Firearm Safety Certificate (2024)

You must pass a test on gun safety prior to purchasing a gun and complete a safe handling demonstration to show the dealer you know what you're doing prior to taking the gun home. California states it does not require any purchase permits, but the safety certificate is ade facto​ permit.
The certificate and test is most often completed on-site at the gun store.

Firearm Safety Certificate—FSC (formerly handgun safety certificate)

Firearm Safety Certificate (1)

31615 requires a Firearm Safety Certificate (FSC) to purchase or receive any firearm and it is illegal to sell or transfer a firearm to any person who does not have a valid firearm safety certificate. Previously to 2015, the FSC was called a Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC) and only applied to handgun purchases. The FSC is valid for five years.

The Basic Firearm Safety Certificate (BFSC), a lifetime certificate, to purchase handguns have been superseded by the HSC and then the FSC. BFSC are no longer valid and a FSC is required.

Military veterans (honorable discharges) no longer qualify for an exemption by showing a DD 214

; retirees and active members are in a different group.

Per 26860(g), an individual who is exempt from needing a FSC is also exempt from performing the safe handling demonstration.

Handgun safety certificates should be expired at this point in time. The last one should have expired on December 31, 2019 as FSCs were issued beginning January 1, 2015.

The only minimum requirement is that the applicant be 18 years old and have a valid California Driver License or Identification card. This likely will not be accepted if it states “Federal Limits Apply.”

Note: Military spouses do not qualify for the military exemption.

Firearm Safety Certificate (2)

Fees
A new Firearm Safety Certificate costs $25; $15 for the certificate and $10 to take the test. A replacement certificate is $5 (31650). You pay regardless of a pass or fail.

​Test contents

31640. (c) The test shall cover, but not be limited to, all of the following:
(1) The laws applicable to carrying and handling firearms, particularly handguns.
(2) The responsibilities of ownership of firearms, particularly handguns.
(3) Current law as it relates to the private sale and transfer of firearms.
(4) Current law as it relates to the permissible use of lethal force.
(5) What constitutes safe firearm storage.
(6) Issues associated with bringing a firearm into the home, including suicide.
(7) Prevention strategies to address issues associated with bringing firearms into the home.

Firearm Safety Certificate (3)

​You must pass the 30-question test with a score of at least 75% (23 correct answers) and will immediately receive the certificate. If you fail the test, you have to wait 24 hours to re-take it (31645).

No cheating
People can’t help each other cheat, see 27550. No, the gun store can’t give the answers. If you can’t spend an hour studying the test, you shouldn’t be owning a gun. The test is pretty easy and the questions are mostly common sense that even someone totally unfamiliar with firearms can learn in an evening with access to the Internet and YouTube, let alone the study materials. You can’t counterfeit, alter, or falsify the card 31260.

Certificate details
​The certificate contains the following information (31655):

  1. A unique firearm safety certificate identification number.
  2. The holder’s full name.
  3. The holder’s date of birth.
  4. The holder’s driver’s license or identification number.
  5. The holder’s signature.
  6. The signature of the issuing instructor.
  7. The date of issuance.
  8. The firearm safety certificate shall expire five years after the date that it was issued by the certified instructor.

​Firearm/handgun safety certificate required

26840. (a) A dealer shall not deliver a firearm unless the person receiving the firearm presents to the dealer a valid firearm safety certificate, or, in the case of a handgun, an unexpired handgun safety certificate. The firearms dealer shall retain a photocopy of the firearm safety certificate as proof of compliance with this requirement.

31615. (a) A person shall not do either of the following:
(1) Purchase or receive any firearm, except an antique firearm, without a valid firearm safety certificate, except that in the case of a handgun, an unexpired handgun safety certificate may be used.
(2) Sell, deliver, loan, or transfer any firearm, except an antique firearm, to any person who does not have a valid firearm safety certificate, except that in the case of a handgun, an unexpired handgun safety certificate may be used.

Where/when/how do I get this firearms safety certificate?
Usually you can take the test at the gun store the same day.

When is a firearms safety certificate not required?

31700. (a) The following persons, properly identified, are exempted from the firearm safety certificate requirement in subdivision (a) of Section 31615: [omissions made]
(1) Any active or honorably retired peace officer [...].
(2) Any active or honorably retired federal officer or law enforcement agent.
(4) Any person who has successfully completed the course of training specified in Section 832.
(7) Except as provided in subdivision (d), a person to whom a firearm is being returned, where the person receiving the firearm is the owner of the firearm.
(9) Any individual who has a valid concealed weapons permit issued [...].
(10) An active or honorably retired member of the United States Armed Forces, the National Guard, the Air National Guard, or the active reserve components of the United States, where individuals in those organizations are properly identified. For purposes of this section, proper identification includes the Armed Forces Identification Card or other written documentation certifying that the individual is an active or honorably retired member.
(11) Any person who is authorized to carry loaded firearms pursuant to Section 26025 or 26030 [security guards].
(c) A person, validly identified, who has been issued a valid hunting license that is unexpired or that was issued for the hunting season immediately preceding the calendar year in which the person takes title or possession of a firearm is exempt from the firearm safety certificate requirement in subdivision (a) of Section 31615, except as to handguns.
(e) The firearm safety certificate requirement in subdivision (a) of Section 31615 shall not apply to a person taking possession of a firearm pursuant to Section 27882 or 27883.

