State Background Checks for Guns

Background Checks in Illinois

Posted on Thursday, October 9th, 2014

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

Illinois is a point of contact state for the NICS.1 Federally licensed firearms dealers must contact the Illinois Department of State Police (“DSP”) for a background check before transferring any firearm.2 The DSP searches its criminal history record information files, the FBI and NICS databases, and the files of the Department of Human Services relating to mental health and developmental disabilities to verify that prospective purchasers are not prohibited from possessing a firearm.3 The DSP must approve the transfer or inform the dealer of the applicant’s ineligibility within the waiting periods set forth by state law, which are 24 hours for long guns and 72 hours for handguns.4

Illinois requires DSP to report to local law enforcement the name and address of a person attempting to purchase a firearm who is disqualified from doing so.5

Except at gun shows (see the Gun Shows in Illinois section for more information on background check requirements at gun shows), private firearms sellers (i.e., persons who are not federally licensed) are not required to conduct background checks in Illinois, but all sellers must be presented with a prospective purchaser’s Firearm Owner’s Identification card.6 Federal and state purchaser prohibitions also apply to private firearms transfers. See the Private Sales in Illinois section for more information on private sellers.

See our Private Sales policy summary for more on this issue.

  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map. []
  2. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1. []
  3. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1. []
  4. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1; 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-3(A)(g). []
  5. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.3. []
  6. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(a). []

Background Checks in Massachusetts

Posted on Friday, October 3rd, 2014

See our Background Checks Policy Summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

** Please note: Some of the laws referenced on this page were enacted in 2014 and are not yet in effect. Please check the law directly to determine its effective date.

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

Massachusetts is not a point of contact state for the NICS. As a result, in Massachusetts, firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.1 A state administrative regulation confirms this requirement.2

Massachusetts also requires firearms owners to obtain a state license prior to purchase of a firearm, and the applicant for a license must undergo a background check before the license is issued. For more information about these licenses, see Licensing of Gun Owners or Purchasers below. Massachusetts requires firearms dealers to verify the validity of a potential transferee’s license prior to transferring a firearm.3 For licenses issued via the Massachusetts Instant Record Check System (MIRCS), the dealer must electronically submit:

  • The transferee’s license number;
  • The licensing authority that issued the license;
  • The type of firearm being purchased; and
  • Whether or not the firearm is a large capacity weapon.4

The dealer must then verify the transferee’s identity and validity of his or her license by scanning the fingerprint or entering the personal identification number contained on the license.5 If the license presented is expired, suspended or revoked, the dealer must notify the licensing authority and may take possession of it (in the latter case, the dealer must provide the holder with a receipt for the FID, permit or license, notify the holder of the need to renew the FID, permit or license, and forward it to the licensing authority).6

Massachusetts does not allow private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to sell more than four guns a year.7. Although Massachusetts does not explicitly require private sellers to conduct a background check of prospective purchasers, in 2014, Massachusetts enacted a law requiring the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services to develop a web portal through which private sellers of firearms can conduct a real-time check of the validity of the purchaser’s Firearm Identification Card and other necessary licenses.8

For more information about Massachusetts licensing of gun owners and laws governing private sales, see Licensing of Gun Owners & Purchasers in Massachusetts and Private Sales.

 

  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map. []
  2. 803 Mass. Code Regs. 10.06(1)(e)(directing a gun dealer to contact the “national instant check system”). []
  3. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 123 (Thirteenth). []
  4. 803 Mass. Code Regs. 10.06(1)(a). []
  5. 803 Mass. Code Regs. 10.04, 10.06(1)(c). []
  6. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 123 (Thirteenth). []
  7. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 128A []
  8. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 128A. []

Background Checks in Delaware

Posted on Friday, October 3rd, 2014

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on a prospective purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

