Can California Residents Buy Guns Out of State?

California has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States. This leads some gun owners to look across state lines for firearms purchases. But is it legal for Californians to buy guns in other states? In short, yes—but with limitations.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: California residents can legally purchase firearms out of state under certain conditions.

Now let’s explore the details. In this approximately 3000 word article, we’ll cover federal and California state laws on out-of-state gun purchases.

We’ll look at the types of guns allowed, the process for purchases, rules for transporting and registering guns, and exceptions like inherited or antique firearms. By the end, California gun owners will understand exactly how and when they can legally acquire guns across state lines.

Federal Laws

When it comes to buying guns out of state, California residents must adhere to federal laws that regulate the purchase and transportation of firearms. These laws are in place to ensure the safety and legality of firearm transactions across state lines.

Two important aspects of these laws are FFL transfers and transporting firearms across state lines.

FFL Transfers

FFL stands for Federal Firearms License, and it is required for anyone engaged in the business of selling firearms, including licensed dealers. In order for a California resident to buy a gun out of state, they must utilize a licensed dealer who has a Federal Firearms License.

This is known as an FFL transfer.

During an FFL transfer, the firearm is shipped from the out-of-state dealer to the licensed dealer in California. The California resident then completes the necessary paperwork and background check with the licensed dealer in California before taking possession of the firearm.

It is important to note that the California resident must comply with all state and local laws regarding firearm ownership and possession, even if the purchase was made out of state.

Transporting Across State Lines

Transporting firearms across state lines can be a complex process, as different states have varying laws and regulations. In the case of California residents buying guns out of state, it is crucial to understand the rules for transporting firearms back into California.

In general, California law requires that firearms being transported into the state must be unloaded and stored in a locked container. Additionally, certain types of firearms, such as assault weapons, may have additional restrictions and requirements for transport.

It is advisable to research and familiarize oneself with the specific laws and regulations of both the state of purchase and California before transporting firearms across state lines.

For more detailed information on federal laws regarding FFL transfers and transporting firearms across state lines, you can visit the official website of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) at

California Laws

Allowed Guns

California has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States. The state has implemented a variety of regulations to control the sale, possession, and use of firearms. As a result, not all types of guns are allowed in California.

The California Department of Justice maintains a list of handguns that are deemed safe for sale in the state. This list, known as the “roster of certified handguns,” includes specific models and brands that have been tested and approved for sale in California.

It is important for residents to refer to this roster before purchasing a handgun to ensure compliance with state laws and regulations.

Registration Requirements

In California, all firearms must be registered with the state. This includes handguns, rifles, shotguns, and even antique firearms. The registration process involves completing a form, providing personal information, and paying a fee.

Additionally, individuals who purchase firearms from licensed dealers must undergo a background check through the California Department of Justice. The background check ensures that individuals with certain criminal convictions or mental health conditions are not able to possess firearms.

Failure to register a firearm or comply with the state’s registration requirements can result in criminal penalties.

In order to purchase a firearm out of state, California residents must also comply with the state’s laws regarding the importation of firearms. These laws require residents to complete a Private Party Firearm Transaction form and submit it to the California Department of Justice within 30 days of bringing the firearm into the state.

It is important for California residents to familiarize themselves with the state’s laws and regulations regarding firearms. Resources such as the California Department of Justice website ( provide detailed information on the state’s gun laws and can help residents navigate the process of purchasing and registering firearms.

Buying Process

California residents who are interested in purchasing firearms from out of state should familiarize themselves with the buying process. There are a few different avenues through which individuals can legally acquire guns from outside California.

Online/Gun Show Purchases

One option for California residents is to purchase firearms online or at a gun show. However, it is important to note that these purchases must still comply with California’s strict gun laws. In order to buy a firearm online or at a gun show, the buyer must have the firearm shipped to a licensed California firearms dealer, also known as a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL).

The buyer must then complete the necessary paperwork and background check at the FFL before taking possession of the firearm. This process helps ensure that all purchases are legal and in compliance with state and federal regulations.

It is crucial for California residents to research reputable and licensed FFLs in their area before making any purchases. Additionally, buyers should be aware of any additional fees or waiting periods that may be associated with the transfer of the firearm from the FFL to the buyer.

Private Party Sales

Another option for California residents is to purchase firearms through private party sales. These sales involve buying a firearm directly from another individual, rather than from a licensed dealer. However, it is important to note that private party sales in California are subject to certain restrictions and regulations.

California law requires that all private party sales go through a licensed dealer, who will facilitate the necessary background check and paperwork. This ensures that the buyer is eligible to possess firearms and that the transaction is conducted legally.

Additionally, private party sales are subject to the same waiting periods and restrictions as purchases from licensed dealers.

California residents should be cautious when engaging in private party sales and should always ensure that the transaction is conducted legally. It is recommended to consult with local law enforcement or legal professionals to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.


Assault Weapons Ban

California has strict regulations when it comes to firearms, including an assault weapons ban. The state defines assault weapons as semi-automatic firearms with specific features that make them more dangerous.

These features include a detachable magazine, a pistol grip, a folding or telescoping stock, and a flash suppressor or threaded barrel. Under California law, it is illegal to possess, manufacture, or sell assault weapons.

This ban applies not only to residents of California but also to anyone attempting to bring assault weapons into the state from out of state.

California’s assault weapons ban is one of the most comprehensive in the country, and it aims to reduce the number of high-capacity firearms in circulation. The ban was put in place to enhance public safety and prevent mass shootings.

It is important for California residents to be aware of these restrictions and to understand that attempting to purchase or possess an assault weapon from out of state is illegal and can lead to severe legal consequences.

Magazine Limits

In addition to the assault weapons ban, California also has restrictions on the capacity of firearm magazines. The state prohibits the sale, purchase, or possession of magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. This restriction applies to both handguns and long guns.

California’s magazine limit law was enacted with the goal of reducing the number of rounds that can be fired before reloading, thereby potentially reducing the severity of mass shootings. The law is intended to increase public safety and make it more difficult for individuals to inflict harm in a short amount of time.

It is important for California residents to understand that these restrictions apply not only to firearms purchased within the state but also to firearms purchased out of state. Attempting to purchase or possess high-capacity magazines from out of state and bringing them into California is illegal and can result in criminal charges.

For more information on California’s gun laws and restrictions, you can visit the official website of the California Department of Justice:


While California has strict gun laws, there are a few exceptions that allow residents to buy guns out of state. These exceptions include:

Inherited Guns

If a California resident inherits a gun from a family member who lived out of state, they are allowed to bring the firearm back into California. However, there are certain requirements that must be met.

The gun must be registered with the California Department of Justice within 60 days of receiving it. Additionally, the inheritor must pass a background check and obtain any necessary permits or licenses required by California law.


Antique firearms, which are defined as firearms manufactured before 1899 or replicas thereof, are exempt from many of California’s gun laws. This means that California residents can legally purchase antique guns from out of state without having to go through the usual background checks and waiting periods.

However, it’s important to note that antique guns must still be in compliance with federal law, and it’s always a good idea to check with local authorities to ensure compliance with any specific state or local regulations.

For more information on California’s gun laws and exceptions, you can visit the official website of the California Department of Justice:


While buying guns out of state is legal for Californians under specific conditions, there are stringent state laws gun owners must follow. We covered key federal laws, details on California’s firearms regulations, the out-of-state buying process, restrictions for certain guns, and exceptional cases like inherited firearms.

With this guide’s help, California gun owners can now make informed decisions adhering to all requirements when looking to purchase firearms across state lines.

Similar Posts