
Considering that this really asinine law does not apply to long guns, it appears that
the Democrats who wrote it believe that children can only be injured by handguns
and are impervious to bullets fired from long guns. We at the El Cajon Gun Exchange
disagree and strongly encourage the use of gun safes as the best means to separate
children from all firearms
All firearm buyers must correctly perform a safe
handling demonstration in the presence of a CA-DOJ certified instructor.
Both the firearms dealer and the recipient of the handgun are required to sign
an affidavit, which the dealer is required to retain as proof of compliance.
Persons who are exempt from the FSC requirement are also exempt from the safe
handling requirement with the exception of CA DOJ Firearms instructors who are
exempt but have to perform their own safe handling demo.
I almost forgot, we also have to collect your thumbprint on the Dealer Record of Sale
Now, the part everyone has been waiting for, the exemptions. Generally - consigned
handguns being returned to owner, active duty U.S. Military, Active reserve components
of the U.S. Military, honorably retired (is there another type of retired?)
U.S. Military, active/retired CA and Federal Peace Officer, Level 1,2,
or 3 Reserve Peace Officer, Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) permit holder (Who can get one?),
and several other less likely exemptions - feel free to call for details.