Delaware is not a point of contact state for firearm purchaser background checks. In Delaware, all firearms transfers by licensed dealers are processed directly through the FBI, which enforces the federal purchaser prohibitions referenced above.1 Delaware law provides that a licensed firearms dealer may not sell, transfer or deliver any firearm to another unlicensed person until the dealer has conducted a background check.2 Delaware requires unlicensed sellers to request a licensed dealer to facilitate a firearms transaction, including conducting a background check, prior to transferring a firearm to another unlicensed person.3

Delaware also requires the following agencies or entities to submit to the NICS system clinical mental health and other information to comply with federal laws relating to the purchase or transfer of firearms:

  • The Delaware Psychiatric Center and any other hospital as defined in Del. Code Ann. tit. 16, § 5001(4). Such information shall include only names and other nonclinical identifying information of persons so committed;4
  • Hospitals and residential centers;5
  • Institutions to which individuals are committed for criminal convictions, declarations of not guilty by reason of mental illness, or declarations of incompetency to stand trial for criminal offenses, or for involuntarily commitments for mental illness;6 and
  • The Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families.7
  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map (last visited Oct. 3, 2014). []
  2. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 1448A(a), (g). []
  3. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 1448B(a). []
  4. Del. Code Ann. tit. 16, § 5161(b)(14). []
  5. Del. Code Ann. tit. 16, § 5161(b)(13)(g). []
  6. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 8509 []
  7. Del. Code Ann. tit. 29, § 9017(c). []

Background Checks in New Jersey

Posted on Monday, September 29th, 2014

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

New Jersey is characterized as a full point-of-contact state for NICS. The New Jersey State Police (NJSP) serves as state points of contact for implementation of the Brady Act.1

In addition to the background check requirement at the point of sale, all firearm purchasers must have either: 1) a permit to purchase a handgun, allowing the purchase of one handgun per permit;2 or 2) a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card (FPIC), allowing unlimited rifle and shotgun purchases.3

Applications to obtain a permit to purchase a handgun or FPIC must be processed through NJSP or local law enforcement, which in turn use NICS and other state and local records to verify that prospective purchasers are not prohibited from possessing a firearm prior to the issuance of a permit to purchase or FPIC. For more detail on the permit to purchase and FPIC requirements, see the New Jersey Licensing of Gun Owners or Purchasers section.

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

 

  1. N.J. Admin. Code §§ 13:54-3.12, 13:54-3.13(a)(6). Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map (last visited Sept. 5, 2011). []
  2. N.J. Admin. Code § 13:54-1.9(a). []
  3. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:58-3a, 3b, 3f; N.J. Admin. Code § 13:54-1.9(b). []

Background Checks in Florida

Posted on Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

Florida is a point of contact state for the NICS. As a result, firearms dealers in Florida must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).1 More specifically, Florida law prohibits a licensed dealer from selling or delivering a firearm from his or her inventory at his or her licensed premises to anyone except a licensed dealer, importer, or manufacturer, without:

  • Obtaining a completed form from the buyer or transferee, and inspecting proper photographic identification;
  • Calling the FDLE and requesting a check of “the information as reported and reflected in the Florida Crime Information Center and National Crime Information Center systems as of the date of the request;” and
  • Receiving a unique approval number from FDLE and recording that number and the date on the form.2

Upon receiving a request for a background check, the FDLE is required to review any available records to determine if the buyer or transferee is prohibited from purchasing a firearm because he or she has been:

  • Convicted of a felony;
  • Convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; or
  • “Adjudicated mentally defective” or “committed to a mental institution” by a court.3

Florida law provides definitions of the terms “adjudicated mentally defective” and “committed to a mental institution.” Most individuals in these categories are prohibited by federal law from possessing or purchasing firearms.4 Persons involuntarily committed for outpatient treatment are included within the definition of “committed to a mental institution.”5

In 2013, Florida enacted a law that includes a person taken into custody involuntarily for a mental health evaluation and subsequently voluntarily admitted to a mental institution for outpatient or inpatient treatment in the definition of  “committed to a mental institution” if:  (1) an examining physician has determined that the person poses an imminent danger to himself, herself, or others and has certified that he or she would have filed a petition for involuntary commitment if the person had not agreed to voluntary treatment; (2) the person has been given notice and an opportunity to contest this certification; and (3) a court has reviewed this certification and ordered the person’s record to be submitted.6

For information about the restoration of firearm eligibility for persons previously adjudicated mentally defective or committed to a mental institution, please see the Florida Mental Health Reporting section.

