"I'm ready to buy my first gun.
What do I do?"
This page is meant to be a resource to aid first time gun buyers with their purchases. It is not intended to be a comprehensive outline of California firearms laws. It's meant to be a quick outline for SOME of the more common issues when buying a gun in California.
*DISCLAIMER* We at Oakland / Bay Area BGOA are not lawyers. We do not offer legal advice. We are gun enthusiasts who have experience in legally purchasing and building guns in the state of California. Always check with your local and state laws before acting.
Know before you go.
Before heading to your local gun shop, also known as an FFL (Federal Firearms Licensee) there are several things to consider. California's gun laws are some of the most restrictive, complicated, and confusing in the country. If you are unsure of something, double check. We do not intend to wind up another statistic due to ignorance.
* You must pass a test and be issued a Firearms Safety Certificate BEFORE you can buy a gun. Most FFL's can give and submit the test on site. The test is mostly common sense, but it's a good idea to study up a bit before you go. You can look at the study guide here.
*As of 2021, only one handgun or rifle can be purchased in a 30-day period (you can still buy as many shotguns as you want).
* You cannot buy a handgun or centerfire rifle if you are under 21 (18-20 can buy .22's and shotguns).
*Background checks on each gun purchase from an FFL cost just over $30. Buying a gun from another person, also known as PPT's (Private Party Transfers) costs just over $40 for the background check. The only exception to this is a IFT (Inter-Familial Transfer). The application for an IFT can be found here.
*If you intend to buy a pistol, only approved pistols listed on California's Safe Handgun Roster are available for new purchase. You can check to see if a specific pistol is listed on the roster here.
* You cannot buy ammunition of any kind unless you are already a gun owner.
* There is a 10-day waiting period from the moment you pay for a gun to when you can bring it home from the FFL.
* If you do not pick up your gun within 30 days of the background check, you will have to do another one.
*Federal law prohibits anyone who uses marijuana in any form from owning or operating a firearm. Federal law does not recognize individual states laws regarding use of marijuana. If you are a user of any illegal substance by federal standards, and you are caught falsifying the background check, the penalty could be 5 years of jail time and a $10,000 fine.
"What documents will I need with me when I buy a gun?"
The following is an excerpt from the California DOJ website...
"As part of the DROS (background check) process, the purchaser must present "clear evidence of identity and age" which is defined as a valid, non-expired California Driver's License or Identification Card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If the ID is restricted, a second form of ID will be required. A military identification accompanied by permanent duty station orders indicating a posting in California is also acceptable.
If the purchaser is not a U.S. Citizen, then he or she is required to demonstrate that he or she is legally within the United States by providing the firearms dealer with documentation containing his/her Alien Registration Number or I-94 Number.
Purchasers of handguns must provide proof of California residency, such as a utility bill, residential lease, property deed, or government-issued identification (other than a driver license or other DMV-issued identification), and either (1) possess a Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC) plus successfully complete a safety demonstration with their recently purchased handgun or (2) qualify for an HSC exemption."
You can find more information on this and other frequently asked questions at the California DOJ's FAQ page here.
"I just picked up my new gun, now what?"
The first thing you'll want to do is make sure you have a safe and LEGAL way to transport and store your new firearm. To transport a firearm in California it must be in a locked container and not easily accessible from the front seat. Ammunition must be stored in a separate locked container, away from the front seat. Generally, most people will put them in the trunk / rear storage area of their vehicle. If you own a truck and do not have locked storage in the bed, then the backseat is acceptable. Preferably as far away from the front seat as possible.
It is not legal to keep a gun in your vehicle without a specific purpose (i.e. going to and from the gun range, taking it to an armorer for repair or modification, etc.). unless you are a LEO (law enforcement Officer) or you have a CCW (Carry Concealed Weapons) permit.
When storing your firearm at home, you must have a way to lock it away from children and others who should not have access to it. If you have a gun safe, you will be asked to fill out a safe affidavit declaring what brand and model it is. If you do not have a safe you will be required to purchase a gun lock with the gun. The most common and economical type of gun lock is a cable style lock. It runs through the barrel or ejection port in a way that makes the gun inoperable without removing the lock. Some new gun purchases come with cable locks included. You can find cable locks on our online store coming soon.
Once you have established a safe and legal way to store and transport your firearm, the next step is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
Far too many people who own a gun and have no idea how to use it proficiently. You may think you will know what to do, but in a high stress situation when tensions and blood pressure runs high, people often make catastrophic mistakes that may cost them their lives. In a gunfight situation, fractions of a second can mean the difference between life and death. The only way to move and act as proficiently as possible is to practice, a lot. Practice until the movements become muscle memory. Practice until you don't have to think about what to do, you just do it. Do you know how fast you can get to your gun and ready it in the middle of the night when you're asleep? Do you know how to quickly clear your weapon if it malfunctions? Do you know how to perform tactical and emergency ammunition reloads? If not, practice it. If you do, then practice it more. Even people who practice regularly can get rusty quicker than one would think. Practice. Practice Often. Stay fresh.
This is where Oakland / Bay Area Black Gun Owners Association (OBABGOA) becomes a valuable resource. Our main objective is to foster and provide proficient and effective techniques for firearms operation. We want to stay on the right side of the law but also have the ability to defend ourselves from anyone who may pose a threat.
Oakland / Bay Area BGOA partners with multiple certified firearms instructors you can contact through our partnerships page for private lessons. We offer range days throughout the year so you can brush up on your skill in a comfortable environment. We also offer group training days so you can learn with other community members at the same skill level. One of our most popular events is our Queens-Only range days. It's a women's only training event held multiple times throughout the year. Sign up for our newsletter to stay current on upcoming events.
"I did a background check and I was denied. What can I do?"
If you were denied approval on your background check, it may be for several reasons. Denial on a firearms background check doesn't always mean you are a convicted felon. People can be denied for many reasons. If you've ever been detained under 5150 for mental health issues, you can be denied for up to five years. Drug trafficking charges will also trigger a denial. Have you been convicted of a misdemeanor of assault or battery? Denial for ten years. Restraining order against you? Denial. Some denials are for fixed length of time; others are for life. Even if you get your record expunged, it does not mean you have restored your right to own a firearm.
If you've had a background check denied there are things you can you. You will almost surely need to hire an attorney. It most likely will be a process that will take some time. You can find more detailed information on restoring gun rights below. The attorneys listed specialize in restoring your right to bear arms.
The Oakland / Bay Area Black Gun Owners Association does not endorse or recommend that anyone not able to legally own or possess a gun disregard the law. Our goals include changing the perception of black gun owners in America. Black Gun Owners are responsible, law abiding, contributing citizens of society. We own businesses, we are doctors, we are teachers. In short, we are America. Owning a gun if you do not have the legal right is a disservice to oneself, the community, and the cause.