The Handgun Safety Certificate

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From 1994 to 2003, California required a Basic Firearms Safety Certificate (BFSC) to purchase a handgun. The BFSC was good for life, and the requirement was waived for military veterans and for those who had a hunting license.

Senators Scott and Perata introduced SB52 in 2000 to replace the BFSC with the Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC). This bill also introduced the safe handling demonstration.


The HSC requirement is in Penal Code 12071(b)(8)(B). The HSC enabling code is found in Penal Code 12800.

  (B) Commencing January 1, 2003, no handgun shall be delivered
unless the purchaser, transferee, or person being loaned the
handgun presents a handgun safety certificate to the dealer.

A handgun buyer or transferee must have a Handgun Safety Certificate, and present it to the dealer before the dealer can deliver a handgun.

Prior holders of a BFSC must obtain a HSC; the BFSC is no longer accepted.

The HSC is valid for five years and must be renewed.


One obtains a Handgun Safety Certificate by taking and passing a multiple choice test -- you must score at least 75% (23 correct answers out of 30 questions) -- and paying a fee of $25.

One can review for the HSC test by downloading the Handgun Safety Certificate Study Guide (.pdf) from the DOJ.

You may take the test only from a DOJ Certified Instructor. Generally a dealer's place of business will have one or more staff members who are certified.

Minimum Qualifications

According to the DOJ's FAQ:

 Are there any minimum qualifications/requirements for a person
who wants to take the Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC) test?

The only requirements are that the Handgun Safety Certificate
(HSC) applicant must be at least 18 years of age and must
present clear evidence of identity and age by presenting a
California Driver's License or California Department of Motor
Vehicles Identification Card.


The DOJ lists the exemptions from obtaining the HSC in their HSC FAQ:

Are the exemptions from the Handgun Safety Certificate Program 
requirements the same exemptions as those under the old Basic 
Firearms Safety Certificate (BFSC) Program?

No. The most common exemptions under the Basic Firearms Safety
Certificate (BFSC) law that were removed under the new Handgun
Safety Certificate (HSC) law are: 1) persons who hold a valid
hunting license issued by the State of California; 2) persons
who were honorably discharged from the military; and 3)
firearms dealers when acquiring a handgun for their personal
ownership, regardless of whether the handgun is acquired from
another dealer or from the dealer's own inventory. These
exemptions to BFSC do not apply to HSC.

What are the Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC) requirement exemption

   * X01 = Special Weapons Permit Holder
   * X02 = Operation of Law Representative
   * X03 = Handgun being returned to the owner
   * X13 = FFL collector with COE (curio and relic handguns only)
   * X21 = Military - Active Duty
   * X22 = Military - Reserve
   * X25 = Military - Honorably Retired
   * X31 = Peace Officer - California - Active
   * X32 = Peace Officer - Federal - Active
   * X33 = Peace Officer - California - Honorably Retired
   * X34 = Peace Officer - California - Reserve
   * X35 = Peace Officer - Federal - Honorably Retired
   * X41 = Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) Permit Holder
   * X81 = P.O.S.T. 832 PC (Firearms) Training
   * X91 = Particular and Limited Authority Peace Officers
   * X95 = Law Enforcement Service Gun to Family Member

These exemptions also exempt the individual from the safe handling demonstration.