In addition, the FDLE must review available records to determine if the buyer or transferee has had adjudication of guilt withheld or imposition of sentence suspended on any felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence unless three years have elapsed since probation or any other conditions set by the court have been fulfilled or expunction has occurred.7 If any of these disqualifying conditions exist, the FDLE must inform the dealer that the buyer or transferee is prohibited from purchasing a firearm and must provide the licensee a nonapproval number.8

The FDLE must also review available records and issue a conditional nonapproval number if the buyer or transferee:

  • Has been indicted or has had an information filed against her or him for a felony;
  • Is subject to a domestic violence protective order, or an injunction against repeat violence; or
  • Has been arrested for one of 22 enumerated “dangerous crime[s]” or for criminal anarchy, extortion, certain explosives violations, certain controlled substances violations, resisting an officer with violence, certain weapons and firearms violations, treason, assisting self-murder, sabotage, stalking or aggravated stalking.9

The FDLE then has 24 “working hours” (3 business days) in which to determine the disposition of the indictment, information, or arrest and inform the dealer as to whether the potential buyer is prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm.10 Florida law requires the clerk of court to respond to an FDLE request for data on the disposition of the indictment, information, or arrest as soon as possible, but in no event later than 8 working hours.11 FDLE must continue its attempts to obtain the disposition information and may retain a record of all approval numbers granted without sufficient disposition information.12 If FDLE later obtains disposition information indicating that the person is prohibited from possessing a firearm, FDLE must revoke the conditional approval number and notify law enforcement.13 During the time that disposition of the indictment, information, or arrest is pending, the conditional nonapproval number remains in effect.14

Neither federal nor Florida law requires private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm.

See our Private Sales policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

In addition, Florida specifically exempts concealed weapons license holders from the state’s background check requirement.15 However, Florida concealed weapons license holders are not exempt from the federal background check requirement.16

  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map (last visited Feb. 29, 2012). []
  2. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(1). Under Fla. Stat. § 790.065(10), a licensed importer, manufacturer, or dealer is not required to comply with the background check requirements of Fla. Stat. § 790.065 in the event of unavailability of telephone service at the licensed premises, or failure of FDLE to comply with the requirements of Florida law pertaining to firearm purchaser background checks. []
  3. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2). []
  4. See Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4)(a), (b). []
  5. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4)(a). []
  6. See Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4)(b)(II). []
  7. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a). []
  8. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(b). []
  9. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(c)(1). []
  10. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(c)(2). []
  11. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(c)(3). []
  12. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(c)(7). []
  13. Id. []
  14. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(c)(8). []
  15. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(1)(b). []
  16. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, U.S. Department. of Justice, Brady Law: Permanent Brady Permit Chart (Aug. 26, 2011), at: http://www.atf.gov/firearms/brady-law/permit-chart.html. []

Background Checks in Alabama

Posted on Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

Alabama is not a point of contact state for the NICS. Alabama law simply reiterates the federal requirement that firearms dealers must initiate background checks through NICS prior to transferring firearms.1 As a result, in Alabama, firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.2 Alabama law also independently requires licensed handgun dealers to view a purchaser’s identification before transferring a handgun.3

Alabama does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. See the Alabama Private Sales section.

