How to Get a Concealed Weapons Permit (CCW) in California

Currently, in California, you may apply in person for a Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) license at the Sheriff’s Office in the county in which you reside. However, before you can apply for a CCW license, you need to finish a specific training course as instructed by your Sheriff’s Office. Also, in some countries you may be required to undergo a psychological test to determine the state of your moral character. You may then revisit the Sheriff’s Office to finish and turn in the CCW application. If you have a CCW license from another state, you’re required to apply for a new CCW license specifically for the state of California.

However, there may be some significant changes to the law in the near future as the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has recently reconsidered challenges to regulations in San Diego and Yolo Counties:

“SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court offered few clues Tuesday as to whether it plans to leave California’s strict concealed carry regulations intact, keeping their guns pretty much holstered during key arguments here in a closely watched gun rights legal showdown.

However, several members of a special 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals signaled that they are inclined to uphold the ability of counties to continue to place restrictions on gun owners to carry concealed weapons in public, despite objections that those rules may trample on Second Amendment rights.”

Source:

San Jose Mercury News

Oral Arguments – Consolidated Cases of Peruta v. County of San Diego and Richards v. County of Yolo  – 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Video recording of the oral arguments that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard on June 16, 2015 in the Peruda and Yolo cases:

Current Requirements:

California law currently allows Police Chiefs and County Sheriffs to issue a license to carry a concealed firearm if the following requirements are met [1] :

1. Upon proof that the person applying is of good moral character.

2. That good cause exists for the issuance.

3. The applicant is a resident of the county or city to which they are applying (or the applicant’s place of employment is within the city or county).

4. The applicant has completed a course of training (16-24 hours).

The Steps You Must Take to Get a CCW in California

Step 1 – Contact your county Sheriff’s Office.

This will allow you to receive more information about the training courses and other tests you’re required to take in your jurisdiction to receive the CCW license.

Visit the “California Counties” web page below to access website links for each county within the state of California:

http://www.counties.org/county-websites-profile-information

Scroll down until you have located your county, click on the website link for the county you’re interested in. Then search for and click on the link for “Sheriff” or “Sheriff’s Department” on that particular county’s website to find the contact information for the Sheriff’s office.

Call or email that county’s Sheriff’s Office to obtain information about required tests and training courses to receive the CCW license. You may also find the contact information for your county Sheriff’s Office in your local phone book, or you may simply go to the Sheriff’s Office in person.

Step 2 – Attend a training course.

The fees and length of the training course will vary depending on the requirements for your jurisdiction. After you’ve finished the training course, you will receive a completion certificate to present to the Sheriff’s Office. Most courses will not go beyond a total of 16 hours.

Step 3 – Attend the psychological test.

Some counties require you to take a psychological test to determine your moral character and judgment, and you may be asked to finish more than one test. If your county requires you to take a psychological test, you will also have to be for the testing fee.

Step 4 – Complete the CCW license application.

  • Complete the CCW license application. A copy of the California CCW can be obtained online; however, some sections of the form are required be filled out in person in front of a witness at the Sheriff’s Office. To view or print a copy of the CCW application online, click on the “Standard California CCW Application” link provided in the Sources section at the bottom of this page. [2]
  • Provide your personal information within Section 1. This will include your name, date of birth, place of birth, height, weight, eye color, and so on. Answer the clearance questions in Section 2 of the application. You will be asked to provide information about previous CCW licenses you may have held, your criminal and courtroom history, and past traffic violations.
  • Provide information in Section 3 about the weapons you plan to carry with the CCW license. If you are approved for the license, California will need to know the make, model, caliber, and serial number of each weapon you own.
  • Read the agreements, terms, and conditions in Sections 4, 5, and 6. The terms and will inform you of the guidelines you must follow if granted the license.
  • Provide more personal information in Section 7 of the application. The information required will include things like your drivers license number, address history, spousal information, employment information, and information about any past alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and domestic violence.
  • Explain the reason you want a CCW license. For instance, you may indicate that you need the CCW license for professional reasons, or you need a license to carry a weapon for personal protection.
  • Sign all sections of the application in front of a witness at the Sheriff’s Office. Your application will be processed and you will be notified by them if you have been approved for the license.

California is a “may issue” state for concealed carry.

A license to carry a concealed firearm may be issued or denied to qualified applicants at the discretion of a county’s sheriff or an incorporated city’s chief of police in their place of residence. In practice, the attitudes of different sheriffs and police chiefs toward the issuance of permits vary widely and, consequentially, different jurisdictions in California can vary anywhere from de facto shall-issue to de facto no-issue. A permit may be issued, by a county Sheriff or city Chief or head of municipal police, in one of two formats:

  1. A license to carry concealed a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.
  2. Where the population of the county is less than 200,000 persons according to the most recent federal decennial census, a license to carry loaded and exposed in that county a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.”

California doesn’t recognize any concealed carry permits issued by other states. With exceptions for nonresident Active Duty military members permanently stationed within California, state law generally restricts nonresidents from obtaining a California CCW permit.

Map of CCW "Good Cause" standards by county. Color coding represents a range of local policies, varying from virtual shall issue to virtual no issue.

Map of CCW “Good Cause” standards by county. Color coding represents a range of local policies, varying from virtual shall issue to virtual no issue. “California CCW Issuance Map” by Camshew – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:California_CCW_Issuance_Map.png#/media/File:California_CCW_Issuance_Map.png

California law provides that the Sheriff of a county may issue a license to carry a concealed weapon upon proof that the person applying is of “good moral character” and that “good cause” exists for the issuance. While it is believed to be difficult to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon (CCW) in California, the difficulty varies greatly by jurisdiction. In most rural counties, qualified applicants are usually successful in obtaining a license, while some jurisdictions, such as San Francisco, are very restrictive in what they perceive to be “good cause.” Some jurisdictions have established additional requirements the applicant must meet before the issuing authority grants a CCW permit. For example, some counties require applicants to obtain a mental health assessment as part of that permit application process.

Some argue that the California system for CCW issuance fosters systematic discrimination of applicants, as it has been publicized that numerous celebrities and government officials have been issued CCW licenses in cities and counties where the general public have been routinely denied. CCW issuance is also vert low in areas where the population has a high concentration of minorities and minority applicants are more frequently denied, causing some to allege institutional racism.

Carrying a concealed firearm without a permit is a serious misdemeanor with a minimum penalty of 90 days in jail. It may be prosecuted as a felony if any one of over a dozen specific circumstances exist, such as if the violator is a felon, involved in gang activity, or is caught carrying a firearm with an intent to commit a violent crime.

Sources:

1. California Penal Code Section 26150-26225:

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=pen&group=26001-27000&file=26150-26225

2. State of California Department of Justice Office of the Attorney General:

http://oag.ca.gov/firearms/pubfaqs

3. Standard California CCW Application:

https://www.sjpd.org/PDF_Forms/BOF_4012_CCWapplication_112012.pdf

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