To purchase firearms or ammunition in the state of California, you must first pass an eligibility check. These checks make sure this is nothing in your background that would prohibit you from possessing firearms or ammunition.
For all eligibility checks, a copy of the applicant’s driver's license or identification card shall be submitted. If the applicant presents a California driver's license or identification card with the notation “FEDERAL LIMITS APPLY” on the front (see example below), the applicant shall also submit a copy of a document that proves their lawful presence in the United States, in the form of one of the following documents:
- Valid, unexpired U.S. passport or passport card
- Certified copy of U.S. birth certificate
- Certification of Birth Abroad (FS-545), Certification of Report of Birth (DS-1350) or Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America (FS-240), issued by the U.S. Department of State
- Valid, unexpired foreign passport with valid U.S. immigrant visa and approved Record of Arrival/Departure (I-94) form
- Certified copy of a birth certificate from a U.S. Territory
- Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. Citizenship
- Valid, unexpired Permanent Resident Card
For all eligibility checks, if the applicant’s California driver's license or identification card has the notation “FEDERAL LIMITS APPLY” on the front and the applicant’s name as it appears on the driver license or identification card differs from the name on the document supplied, the applicant shall also submit a copy of one of the following certified documents:
- An adoption document that contains the legal name of the applicant as a result of the adoption.
- A name change document that contains the applicant’s legal name both before and, as a result of the name change.
- A marriage certificate.
- A dissolution of marriage document that contains the legal name of the applicant as a result of the court action.
For the purchase of firearms there is one standard eligibility check referred to as a DROS (Dealer Record of Sale). This check is done at the time of purchase for a firearm and takes 10 days to come back.
To purchase a handgun or stripped receiver you must be at least 21 years old.
To purchase a long gun you must be at least 21 years old, or at least 18 years old and meet one of the following criteria:
- a. Possesses a valid, unexpired hunting license issued by the Department of Fish and Wildlife;
- b. Is an active peace officer, as described in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2 of the Penal Code, who is authorized to carry a firearm in the course and scope of his or her employment;
- c. Is an active federal officer or law enforcement agent who is authorized to carry a firearm in the course and scope of his or her employment;
- d. Is a reserve peace officer, as defined in Section 832.6 of the Penal Code, who is authorized to carry a firearm in the course and scope of his or her employment as a reserve peace officer; e. Provides proper identification of his or her active membership in the United States Armed Forces, the National Guard, the Air National Guard, or active reserve components of the United States; or f. Provides proper identification that he or she is an honorably discharged member of the United States Armed Forces, the National Guard, the Air National Guard, or active reserve components of the United States.
Effective July 1, 2019, persons seeking to purchase or transfer ammunition will have to undergo an eligibility check, and be approved by the Department, prior to the sale or transfer, except as otherwise specified. Departmental approval shall occur electronically through a licensed ammunition vendor. Pursuant to Penal Code sections 30352 and 30370, the Department will determine that a person is eligible to purchase or transfer ammunition if they meet one of the following requirements:
- The person has a current Certificate of Eligibility issued by the Department
- If a person falls under this category, there will be a $1 fee for the eligibility check with the results coming back within a couple minutes
- The person’s information matches an entry in the Automated Firearms System (name, date of birth, current address, and driver's license or other government identification) and does not fall within a class of persons who are prohibited from owning or possessing ammunition. The Department shall make this determination by cross-referencing the Prohibited Armed Persons file (also known as the Armed and Prohibited Persons System).
- If a person falls under this category, there will be a $1 fee for the eligibility check with the results coming back within a couple minutes. (If you have bought a firearm in CA within the last few years, chances are you fall under this category)
- If you do not fall under the previous 2 categories, the DOJ must perform a full scale eligibility check which costs $19 and can take up to 10 days to get the results.
Establishing a Record in the Automated Firearms System
The Automated Firearms System is a repository of firearm records maintained by the Department, as established by Penal Code section 11106. The Automated Firearms System is populated by way of firearm purchases or transfers at a California licensed firearm dealer, registration of assault weapons (during specified registration periods), an individual’s report of firearm ownership to the Department, Carry Concealed Weapons Permit records, or records entered by law enforcement agencies.
To establish an Automated Firearms System record, you may take one of the following actions:
- Record ownership of a firearm you possess, but were not previously required to report, by submitting a Firearm Ownership Report to the Department. If your last firearm purchase of a long gun was prior to January 1, 2014, there is a possibility that you may not have a record in the Automated Firearms System despite having purchased or transferred your firearm through a firearms dealer. The Department was statutorily prohibited from retaining information regarding sales of rifles or shotguns prior to January 1, 2014. As a result, records of rifles and shotguns in the Automated Firearms System prior to January 1, 2014, are limited to assault weapon registrations (Pen. Code, § 30500, et seq.), voluntary reports of ownership, and other records entered by the Department and California law enforcement agencies. You may submit the Firearm Ownership Report through the California Firearms Application Reporting System (CFARS). For more information regarding this process please visit the Firearms Reporting and Law Enforcement Gun Release Application page.