  1. Ala. Code § 41-9-649. []
  2. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map. []
  3. Ala. Code § 13A-11-79. []

Background Checks in Alaska

Posted on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

Alaska is not a point of contact state for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Alaska has no law requiring firearms dealers to initiate background checks prior to transferring a firearm. As a result, in Alaska, firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.1

Federal law does not require dealers to conduct a background check if a firearm purchaser presents a state permit to purchase or possess firearms that meets certain conditions.2 As a result, holders of concealed weapons permits marked NICS-Exempt in Alaska are exempt from the federal background check requirement.3 (Note, however, that people who have become prohibited from possessing firearms may continue to hold state permits to purchase or permit firearms if the state fails to remove these permits in a timely fashion.)

Alaska does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. See our Private Sales policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map. []
  2. Federal law exempts persons who have been issued state permits to purchase or possess firearms from background checks if those permits were issued: 1) within the previous five years in the state in which the transfer is to take place; and 2) after an authorized government official has conducted a background investigation, including a search of the NICS database, to verify that possession of a firearm would not be unlawful. 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(3), 27 C.F.R. § 478.102(d). []
  3. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, U.S. Department. of Justice, Brady Law: Permanent Brady Permit Chart (July 3, 2008), at: http://www.atf.gov/firearms/brady-law/permit-chart.html. []

Background Checks in Arizona

Posted on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

Arizona is not a point of contact state for the NICS. Arizona has no law requiring firearms dealers to initiate background checks prior to transferring a firearm. As a result, in Arizona firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.1

Federal law does not require dealers to conduct a background check if a firearm purchaser presents a state permit to purchase or possess firearms that meets certain conditions.2 As a result, concealed weapon permit holders in Arizona are exempt from the federal background check requirement when purchasing a handgun.3 (Note, however, that people who have become prohibited from possessing firearms may continue to hold state permits to purchase or permit firearms if the state fails to remove these permits in a timely fashion.)

Arizona does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. See Private Sales Policy Summary.

See our Background Checks Policy Summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map. []
  2. Federal law exempts persons who have been issued state permits to purchase or possess firearms from background checks if those permits were issued: 1) within the previous five years in the state in which the transfer is to take place; and 2) after an authorized government official has conducted a background investigation, including a search of the NICS database, to verify that possession of a firearm would not be unlawful. 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(3), 27 C.F.R. § 478.102(d). []
  3. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, U.S. Department. of Justice, Brady Law: Permanent Brady Permit Chart at: http://www.atf.gov/firearms/brady-law/permit-chart.html. []

Background Checks in Arkansas

Posted on Monday, January 2nd, 2012

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

Arkansas is not a point of contact state for the NICS. Arkansas has no law requiring firearms dealers to initiate background checks prior to transferring a firearm. As a result, in Arkansas, firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.1

Federal law does not require dealers to conduct a background check if a firearm purchaser presents a state permit to purchase or possess firearms that meets certain conditions.2 As a result, concealed weapon permit holders in Arkansas are exempt from the federal background check requirement when purchasing a handgun.3 (Note, however, that people who have become prohibited from possessing firearms may continue to hold state permits to purchase or permit firearms if the state fails to remove these permits in a timely fashion.)

Arkansas does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm.

See our Private Sales policy summary for more information.

  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map. []
  2. Federal law exempts persons who have been issued state permits to purchase or possess firearms from background checks if those permits were issued: 1) within the previous five years in the state in which the transfer is to take place; and 2) after an authorized government official has conducted a background investigation, including a search of the NICS database, to verify that possession of a firearm would not be unlawful. 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(3), 27 C.F.R. § 478.102(d). []
  3. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, U.S. Department. of Justice, Brady Law: Permanent Brady Permit Chart at: http://www.atf.gov/firearms/brady-law/permit-chart.html. []

Background Checks in California

Posted on Monday, January 2nd, 2012

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. This background check is intended to determine whether the purchaser falls into one of the categories of persons prohibited by law from purchasing or possessing firearms. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

California authorizes, but does not require, the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to act as a point of contact “to the extent that funding is available.”1 Since funding is available, California is a point of contact state for firearm purchaser background checks. Firearms dealers must therefore initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting DOJ.

