California generally requires a Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) license in order to lawfully carry a concealed firearm in public.1
Prior to June 2022, California law provided local law enforcement with broad discretion to issue or deny CCW licenses and to require applicants for CCW licenses to demonstrate “good cause” to qualify for a license. Accordingly, many local agencies exercised this discretion by generally issuing CCW licenses only to applicants who identified a particularized safety concern or other unique reason (or “cause”) for wanting to carry deadly weapons in public spaces that differentiated them from the general public. However, in 2023, California updated its CCW licensing laws after the US Supreme Court’s June 23, 2022 decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association (“NYSRPA”) v. Bruen invalidated these specific aspects.
Now, under California law, local law enforcement officials shall issue CCW licenses upon determining that the applicant:
(1) Is not a disqualified person (see below);
(2) Is at least 21 years of age, and presents clear evidence of their identity and age;
(3) Has completed a firearms safety course (see below);
(4) Is the recorded owner, with the California Department of Justice, of the firearm for which the license will be issued; and
(5) Meets relevant residency requirements.2
If, on an initial application, the licensing authority requires psychological testing for the license applicant, the applicant must be referred to a licensed psychologist used by the licensing authority for the psychological testing of its own employees.3
Applicants for CCW licenses in California may generally apply to either the local police department in the city where they reside or to the sheriff’s department in the county where they reside.4 (A local police department and the sheriff of the county in which the city is located may also enter into an agreement to delegate review of all CCW applications within the city to one of the two law enforcement agencies.) 5 A person who spends “a substantial period of time” in their principal place of employment or business in a county other than their county of residence may also apply for a CCW license from the sheriff of the county where their place of employment or business is located.6 A CCW license generally lasts two years and is generally valid throughout the state; however, a license issued based on the applicant’s place of employment or business may be valid no longer than 90 days and only in the county where it was issued.7
The local CCW licensing authority must give written notice to the applicant indicating that the application has been approved or denied within 120 days of the initial application for a new license or a license renewal, or 30 days after receipt of the applicant’s criminal background check from the California Department of Justice, whichever is later. If the license is denied, the notice must state which requirement was not satisfied.8
The local CCW licensing authority may include any reasonable restrictions or conditions which the issuing authority deems warranted, including restrictions as to the time, place, manner, and circumstances under which the CCW license holder is authorized to carry a firearm concealed in public.9 Any such restrictions must be indicated on the license itself.10 However, no licensing authority may require an applicant to obtain liability insurance or pay any additional fees not otherwise authorized by law as a condition of the application for a license.11 In 2023, California passed a law prohibiting a CCW licensee from doing any of the following while carrying a firearm as authorized by their license:
(1) Consuming an alcoholic beverage or controlled substance;
(2) Going to a bar;
(3) Being under the influence of any alcoholic beverage, medication, or controlled substance;
(4) Carrying a firearm not listed on their license or a firearm for which they are not the recorded owner;
(5) Falsely representing that they are a peace officer;
(6) Engaging in an unjustified display of a deadly weapon;
(7) Failing to carry their CCW license on their person;
(8) Impeding a police officer in their duties;
(9) Refusing to display their license or to provide the firearm to a peace officer upon demand, for purposes of inspecting the firearm.
(10) Violating any federal, state, or local criminal law.12
Every CCW license must specify the particular firearm the person is authorized to carry, giving the name of the manufacturer, the serial number, and the caliber, as well as the licensee’s name, driver’s license or identification number, Criminal Identification and Information number, occupation, residence and business address, the licensee’s date of birth, height, weight, color of eyes and hair, and indicate the type of license issued, including license issuance and expiration date, and shall contain the licensee’s fingerprints, a picture of the licensee.13
The city or county that has issued a CCW license must revoke the license if, at any time, either the city or county is notified by the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) or determines that a license holder is legally prohibited from possessing firearms or that the licensee has become a disqualified person.14 If DOJ determines that a licensee is prohibited from possessing firearms, DOJ must immediately notify the city or county,15 and the licensee must be immediately notified in writing that their license was revoked.16
An applicant for a CCW license shall be deemed a “disqualified person” and cannot receive or renew a license if they:
(1) Are reasonably likely to be a danger to themself, others, or the community at large, as demonstrated by anything in their license application or through investigation by the local CCW licensing authority;
(2) Have been convicted of contempt of court;
(3) Have been subject to any restraining order, protective order, or certain other court orders within the previous five years;
(4) Have been convicted of a civil rights or hate crime offense, or misdemeanor that would make the applicant ineligible to possess a firearm, within the previous ten years;
(5) Have engaged in an unlawful or reckless use, display, or brandishing of a firearm;
(6) Have been charged with a serious felony, a misdemeanor sex offense, or misdemeanor that would make the applicant ineligible to possess a firearm, that was dismissed pursuant to a plea, within the previously ten years;
(7) Have been committed to or incarcerated in county jail or state prison for, or on probation, parole or post-release community supervision, or mandatory supervision as a result of, a controlled substances offense;
(8) Are currently abusing controlled substances;
(9) Have experienced the loss or theft of multiple firearms due to their lack of compliance with federal, state, or local law regarding storing, transporting, or securing the firearms; or