- Record ownership through a purchase or transfer of a firearm from a licensed firearm dealer in California.
Updating a Record in the Automated Firearm System
Effective July 1, 2019, persons with an outdated Automated Firearms System record will have the ability to update personal information (name, date of birth, Identification number/type, and current address) on their Automated Firearm System record via the CFARS. Please refer to the Department’s Automated Firearms System Personal Information Update page for more information regarding this process.
Check your court record
Federal law 18 and various California laws disqualify you from gun ownership if you have been convicted of the following crimes
- Any crime punishable by one year in prison or more
- Any violent offense (bans from misdemeanors may be temporary)
- Misdemeanors related to assault, intimidation, stalking, domestic violence, or firearms can lead to a temporary or permanent ban.
- Some court orders or probation conditions include a firearm ban.
Rule out other reasons for ineligibility
These situations prevent you from buying a firearm:
- Currently under a restraining order or protective order
- Currently a ward of the juvenile court due to certain offenses
- Mentally incompetent or mentally ill, according to a court
- Addicted to narcotics, or under conservatorship due to alcoholism
- Dishonorably discharged from the military
- Reported by a psychotherapist for threats against another person
Know the requirements for non-citizens and non-residents
If you are a Lawful Permanent Resident, you may purchase a gun if you bring a green card. If you have a non-immigrant visa, you need to meet stringent requirements:
- Must have been in the U.S. for at least 90 days
- Must have a hunting license issued in the U.S., or be an official of a foreign government
- Must bring a copy of the visa and I-94 card (or Alien Registration form)
- Must not have given up U.S. citizenship
Bring proof of residency if buying a handgun
If you pass the above tests, you can buy a rifle or shotgun. If you plan to buy a handgun, you also need to bring proof of California residency. This can be a utility bill, residential lease, property deed, or government-issued identification (in addition to the DMV card).
Request a Personal Firearms Eligibility Check if you're not sure
If you have a corner case and are not sure whether you're eligible, fill out this PFEC request form. You should get a response within 60 days telling you whether you're eligible to buy a firearm.
This costs $20, plus the cost of notarizing the document.
A PFEC is never required. The only reason to have it done is to avoid the hassle of purchasing a gun, then having it denied after the waiting period.
What is a Personal Firearms Eligibility Check?
Pursuant to California Penal Code section 30105, an individual may request that the Department of Justice perform a firearms eligibility check on that individual. Authorized state records shall be examined to determine if the individual is prohibited by state or federal law from possessing, receiving, owning, or purchasing a firearm.
What information is required for a Personal Firearms Eligibility Check (PFEC)?
You must submit a completed PFEC application, pdf, a copy of your California Driver’s License or Identification Card, and fees in the amount of $20. The application must be signed and notarized, and include an impression of your right thumbprint. If you are a non-U.S. citizen, you must also submit a copy of your Alien Registration or I-94 Card.
How much does the PFEC cost?
The fee for the PFEC is $20, payable to the Department of Justice by check or money order. DO NOT SEND CASH.
How do I find a Notary Public?
Many websites provide area searches for notaries public. Notaries public can also be found in the yellow pages of your local telephone directory.
How long will it take to get the results of my PFEC?
The results will be sent via U.S. Mail. The Department of Justice makes every effort to process requests for PFECs within 60 days of receipt.
What records are checked to determine the results of my PFEC?
The Department of Justice will review the relevant California state databases it is authorized to check.
Under what conditions is someone considered ineligible to possess and/or purchase firearms?
Any person who has been convicted of a felony, certain misdemeanors, certain firearms offenses, who is addicted to narcotics, who is the subject of a domestic violence restraining order, or has been committed to a mental institution pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 8100, may not possess or have under his or her control any firearm. See Prohibiting Categories, pdf. Certain federal statutes impose lifetime and other more restrictive prohibitions on firearm possession. Additionally, certain statutory conditions exist that allow for the possession of firearms but preclude the acquisition or purchase of additional firearms, such as the subjects of certain restraining orders and those under state or federal indictment.
Will the PFEC results include information about my criminal history?
