How to Get a Concealed Weapons Permit in California

Updated 


Normally it's a crime to carry either a loaded or an unloaded firearm in public in California. It doesn't matter whether you are carrying a concealed firearm or one that is openly carried.

Unless you have a CCW permit, publicly carrying a gun in California is against the law... period.

But you may be issued a permit to carry "a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person" if:

  1. You are of good moral character;
  2. Good cause exists for issuance of the license because you or a member of your family is in immediate danger;
  3. You meet certain residency requirements; and
  4. You have completed an acceptable course of firearms training.

Under the recently enacted AB 2103, the training course must be a minimum of 8 hours and include live-fire shooting exercises where the person demonstrates an ability tio handle and shoot the gun safely. 

Below, our California criminal defense attorneys1 address the following:

Permits to publicly carry a firearm may be issued by:

  1. The sheriff of a county, pursuant to Penal Code 26150, or
  2. The chief or other head of a municipal police department, pursuant to Penal Code 26155.

Penal Code 26150 and 26155 replaced former California Penal Code 12050, effective January 1, 2012.  Penal Code 12050 was popularly known as California's law against "carrying a concealed weapon"... "CCW" for short.

Technically, Penal Code 26150 and 26155 don't actually license the carrying of concealed firearms.  They cover permits to carry firearms "capable of being concealed on the person."  In other words, they deal with permits to carry handguns in public... either openly or concealed.

However, this law is still often referred to as the right to carry a "concealed firearm" or "concealed weapon."  Accordingly, in this article, we will sometimes use these terms... as well as "CCW"... simply to mean carrying a handgun in public.

Are California's CCW permit laws unconstitutional?

There was recently some doubt about the constitutionality of California's laws on CCW permits. In 2014, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had held—in a case called Peruta v. San Diego County—that the“good cause” requirement violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

But in June 2016, the 9th Circuit, sitting "en banc" with all judges present, overturned its earlier holding in Peruta. The full court held that in fact the Second Amendment does not apply to concealed firearms--and thus that there are no constitutional rights implicated by California's "good cause" requirement for concealed weapons permits.

And recently the United States Supreme Court refused to consider a challenge to California's concealed carry law in Peruta v. California. So law-abiding gun owners still need to obtain a CCW in order to carry a concealed weapon.

"We" are Shouse Law Group.  Our lawyers include former prosecutors and cops.  And we understand California gun laws and California knife laws.

1. What is a California permit to carry "a firearm capable of being concealed on the person"?

A California concealed firearms permit allows you legally to carry "a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed on the person."2

A valid license to carry a concealed firearm prevents you from being convicted of:

As of January 1, 2012, California has no open-carry law.  It is now illegal in California to carry either a loaded or unloaded weapon in public without a carry permit except:

  1. when your pistol, revolver, or other firearm is in:
    • the trunk of the car, or
    • a locked container within the car (excluding the glove box), or
  2. when you are carrying the gun directly to or from the car in a locked container;6
    AND
    you are otherwise legally entitled to own or possess a firearm.7

2. Who may obtain a permit to carry a "concealed firearm"?

2.1. Requirements under Penal Code 26150 and 26155 PC

When applying for your California permit to carry a concealed weapon, you must prove that:

  1. you are of good moral character,
  2. you have good cause to justify the permit,
  3. you are a resident in the county or in a city within the county...  or you spend a substantial amount of time at your place of business or employment which is located in the county or in a city within the county, and
  4. you have completed an approved firearms' training class.8

Note that if you live in a county with less than 200,000 people, you can only be issued a "modified" concealed weapons permit.  Still considered a CCW permit, this license allows you only to:

  1. carry a loaded and exposed pistol, revolver, or other firearm on your person,
  2. in the county in which the permit was issued.9

This modified permit only pertains to persons in counties with less than 200,000 people.  If you qualify for a regular CCW permit, these restrictions do not apply.

2.2. "Good cause" for obtaining a CCW permit and the Peruta case

In the past, "good cause" has meant that you can show that:

  1. a clear and present danger exists for you or your immediate family, and
  2. carrying a concealed weapon would mitigate that danger.10

Traditionally, both the sheriff and police chief have maintained that carrying a concealed weapon is a privilege, not a right.  You must, therefore, meet all their criteria before they will issue you this type of license.

This has been the case for each renewal application as well.  Simply stating that "all conditions under which this CCW permit was originally issued remain the same" does not establish good cause.11 You must present evidence as to why this is the case.

The “good cause” requirement has been challenged in federal court, in a case called Peruta v. San Diego County. The plaintiffs in the Peruta case argued that the “good cause” requirement as it was administered by the sheriff of San Diego County was unconstitutional.