Note: Military veterans (honorable discharges) no longer qualify for an exemption by showing a DD 214; retirees and active members are in a different group. Hunting licenses do not apply to handgun purchases.

Do I keep my Firearm Safety Certificate?
Yes. If you don’t keep it you will have to re-take the test and pay the fee again. The certificate is valid for five years.

Hey, wait a second. The Firearm Safety Certificate is a de facto firearm purchase permit.
Yes, yes it is. While nothing explicitly requires a permit to buy a gun, and purchase permits are in fact illegal per (25605(b)) No permit or license to purchase…shall be required of any citizen…), it is illegal to purchase a firearm without an FSC, making it a de facto purchase permit. Its ostensible purpose is to ensure you understand basic gun safety, but despite any good intentions behind it, it acts as an infringement on the right to own a gun.

Safe handling demonstration requirement

Semi-auto pistol safe handling demonstration

26853. To comply with Section 26850, a safe handling demonstration for a semiautomatic pistol shall include all of the following steps:
(a) Remove the magazine.
(b) Lock the slide back. If the model of firearm does not allow the slide to be locked back, pull the slide back, visually and physically check the chamber to ensure that it is clear.
(c) Visually and physically inspect the chamber, to ensure that the handgun is unloaded.
(d) Remove the firearm safety device, if applicable. If the firearm safety device prevents any of the previous steps, remove the firearm safety device during the appropriate step.
(e) Load one bright orange, red, or other readily identifiable dummy round into the magazine. If no readily identifiable dummy round is available, an empty cartridge casing with an empty primer pocket may be used.
(f) Insert the magazine into the magazine well of the firearm.
(g) Manipulate the slide release or pull back and release the slide.
(h) Remove the magazine.
(i) Visually inspect the chamber to reveal that a round can be chambered with the magazine removed.
(j) Lock the slide back to eject the bright orange, red, or other readily identifiable dummy round. If the handgun is of a model that does not allow the slide to be locked back, pull the slide back and physically check the chamber to ensure that the chamber is clear. If no readily identifiable dummy round is available, an empty cartridge casing with an empty primer pocket may be used.
(k) Apply the safety, if applicable.
(l) Apply the firearm safety device, if applicable. This requirement shall not apply to an Olympic competition pistol if no firearm safety device, other than a cable lock that the department has determined would damage the barrel of the pistol, has been approved for the pistol, and the pistol is either listed in subdivision (b) of Section 32105 or is subject to subdivision (c) of Section 32105.

​Double-action revolver safe handling demonstration

26856. To comply with Section 26850, a safe handling demonstration for a double-action revolver shall include all of the following steps:
(a) Open the cylinder.
(b) Visually and physically inspect each chamber, to ensure that the revolver is unloaded.
(c) Remove the firearm safety device. If the firearm safety device prevents any of the previous steps, remove the firearm safety device during the appropriate step.
(d) While maintaining muzzle awareness and trigger discipline, load one bright orange, red, or other readily identifiable dummy round into a chamber of the cylinder and rotate the cylinder so that the round is in the next-to-fire position. If no readily identifiable dummy round is available, an empty cartridge casing with an empty primer pocket may be used.
(e) Close the cylinder.
(f) Open the cylinder and eject the round.
(g) Visually and physically inspect each chamber to ensure that the revolver is unloaded.
(h) Apply the firearm safety device, if applicable. This requirement shall not apply to an Olympic competition pistol if no firearm safety device, other than a cable lock that the department has determined would damage the barrel of the pistol, has been approved for the pistol, and the pistol is either listed in subdivision (b) of Section 32105 or is subject to subdivision (c) of Section 32105.

​Single-action revolver safe handling demonstration

26859. To comply with Section 26850, a safe handling demonstration for a single-action revolver shall include all of the following steps:
(a) Open the loading gate.
(b) Visually and physically inspect each chamber, to ensure that the revolver is unloaded.
(c) Remove the firearm safety device required to be sold with the handgun. If the firearm safety device prevents any of the previous steps, remove the firearm safety device during the appropriate step.
(d) Load one bright orange, red, or other readily identifiable dummy round into a chamber of the cylinder, close the loading gate and rotate the cylinder so that the round is in the next-to-fire position. If no readily identifiable dummy round is available, an empty cartridge casing with an empty primer pocket may be used.
(e) Open the loading gate and unload the revolver.
(f) Visually and physically inspect each chamber to ensure that the revolver is unloaded.
(g) Apply the firearm safety device, if applicable. This requirement shall not apply to an Olympic competition pistol if no firearm safety device, other than a cable lock that the department has determined would damage the barrel of the pistol, has been approved for the pistol, and the pistol is either listed in subdivision (b) of Section 32105 or is subject to subdivision (c) of Section 32105.

