California License to Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW)

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Carry License

A California License to Carry a concealed weapon may be issued by either

  • a Chief of police, to a resident of his/her city, or
  • a County Sheriff to a resident of his/her county, including cities in that county.

Once issued, the License to Carry is valid throughout the state, except where firearms are prohibited generally. For example, a license issued in Chico is valid in San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Individuals and businesses may ask a licensed carrier not to carry on their property, and may properly deny entry to, or evict, persons who do not follow their rules; the act of carrying in such places is unlikely to be a crime, but refusal to disarm or leave may escalate to trespassing or other issues.

The Law

California Penal Code 26510 (was 12050)

(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 business
is 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 200,000
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.

What application information is required?

Penal Code 26175 (was 12051 (a))

(c) The standard application form for licenses described in
subdivision (a) shall require information from the applicant,
including, but not limited to, the name, occupation, residence, and
business address of the applicant, the applicant's age, height,
weight, color of eyes and hair, and reason for desiring a license to
carry the weapon.

Applications for licenses shall be filed in writing, and signed by the applicant. Any license issued upon the application shall set forth the licensee's name, occupation, residence and business address, his or her age, height, weight, color of eyes and hair, the reason for desiring a license to carry the weapon, and shall, in addition, contain

  • a description of the weapon or weapons authorized to be carried,
  • giving the name of the manufacturer, the serial number, and the caliber.

The license issued to the licensee may be laminated.

26185. (a) The fingerprints of each applicant shall be taken... There is a fee for fingerprint processing, and the fee varies by location.

Fees

Penal Code 12054 (a) specifies a fee may be charged. The state fee is one part; the local issuing agency may charge up to $100 in addition to the state fee for the initial issue, $25 above the state fee for renewal.

As of 2007 CA-DOJ lists 11 CCR 4006

4006. CCW Fees. 
As authorized pursuant to subdivision (a) of section 12054 of 
the Penal Code, the Firearms Division fees for licenses to carry
concealed weapons (CCW) are as follows: 
(a)(1) Initial fee for 90 day employment CCW license: $22 
     (2) Renewal fee for 90 day employment CCW license: $22 
(b)(1) Initial fee for 2 year resident CCW license: $44 
    (2) Renewal fee for for 2 year resident CCW license: $44 
(c)(1) Initial fee for 3 year judicial CCW license: $66 
    (2) Renewal fee for 3 year judicial CCW license: $66 
(d)(1) Initial fee for 4 year reserve peace officer CCW license:
$88 
     (2) Renewal fee for 4 year reserve peace officer CCW
license: $88

Terms not defined in law

"good moral character"

"good cause"

What does "may issue" mean?

"May issue" means that an applicant may meet all published requirements for the license and the issuing authority is free to deny or issue the license without explanation.

In 2009, Assemblyman Knight introduced AB 357 to amend the law from "may issue" to "shall issue". The bill failed passage in the Assembly.

Who may issue a carry license?

"The sheriff of a county" or "The chief or other head of a municipal police department of any city or city and county" may issue a license.


What kind of training may be required?

Penal Code 26165 (was 12050 (a)(1)(E))

(a) For new license applicants, the course of training for
issuance of a license under Section 26150 or 26155 may be any course
acceptable to the licensing authority, shall not exceed 16 hours, and
shall include instruction on at least firearm safety and the law
regarding the permissible use of a firearm.
  (b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), the licensing authority may
require a community college course certified by the Commission on
Peace Officer Standards and Training, up to a maximum of 24 hours,
but only if required uniformly of all license applicants without
exception.
  (c) For license renewal applicants, the course of training may be
any course acceptable to the licensing authority, shall be no less
than four hours, and shall include instruction on at least firearm
safety and the law regarding the permissible use of a firearm. No
course of training shall be required for any person certified by the
licensing authority as a trainer for purposes of this section, in
order for that person to renew a license issued pursuant to this
article.
  (d) The applicant shall not be required to pay for any training
courses prior to the determination of good cause being made pursuant
to Section 26202.

The current training requirement was established in 1998 with AB2022.

What else may be required?

Penal Code 12054(c) allows "psychological testing on the initial application" at a cost not to exceed $150.

Length of license term

Generally a carry license is valid for two years. For sworn peace officers, up to four years, and for judges and custodial officers employed by a sheriff, up to three years may be specified.

Qualifying retired Federal officers may receive permits up to five years in duration (Penal Code 12027(i)).

Qualifying retired State and local officers may receive permits up to five years in duration (Penal Code 12031(b))

Where is concealed carry allowed by the license?

Unless limited by a 12050(b) restriction on the license, a license is valid in the entire state.

Specific exemptions allowing concealed carry for licensees under 12050 are

Limitations on carry

Federal and local laws may limit concealed carry even for licensed individuals. Airport sterile areas and United States military installations are two examples.

Courthouses and jail facilities commonly prohibit firearms, even for licensed individuals.

San Francisco bans possession of firearms "upon public premises selling or serving alcoholic beverages" (San Francisco Municipal Code SEC. 3603).

