California's Handgun License Law
by Ron Godwin, General Manager
12/10/02, Re-edited 11/3/13
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
The handgun license, (NRA assumed the role of lead negotiator), is, in the text of the
law itself, called a "Handgun Safety Certificate" (HSC). It started off to be a "Handgun License".
The change to "certificate" allowed our CA NRA lobbyist to claim to dealers and their membership that they defeated
the Handgun License and "forced" the Democrat anti-gun legislators to stick to the Basic Firearms Safety
Certificate (BFSC) style program. The short version is that they did stick to the BFSC style program, with a number of
added impediments to handgun ownership. It is also fair to say that neither the old BFSC nor the new HSC are certificates; they are both licenses.
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.
The HSC is a license. You must take and pass a test, pay a $25 fee (, it is valid for 5 years after which
it must be renewed. The BFSC required you to take and pass a test, pay a $20 fee, and it was supposed to be
valid indefinitely. It went away on Jan 1, 2003, having been replaced by the new HSC. 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 HSC is permission to buy a handgun.
At some future date it will probably be required to own a handgun. We will continue to refer to the
HSC as a license. We presume the NRA and the anti-gun Democrats that wrote the law will continue to call it
The difference is in the legal implications. The State of California has now figured out how to license a
Constitutional guarantee. 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 handguns in California will not be added.
NOTE: Many more unreasonable impediments to handgun ownership have been added since this HSC law and you
can read about them at length in the California penal code. Even so, impeding handgun ownership was not enough. Starting
January 1, 2014, this so-called Safety Certificate program will expand to include rifles and shotguns.
Compromising with the left is never enough, they always come back for more.
As stated the HSC took effect Jan 1, 2003, costs $25 ($15 to DOJ and $10 Instructor fee), be valid for 5
years, and require the passage of 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 HSC, 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 handgun buyer gets through the HSC and pays the $25 fee, the residence documentation, and
the 10 day wait, the delivery process kicks in. The buyer must have an approved by California Firearm Safety
Device (FSD). 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 and that identifies the
specific device by brand and model. Ditto for lock boxes approved for but a single handgun. The same receipt
is required for lockers approved for multiple handguns but the receipt can be older than 30 days. 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 presented at time of delivery. Locking
devices and locks must be present at time of delivery.
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 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
Handgun buyers must also 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 HSC requirement are also exempt from the safe handling requirement.
I almost forgot, we also have to collect your thumbprint on the Dealer Record of Sale (DROS).
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, and several other less likely
exemptions - feel free to call for details.