California law requires any prospective purchaser of (or transferee or person being loaned) a firearm to submit an application to purchase the firearm (also known as a “Dealer Record of Sale” or “DROS” form) through a licensed dealer to DOJ. The dealer must submit firearm purchaser information to DOJ on the date of the application through electronic transfer, unless DOJ makes an exception allowing a different format.2 The purchaser must present “clear evidence” of his or her identity and age to the dealer (either a valid California driver’s license or a valid California identification card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles).3 Dealers must obtain the purchaser’s name, date of birth, and driver’s license or identification number electronically from the magnetic strip on the license or ID card.4 This information cannot be supplied by any other means except as authorized by DOJ.5

In addition to checking the federal NICS database, DOJ is required to examine its records, as well as those records that it is authorized to request from the State Department of Mental Health to determine whether the person is prohibited from possessing firearms.6 If the person is prohibited from possessing firearms, DOJ must notify the dealer and the local sheriff or chief of police.7 In addition to a mandatory ten-day waiting period, DOJ has the authority to place a firearm sale on hold until all background check information is received and the check is completed to DOJ’s satisfaction. Licensed dealers are prohibited from delivering a firearm to a purchaser or transferee if the dealer has been notified by DOJ that the person is prohibited from possessing firearms.8 If the person is prohibited from possessing firearms, the dealer must make available to the prohibited person a DOJ “Prohibited Notice and Transfer” form, stating that the person is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm and that the person may obtain from DOJ the reason for the prohibition.9

In addition, when a purchaser or transferee seeks to obtain a handgun, he or she must present documentation indicating California residency.10 Sufficient documentation includes a utility bill from within the last three months, a residential lease, a property deed, military permanent duty station orders indicating assignment within California, or other evidence of residency as permitted by DOJ.11

Note that holders of California entertainment firearms permits are exempt from the requirement of a background check, due to a loophole in federal law. For further information, see the Licensing of Gun Owners and Purchasers in California section below.

Voluntary background checks: Any person may request a voluntary determination, called a “firearms eligibility check,” from DOJ stating whether he or she is eligible to possess a firearm.12 With few exceptions, no person or agency may require or request another person to obtain a firearms eligibility check.13 DOJ is authorized to charge a fee of $20 for conducting each check.14

Firearms in police custody: Any person claiming title to any firearm in the custody or control of a court or law enforcement agency who wishes to have the firearm returned must undergo a background check to determine if he or she is eligible to possess a firearm.15 If an individual does not seek return of a firearm, or if he or she fails to pass the background check, the person must relinquish the firearm and, if the firearm is an otherwise legal firearm and the person otherwise has the right to title of the firearm, he or she may relinquish it by selling it or transferring title to a licensed dealer.16

Private sales: With limited exceptions, all firearms transfers must be conducted through a licensed dealer.17 For more information, see the Private Sales in California section below.

  1. Cal. Penal Code § 28220. []
  2. Cal. Penal Code § 28205. []
  3. Cal. Penal Code §§ 16400, 26815, 28215. Dealers are prohibited from transferring handguns to persons under age 21, or any other firearm to persons under the age of 18. See Cal. Penal Code § 27510. []
  4. Cal. Penal Code § 28180. []
  5. Id. []
  6. Cal. Penal Code § 28220. []
  7. Id. []
  8. Cal. Penal Code § 26815. []
  9. Cal. Penal Code § 26815. []
  10. Cal. Penal Code § 26845. []
  11. Id. []
  12. Cal. Penal Code § 30105. []
  13. Cal. Penal Code § 30105. []
  14. Cal. Penal Code § 30105. []
  15. Cal. Penal Code § 33850. []
  16. Cal. Penal Code §§ 33850, 33870(a). []
  17. See Cal. Penal Code § 27545 et seq. []