(10) Failed to report a loss of a firearm as required by federal, state, or local law;
The local CCW licensing authority is required to conduct an investigation to determine whether an applicant is a “disqualified person.” This investigation must include, for new applications, an in-person interview with the applicant and interviews with at least three character references.17 One reference must be the applicant’s cohabitant, if they have one.18 For all applications, the licensing authority must review publicly available information about the applicant, all information provided in the application, information provided by California DOJ as to whether the applicant is prohibited by state or federal law from possessing firearms, and information in the California Restraining and Protective Order System.19
CCW Safety Training
New CCW license applicants are required to complete a training course approved by the local licensing authority, which must provide at least 16 hours of instruction on firearm handling, shooting technique, and relevant gun safety laws; a demonstration by the applicant of shooting proficiency and safe handling of each firearm the applicant will be licensed to carry; and live-fire exercises conducted on a firing range.20 (Alternatively, the licensing authority may require a community college course certified by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, up to a maximum of 24 hours, but only if required uniformly of all license applicants without exception).21
CCW Duration and Renewal
Subject to limited exceptions, a California CCW license is valid for up to two years from the date of issuance or renewal.22 License renewal applicants must fulfill most of the same requirements for the original issuance of the license.23 However, renewal applicants may fulfill the safety training course requirements through any course of training approved by the city or county that is at least eight hours long and that provides instruction on firearm handling, shooting technique, and relevant gun safety laws; a demonstration by the applicant of shooting proficiency and safe handling of each firearm the applicant will be licensed to carry; and live-fire exercises conducted on a firing range.24 The city or county issuing the license may require additional psychological testing of a renewal applicant only if there is compelling evidence to indicate that a test is necessary.25 The city or county may not require the applicant to provide additional information other than that necessary to complete the original application or to clarify information provided in the original application.26
Disclosure and Use of CCW Information
Cities and counties in California must maintain certain records regarding CCW applications and licenses and forward this information to the DOJ.27 The application and record of a CCW license are public documents unless they contain information by which the county sheriff or municipal police chief can demonstrate that the public interest served by not making such records public clearly outweighs the public interest in their disclosure.28 Nevertheless, certain information contained in the applications for CCW licenses and the records of CCW applicants may not be disclosed to the public.29
Reciprocity of Other States’ CCW Licenses
California does not recognize CCW licenses issued by other states. People who have obtained CCW licenses from other states generally may not carry concealed firearms in public in California.
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- Cal. Penal Code §§ 25400(a), 25655. Firearms carried openly in belt holsters are not considered “concealed” within the meaning of this section. Cal. Penal Code § 25400(b). An exception exists for a person to carry a loaded, concealed firearm in public without a permit if the person reasonably believes that they are in grave danger because of circumstances forming the basis of a current restraining order issued by a court, if the court that issued the restraining order found that the respondent poses a threat to the person’s life or safety. Cal. Penal Code § 25600(a).
A person may also carry a concealed firearm in a locked container to or from a motor vehicle. Cal. Penal Code § 25610(a)(2). For additional exceptions, see Cal. Penal Code §§ 25505-25655.
Restrictions on carrying concealed firearms in public also do not apply to peace officers, whether active or honorably retired. Cal. Penal Code § 25450.
- Cal. Penal Code §§ 26150, 26155. Additional concealed weapons license application and background check requirements, as well as license denial, suspension or disqualification standards, are detailed under Cal. Penal Code §§ 26150-26225.
- Cal. Penal Code § 26190(f). The applicant may be charged for the actual cost of the testing, not to exceed $150, and, if additional psychological testing is required, that cost to the applicant cannot exceed $150. Id.
- Cal. Penal Code §§ 26150, 26155.
- Cal. Penal Code § 26155(c).
- Cal. Penal Code § 26150(a)(3). A city or county may be considered an applicant’s “principal place of employment or business” only if the applicant is physically present in the jurisdiction during a substantial part of their working hours for purposes of that employment or business. Cal. Penal Code § 17020.
- Cal. Penal Code § 26220.
- Cal. Penal Code § 26205.
- Cal. Penal Code § 26200.
- Cal. Penal Code § 26200.
- Cal. Penal Code § 26190(g).
- Cal Penal Code § 26200(a).
- Cal. Penal Code § 26175(i). Licensees may apply to amend their licenses to include authority to carry additional specified firearms or to alter the conditions or restrictions of the license. Cal. Penal Code § 26215(a).
- Cal. Penal Code § 26195(b)(1).
- Cal. Penal Code § 26195(b)(2).
- Cal. Penal Code § 26195(b)(3).
- Cal. Penal Code § 26202(b).
- Cal. Penal Code § 26165(a).
- Cal. Penal Code § 26165(c).
- Cal. Penal Code § 26220(a). An amendment to a license does not extend the original expiration date of the license, and an application to amend a license does not constitute an application for renewal. Cal. Penal Code § 26215(c), (d).
- Cal. Penal Code § 26175.
- Cal. Penal Code § 26165(d).
- Cal. Penal Code § 26190(f).
- Cal. Penal Code § 26175(g).
- Cal. Penal Code § 26225.
- Cal. Govt. Code § 6255.
- Such information includes:
- Records of state summary criminal information contained in CCW license records of a sheriff or municipal police department;
- Records of the sheriff’s investigation of the qualification and fitness of a CCW applicant, Cal. Govt. Code § 6254(f);
- Information contained in CCW applications by the sheriff of a county or a municipal police chief indicating when or where the applicant is vulnerable to attack, or concerning the applicant’s medical or psychological history or that of members of their family, Cal. Govt. Code § 6254(u)(1);
- The home address and telephone number of prosecutors, public defenders, peace officers, judges, court commissioners, and magistrates, Cal. Govt. Code § 6254(u)(2)-(3).