No. The Firearms Eligibility Notice will indicate you are either:
1) eligible to both possess and purchase firearms as of the date the check was conducted;
2) ineligible to either possess or purchase firearms as of the date the check was conducted;
3) Eligible to possess, but ineligible to purchase firearms as of the date the check was conducted; or 4) as of the date the check was conducted a definitive firearms possession eligibility determination could not be made.
A determination cannot be made if, for instance, a person has a firearms-prohibiting arrest in his or her record, but there is not a corresponding disposition.
If I receive an eligible to possess response, what factors could change my status to ineligible?
Your status would change to ineligible to possess if you become lawfully prohibited from possessing firearms. See Prohibiting Categories, pdf.
The results of my PFEC indicated that I am eligible to possess firearms but not eligible to purchase firearms. What does that mean?
Certain statutory conditions exist that allow for the possession of firearms but preclude the acquisition or purchase of additional firearms, such as persons who are subjects of certain restraining orders and those under state or federal indictment. Therefore, persons falling into this category may retain possession of firearms they currently own, but may not apply to purchase additional firearms. Additionally, because a valid California Driver’s License or Identification Card is required to purchase a firearm, someone with a suspended or expired driver’s license is not prohibited from possessing firearms but is unable to purchase a firearm without a valid driver’s license or identification card.
I currently own firearms and want to know if I can purchase another firearm. If the results of my PFEC indicate I am eligible to possess, but ineligible to purchase firearms, can I keep the firearms I own?
Yes. If you are found to be eligible to possess but ineligible to purchase firearms, you may keep the firearms you currently own, but cannot purchase additional firearms as of the date of the check.
I currently own firearms and want to know if I can purchase another firearm. If the results of my PFEC indicate I am ineligible to either possess or purchase firearms, can I keep the firearms I own?
No. If you are found to be ineligible to either possess or purchase firearms as a result of the PFEC, you must relinquish any firearms you may have in your possession to a law enforcement agency or designate a power of attorney to take control and possession of them for you. Furthermore, firearms may not stay in the constructive possession of a prohibited person (e.g. you may not transfer possession to a person sharing the same household). The Power of Attorney, pdf form can be downloaded from this website.
The results of my PFEC indicate I am ineligible to either possess or purchase firearms and one of the firearms I own is a registered assault weapon. Can I transfer possession of the assault weapon to another person?
No. California law prohibits the transfer of registered assault weapons between 2 parties. You may either sell the assault weapon to a licensed firearms dealer who holds an assault weapon permit, or relinquish the assault weapon to your local law enforcement agency. Be sure to contact the agency prior to delivering the weapon.
The results of my PFEC indicated that a determination of my eligibility to possess firearms could not be made. What does that mean?
A determination cannot be made if, for instance, a person has a firearms-prohibiting arrest in his or her record, but there is not a corresponding disposition. If you disagree with the results of the PFEC, you may request a summary of your California criminal history record by completing the Request for Live Scan Service.pdf. It is important to understand that your criminal history record will not reveal certain firearms prohibition categories, such as mental health, restraining orders, wanted persons and applicable federal prohibitions.
I am not a U.S. citizen. Can I have a PFEC conducted?
Non-U.S. citizens that are in the country legally can have a PFEC conducted. You must include your Alien Registration or I-94 number on the PFEC application, and include a copy of your Alien Registration or I-94 card with your application package. A valid Alien Registration or I-94 card is required at the time of purchase of any firearm. Non-U.S. citizen applicants must also meet certain federal requirements to purchase a firearm, unrelated to the firearms eligibility background check.
Does the PFEC satisfy the requirement for a background check when I go to a firearms dealer to purchase a firearm?
No. Another background check and the 10-day waiting period will apply.
Is a temporary driver’s license or invalid license acceptable for the purpose of obtaining a PFEC?
A temporary or invalid driver’s license is acceptable for the purposes of conducting a PFEC. However, a valid California Driver’s License or Identification Card is required at the time of purchase of any firearm.
Can a prospective employer require me to obtain a PFEC as a condition of employment?
Penal Code section 12077.5(g) prohibits persons or agencies from requesting or requiring another person to have a PFEC conducted. However, effective January 1, 2004, California Licensed Firearms dealers are authorized to require their employees to possess a Certificate of Eligibility as evidence that the employee is not prohibited from possessing firearms. For more information on Certificates of Eligibility please refer to the dealer FAQs.
I submitted an application for a PFEC but forgot to enclose the fee. What should I do?
Incomplete application submissions will be returned to the applicant allowing the applicant to resubmit a complete package for processing.
What if I have a disability that prevents me from completing the application?
Applicants lacking the ability to complete the application may have assistance with the completion of the application. The application must be signed by the applicant. The notary public will certify the applicant is who is stated on the application.