Long-gun safe handling demonstration

26860. (a) Except as authorized by the department, commencing January 1, 2015, a firearms dealer shall not deliver a long gun unless the recipient performs a safe handling demonstration with that long gun.
(b) The department shall, not later than January 1, 2015, adopt regulations establishing a long gun safe handling demonstration that shall include, at a minimum, loading and unloading the long gun.
(c) The firearms dealer shall sign and date an affidavit stating that the requirements of subdivision (a) and the regulations adopted pursuant to subdivision (b) have been met. The firearms dealer shall additionally obtain the signature of the long gun purchaser on the same affidavit. The firearms dealer shall retain the original affidavit as proof of compliance with this section.
(d) The recipient shall perform the safe handling demonstration for a department-certified instructor.
(e) A demonstration is not required if the dealer is returning the long gun to the owner of the long gun.
(f) Department-certified instructors who may administer the safe handling demonstration shall meet the requirements set forth in subdivision (b) of Section 31635.
(g) An individual who is exempt from the requirements of subdivision (a) of Section 31615, pursuant to Section 31700, is also exempt from performing the safe handling demonstration.

How do I learn this stuff without owning the gun or taking a course?
YouTube will more than likely have a video showing how to use the firearm (the various operations of a gun is technically known as the "manual of arms") or a gun that is very similar. Familiarization with similar firearms is often enough to gain a sufficient level of comfort to work out the particulars of a new weapon. Gun stores will gladly show you the ins and outs of a firearm you are looking to purchase to ensure you understand it.

Firearm Safety Certificate (2024)

FAQs

Firearm Safety Certificate? ›

Nope, no click-through quizzes or online exams will earn you that coveted FSC. In California, you gotta get your boots dusty and mosey on down to a licensed instructor for the official test.

Can I take a FSC test online? ›

Nope, no click-through quizzes or online exams will earn you that coveted FSC. In California, you gotta get your boots dusty and mosey on down to a licensed instructor for the official test.

What is a firearm safety certification? ›

The Firearm Safety Certificate (FSC) is a card that is required to purchase a handgun or long gun (rifle/shotgun) in California with some exceptions which are listed below. This is a self-study exam which must be proctored by a DOJ Certified Instructor. ​ The exam is 30 questions and a score of 70% must be obtained.

How much does the firearm safety test cost in California? ›

How much does the Firearm Safety Certificate cost? The fee for taking the FSC Test and obtaining an FSC is twenty-five dollars ($25). The $25 fee entitles you to take the test twice (from the same DOJ Certified Instructor) if necessary.

Where to get a FSC in California? ›

To obtain an FSC, a person must pass a Department of Justice (DOJ) written test on firearm safety. The test is administered by DOJ Certified Instructors, who are often located at firearms dealerships.

How many times can you fail the FSC test? ›

The $25 fee entitles you to take the test twice if necessary. If you fail the test the first time, after 24 hours have elapsed you may retake another version of the test from the same DOJ Certified Instructor without any additional fee.

Does a firearm safety certificate expire? ›

Existing law requires an applicant to pass the written test to obtain or renew a firearm safety certificate. Existing law authorizes a fee of $25 to obtain or renew a firearm safety certificate. Existing law provides that a firearm safety certificate shall expire 5 years after the date of issuance.

How long is a gun safety course certificate good for in Florida? ›

Your certificate DOES NOT expire EVER.

Can you take the firearms safety course online in California? ›

Welcome to your state-mandated 8-hour CCW initial class. A renewal course will be required every two years to renew your California CCW, once your initial permit is in-hand. Completion of this online course and your live-fire qualification will enable you to apply for your California CCW.

How long does it take to get a firearm permit in CA? ›

The application process takes approximately six months to complete.

Is it hard to get a gun Licence in California? ›

To obtain an FSC, an applicant must be at least 18 years old and successfully pass an objective, written test with a passing grade of at least 75 percent. The test must be administered by a California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) -certified instructor.

Is FSC certification worth it? ›

"Buying FSC-certified outdoor furniture helps support sustainable forest management, which reduces the emission of greenhouse gases and protects wildlife habitat,” the WWF maintains.

How long is the California gun safety test? ›

​You must pass the 30-question test with a score of at least 75% (23 correct answers) and will immediately receive the certificate. If you fail the test, you have to wait 24 hours to re-take it (31645). People can't help each other cheat, see 27550. No, the gun store can't give the answers.

What is 100% FSC certified? ›

FSC 100% All the materials used in products bearing this label are sourced from forests that have been audited by an independent third party to confirm they are managed according to FSC's rigorous social and environmental standards.

Do I need a FSC if I have a CCW? ›

CCW license holders are exempt from the FSC requirement, as are active or honorably retired peace officers. The firearms dealer processing the transfer of the firearm must retain photocopies of the purchaser's FSC for compliance purposes. Once issued, a FSC is valid for five years.

What happens if you fail a background check for a gun in California? ›

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.

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