Certain city and county parks ordinances ban the possession of firearms and do not exempt PC 12050 license holders. These regulations are preempted by Government Code 53071 and the Fiscal decision and as such are likely unenforceable against those licensed to carry under PC 12050. Some examples include San Mateo and Sacramento County Parks Ordinances.

A case making the above arguments, filed in 2011, ULYSSES S. GRANT EARLY IV VS COUNTY OF SAN MATEO (Case number 509185), was dismissed in 2012. Dismissal was affirmed on appeal, July 2013.

Time/manner restrictions on the application

The application, at page 5, lists

While exercising the privileges granted to the licensee under the 
terms of this license, the licensee shall not, when carrying a
concealed weapon:
• Consume any alcoholic beverage. 
• Be in a place having a primary purpose of dispensing alcoholic
beverages for on-site consumption. 
• Be under the influence of any medication or drug, whether prescribed
or not. 

A case in Sacramento resolved in 2014 tells us that violating the terms listed on the application will result in invalidating the license, subjecting the carrier to arrest and prosecution for concealed and loaded carry in public.

Carry only the handguns on your permit

The PC 26150 permit exempts you from 25400, carrying concealed, at 25655.

Section 25400 does not apply to, or affect, the carrying of
a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon
the person by a person who is authorized to carry that weapon in a
concealed manner pursuant to Chapter 4 (commencing with Section
26150).

The "that weapon" construction indicates only weapons listed on the license are covered by the exemption.

The PC 26150 permit also exempts you from PC 25850 (was 12031) which prohibits the carrying of a loaded firearm in a no-discharge zone.

The current exemption to 25850 is PC 26010:

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.

Carry the handguns concealed

A 26150 license holder is only authorized to carry that weapon and it must be in a concealed manner. 'That weapon' includes the weapons listed on the License to Carry.

How many California Carry licenses exist?

The CA-DOJ occasionally publishes statistics. For 2007, the statewide number is 40,296.

Application of the law

It is apparent from the published information on the numbers of licenses that the carry license law is applied differently in different parts of the State. One observation: cities and counties with populations greater than approximately 300,000 tend to issue many fewer licenses, in absolute numbers and by population, than smaller jurisdictions.

As of July, 2008, several suits have been filed against cities based on their carry license issuance (or lack of issuance) policies. Many of these are documented at CALCCW, as well as more detailed information on specific agency policies.

Jim March's EQUALCCW is another valuable resource.

Requirements by county

Since the requirements are determined at the state level, having separate requirements at the level of each county is problematic.

In October of 2010, Calguns.net began hosting a forum Calguns License to Carry Information Forum. There is a thread for each California county, containing the Sheriff's carry license policies and requirements.

The Calguns Foundation also hosts the Calguns Foundation Carry License Compliance and Sunshine Initiative page.

Liability of Issuing Authority

The Assembly Public Safety analysis for AB 2022 includes

   a)  Overview of existing law and case law.
      Government Code 818.4 immunizes a public agency for any 
      injury caused by the issuance, denial, suspension or
      revocation of, or the failure or refusal to issue, deny,
      suspend, or revoke any permit, license certificate,
      approval or order or similar authorization where the
      public entity or an employee of the public entity is
      authorized by enactment to determine whether or not such
      authorization should be issued, denied, suspended, or
      revoked.
 
      Similarly, California Government Code Section 821.2
      immunizes a public employee from any liability for any 
      injury caused by his or her issuance, denial, suspension
      or revocation of, or the failure or refusal to issue,
      deny, suspend, or revoke any permit, license certificate,
      approval or order or similar authorization where he or
      she is authorized by enactment to determine whether or
      not such authorization should be issued, denied,
      suspended, or revoked.
 
      The California Supreme Court has repeatedly held that  
      Government Code Sections 818.4 and 821.2 in combination  
      totally and completely immunize public agencies and
      their employees from any liability where they take any
      action on permits or licenses except where the duty to
      issue clearly involves no determination of any kind on
      the part of the licensing agency.     
      Nunn v. State of California (1984) 35 Cal.3d 616, 627;
      Morris v. County of Marin 18 Cal.3d 901, 911-915


Legal Challenge to effective 'no-issue'

On May 5, 2009, SAF and Calguns Foundation filed suit in The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, challenging the carry license issuance policies of the Sheriffs of both Yolo and Sacramento Counties. The complaint Sykes v. McGinness is available here.

In October 2010, the complaint against Sacramento County Sheriff, McGinness was withdrawn (because he complied with the demands in the lawsuit). However, litigation will continue against Yolo County Sheriff, Ed Prieto. The lawsuit has been retitled Richards v. Prieto.

The suit asks for

  • an injunction against "enforcing the “good moral character” and “good cause” requirements of California Penal Code § 12050 against handgun carry permit applicants who seek the permit for self-defense and are otherwise qualified to obtain a handgun carry permit under that section"
  • an injunction against "requiring any duration of local residence prior to accepting an application under California Penal Code § 12050"
  • "Declaratory relief that the “good moral character” and “good cause” provisions of California Penal Code § 12050 are unconstitutional either on their face and/or as applied to bar applicants who are otherwise legally qualified to possess firearms and who assert self-defense as their “good cause” for seeking a handgun carry permit"