In San Diego County, concern for one's personal safety, by itself, was not enough to constitute “good cause.” Instead, an applicant for a permit had to show that s/he had a set of non-mainstream circumstances causing him or her to be placed in harm's way.12

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals initially found this requirement unconstitutional. In a 2014 ruling, the court declared that the Second Amendment right to bear firearms includes a right to carry firearms outside of one's home. According to the court in this case, San Diego's “good cause” requirement denies that right to most people—and thus violates the Second Amendment.13

But in June 2016 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reconsidered Peruta--this time sitting "en banc" with all the judges on the court involved. The full court ruled that the "good cause" requirement for a CCW permit was constitutional.14

The court's reasoning in its en banc ruling on Peruta is that the Second Amendment does not apply to concealed firearms.15 There is no Second Amendment right to carry a concealed weapon, and therefore regulations that limit one's ability to get a CCW permit do not violate the U.S. Constitution.16

It is possible that the Peruta ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. If this happens, then California's law on CCW licenses may be in doubt once again.

2.3. The scope of the sheriff's / police chief's discretion

These law enforcement agencies reserve almost exclusive authority to issue or deny California CCW licenses.  The courts will not overturn their decision to deny someone a permit unless the decision is "arbitrary, capricious, or entirely lacking in evidentiary support."17

2.4. People restricted from obtaining a CCW permit

Certain classes of people are prohibited from possessing, owning, purchasing, or receiving firearms in California.  This means they are also prohibited from obtaining firearm carry permits.

Such people include (but are not limited to):

  • people who have been convicted of a felony or certain types of misdemeanors under Penal Code 29800 PC, California's "felon with a firearm" law,
  • people who are addicted to narcotics,
  • people who lose their gun rights due to a domestic violence conviction, and
  • people who have been diagnosed as mentally ill.18

3. What is the application process under Penal Code 26150 and 26155 PC?

There are typically three phases involved in the application process for obtaining a California permit to carry a firearm:

  1. The paper application.  All issuing agencies...that is, your local county sheriff or the chief or head of your local municipal police department...require that you submit a uniform application to carry a firearm in California.Fees for the initial application or the renewal application may vary depending on the issuing agency but average between $100 and $200.
  2. The interview process*.  This is when the issuing agency will discuss:
    • your need for the license,
    • your criminal history, and
    • the consequences of publicly carrying a firearm.
  3. The psychological evaluation.  This third phase does not apply to all counties / cities.  If conducted in your area, you will be required to undergo psychological testing.  Your fee for this evaluation will not exceed $150.

*The second phase is also when they will take your fingerprints.  And some agencies may require a second interview.

4. Restrictions under a California firearms carry permit

4.1. Legally prohibited acts

If you successfully obtain a California CCW permit, it only applies to "pistols, revolvers, and other firearms that are capable of being concealed upon your person."  This means that a license to carry a concealed gun does not excuse acts prohibited under:

Nor does it normally protect you under Penal Code 417 PC California's law against brandishing a weapon.21 Penal Code 417 makes it a crime to withdraw, exhibit, or use a gun in a threatening or angry manner.

However, if you can prove that you only brandished a gun in self-defense, California's self-defense laws may excuse your conduct.22

As San Jose criminal defense attorney Jim Hammer explains23 :

"The reason you obtain a CCW permit in the first place is to protect yourself.  So its stands to reason that if you use your gun, it is because you did so in self-defense.  Depending on the circumstances, California's self-defense laws may excuse your otherwise criminal conduct."

4.2. Restrictions and conditions specific to individuals

Each person's CCW permit is specific to that individual.  Some of the restrictions / conditions that may be written into your license include (but are not limited to):

  • authorizing you to carry only specifically designated firearms that you own, or
  • authorizing you to carry a firearm only during certain times or in certain locations.24

Whatever your restrictions are, you must abide by them in order to keep your license.  If circumstances change, you are free to seek an amendment to your permit from the issuing agency.25 If you do not abide by the conditions, your permit can be revoked.

4.3. Traveling

Some states have reciprocity with others, which means that they will recognize an out-of-state CCW permit.  California is not one of them.

Certain states may recognize your California firearms carry license.  Others may not even require you to hold a permit to carry a concealed firearm.

Because these laws vary by state, it is a good idea to check the local laws before attempting to cross state lines with a firearm.

Additionally, the Transportation Security Administration and airlines have strict rules relating to travel with firearms and ammunition.  It is recommended that air travelers check the TSA and applicable airline websites for details.

Call us for help...

ccw permit attorneys california receptionist
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

Shouse Law Group does not handle any matters regarding gun rights, restoring gun rights, or obtaining a CCW permit. We offer this page for information only.

If you or loved one is charged with a crime related to Penal Code 26150 and 26155 PC obtaining a CCW and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys are available to answer any questions with respect to Nevada's laws on carrying concealed weapons. For more information, we invite you to contact our local attorneys at one of our Nevada law offices, located in Reno and Las Vegas.26


Legal References:

  1. Our California criminal defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

  2. California Penal Code 26150 PC -- Concealed weapons permits.    (a) When a person applies for a license to carry a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person, the sheriff of a county may issue a license to that person upon proof of all of the following:
    (1) The applicant is of good moral character.
    (2) Good cause exists for issuance of the license.
    (3) The applicant is a resident of the county or a city within the county, or the applicant's principal place of employment or businesses in the county or a city within the county and the applicant spends a substantial period of time in that place of employment or business.
    (4) The applicant has completed a course of training as described in Section 26165.
    (b) The sheriff may issue a license under subdivision (a) in either of the following formats:
    (1) A license to carry concealed a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.
    (2) Where the population of the county is less than 200,000persons according to the most recent federal decennial census, a license to carry loaded and exposed in only that county a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.

