See our Gun Shows policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
In 1999, California enacted the nation’s broadest legislation to increase oversight at gun shows. In California, all firearms transfers at gun shows must be processed through a licensed firearms dealer. Licensed dealers ordinarily are permitted to sell firearms only from their licensed premises; however, California law provides an exception for sales at California gun shows as long as they are not conducted from motorized or towed vehicles. A dealer operating at a gun show must still comply with all applicable laws, including California’s waiting period law, other California laws governing the transfer of firearms by dealers, and all local ordinances, regulations, and fees.
California requires a person who promotes, produces, sponsors, operates, or otherwise organizes a gun show (“producer”) to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) (requiring a background check), and requires the producer to, among other things:
• Certify that he or she is familiar with the California laws governing gun shows;
• Ensure that liability insurance is in effect for the duration of a gun show or event in a minimum amount of $1,000,000;
• Provide an annual list of the gun shows or events the applicant plans to produce, including the date, time, and location of the gun shows or events;
• Prior to the commencement of a gun show or event, and within 48 hours of a written request by a law enforcement agency, make available to local law enforcement a complete and accurate list of all persons, entities, and organizations leasing or renting a table, display space, or area at the gun show or event for the purpose of selling, leasing, or transferring firearms;
• Working with the facility manager, prepare an annual event and security plan and schedule to be submitted to DOJ and the local law enforcement agency. The event and security plan must include, among other things:
o The type of shows or events including, but not limited to, antique or general firearms;
o The estimated number of vendors offering firearms for sale or display, and the estimated number of attendees;
o The number of entrances and exits at the gun show or event site; and
o The number of sworn peace officers and non-sworn security personnel employed by the producer or the facilities manager who will be present at the show or event;
• Within seven calendar days of the gun show or event, submit a list of all prospective vendors and designated firearms transfer agents who are licensed firearms dealers to DOJ for the purpose of determining whether these prospective vendors and transfer agents are eligible to process firearms transactions at the show or event;
• Have written contracts with all gun show vendors selling firearms at the show or event;
• Post certain signs in a readily visible location at each public entrance to the show; and post, in a readily visible location at each entrance to the parking lot at the show, a sign that states, “The transfer of firearms on the parking lot of this facility is a crime”;
• Inform prospective gun show vendors of the requirements of California law that govern gun shows; and
• Pay an annual fee of $85.
Prior to a gun show, each vendor must provide to the gun show producer the names, driver’s license or state-issued identification card numbers, and dates of birth of the vendor, the vendor’s employees, and any other persons providing services to the public at the vendor’s display space. The producer must make the information available to law enforcement upon request.
California law also provides that gun show vendors may not display, possess, or offer for sale any black powder or prohibited firearms, or engage in any activities that incite or encourage hate crimes. Gun show vendors must verify that all firearms in their possession at the show will be unloaded, and that the firearms will be secured in a manner that prevents them from being operated, except for brief periods when the mechanical condition of a firearm is being demonstrated to a prospective buyer. Ammunition may be displayed only in closed original factory boxes or other closed containers, except when it is being shown to a prospective buyer.
No person at a gun show, other than security personnel or sworn peace officers, may possess at the same time both a firearm and ammunition that is designed to be used with the firearm. However, vendors having those items at the show for sale or exhibition are exempt from this prohibition. All persons possessing firearms at the gun show must have government-issued photo identification in his or her immediate possession and display it upon request to any security officer or any peace officer.
Handgun ammunition vendors must record information about purchasers of ammunition at gun shows, as elsewhere. See the Ammunition Regulation in California section.
Any member of the public who is under the age of 18 may not attend a gun show unless accompanied by his or her parent, grandparent, or legal guardian.
All firearms carried into a gun show by members of the public must be checked, cleared of any ammunition, secured in a manner that prevents them from being operated, and an identification tag must be attached to the firearm, prior to the person being allowed admittance to the show. The identification tag must state that all firearms transfers between private parties at the show must be conducted through a licensed dealer in accordance with applicable state and federal laws. Before the tag is attached to the firearm, the owner must print and sign his or her name and enter the number from his or her government-issued photo identification on the tag.
See the Private Sales in California section for additional state laws that apply at gun shows.