    California Penal Code 26155 PC -- Concealed weapons permits.    (a) When a person applies for a license to carry a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person, the chief or other head of a municipal police department of any city or city and county may issue a license to that person upon proof of all of the following:
    (1) The applicant is of good moral character.
    (2) Good cause exists for issuance of the license.
    (3) The applicant is a resident of that city.
    (4) The applicant has completed a course of training as described in Section 26165.
    (b) The chief or other head of a municipal police department may issue a license under subdivision (a) in either of the following formats:
    (1) A license to carry concealed a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.
    (2) Where the population of the county in which the city is located is less than 200,000 persons according to the most recent federal decennial census, a license to carry loaded and exposed in only that county a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.

  3. California Penal Code 25400 PC.

  4. California Penal Code 26010 PC -- Carrying a loaded firearm in public.   Section 25850 does not apply to the carrying of any handgun by any person as authorized pursuant to Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 26150) of Division 5.

  5. California Penal Code 26350 PC.

  6. California Penal Code 25610 PC.

  7. Penal Code 16750(a) -- As used in Section 25400, "lawful possession of the firearm" means that the person who has possession or custody of the firearm either lawfully owns the firearm or has the permission of the lawful owner or a person who otherwise has apparent authority to possess or have custody of the firearm. A person who takes a firearm without the permission of the lawful owner or without the permission of a person who has lawful custody of the firearm does not the have lawful possession of the firearm.

  8. See same. Note that on September 26, 2018 California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 2103. This bill requires that the training course be at least 8 hours and requires that "the course of training to include instruction on firearm handling and shooting technique and to also include a demonstration by the applicant of shooting proficiency and safe handling of each firearm the applicant will be licensed to carry and to include live-fire exercises conducted on a firing range. The bill [requires] a licensing authority to establish, and make available to the public, standards it uses when issuing licenses with regards to the live-fire shooting exercises it requires, as specified. By imposing additional requirements on local licensing authorities, this bill [creates] a state-mandated local program."

  9. See Penal Code 26150 and 26155 PC -- Concealed weapon permits, endnote 2, above.

  10. Gifford v. City of Los Angeles 88 Cal.App.4th 801, 803.  ("... ‘good cause exists if there is convincing evidence of a clear and present danger to life or of great bodily [harm] to the applicant, his (or her) spouse, or dependent child, which cannot be adequately dealt with by existing law enforcement resources, and which danger cannot be reasonably avoided by alternative measures, and which danger would be significantly mitigated by the applicant's carrying of a concealed firearm.' The Police Department stated that it ‘recognizes that [Penal Code section 12050 PC, now codified in PC 26150 and 26155] requires the issuance of licenses to persons of good character who have good cause to carry a concealed firearm for the defense of themselves or others or in pursuing their livelihood.'")

  11. See same at 806. 

  12. Peruta v. Cty. of San Diego (9th Cir. Feb. 13, 2014) No. 10-56971, slip op. at 6-7.

  13. See same, slip op. at 55. ("[T]he Second Amendment does require that the states permit some form of carry for self-defense outside the home.")See also same, slip op. at 69. (". . . San Diego County's "good cause" permitting requirement impermissibly infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense.")

  14.  Peruta v. Cty. of San Diego (June 9, 2016) No. 10-56971.

  15. Peruta v. Cty. of San Diego (June 9, 2016) No. 10-56971, slip op. at 11. ("We hold that the Second Amendment does not preserve or protect the right of a member of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public.").

  16. Same.

  17. Gifford v. City of Los Angeles, endnote 10 above, at 805.  ("In ordinary mandamus proceedings such as this one, courts may exercise a very limited review of a public agency's action, and may merely determine whether the agency's action was arbitrary, capricious, or entirely lacking in evidentiary support.")

  18. See Attachments 1-3 on the California CCW permit application.

  19. California Penal Code 30600 PC

  20. California Penal Code 16590 PC California Penal Code 417 PC(a)(2)

  21. See same.

  22. San Jose criminal defense attorney Jim Hammer uses his inside knowledge as a former San Francisco Deputy District Attorney to defend clients accused of violating California's firearms laws throughout the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Berkeley, Marin County, and Oakland.

  23. California Penal Code 26200 PC

  24. California Penal Code 26200(f)(1) 

  25. Please feel free to contact our Nevada criminal defense attorneys Michael Becker and Neil Shouse for any questions relating to Nevada's laws on carrying concealed firearms. Their Nevada law offices are located in Reno and Las Vegas.

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