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How to Get a Concealed Weapons Permit (CCW) in California

How to Get a Concealed Weapons Permit (CCW) in California

Getting a concealed weapons permit (CCW) in California can be a bit tricky compared to other states. California has strict laws regarding who can carry a concealed weapon, and the process involves multiple steps. But it is possible for law-abiding citizens to obtain a CCW with some persistence. This article will walk you through everything you need to know.

Overview of California CCW Laws

In California, a CCW is officially called a “License to Carry a Concealed Weapon” (LCCW). It allows you to legally carry a concealed firearm on your person or in a vehicle.However, state law says police chiefs and sheriffs can issue an LCCW only if you prove you actually need one. You can’t just say you want one for self-defense. The details are in California Penal Code 26150 and 26155.California is a “may issue” state, not a “shall issue” one. So even if you meet the requirements, the local law enforcement official can still deny you a CCW. Their decision is final unless you appeal it in court.Some counties are relatively CCW-friendly, like Orange, Riverside, and San Diego. Others almost never issue them to regular citizens, like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and most of the Bay Area. So where you apply makes a huge difference.If you do get a CCW, California imposes restrictions on where you can carry. For example, schools and government buildings are off limits. And your home county sheriff can put additional limits on your CCW.

Requirements to Apply for a CCW in California

To even be eligible to apply for a CCW in California, you must meet these requirements:

  • Be a legal resident of the county where you apply
  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Pass a firearms safety course and get a certificate (see details below)
  • Have “good cause” to need a CCW (more details below)
  • Be of good moral character with no felony convictions or other prohibitions
  • Pay the application fees (typically $100 to $400 depending on the county)

The biggest hurdle for most people is having “good cause” for issuance of a CCW. California law says you must prove that you actually need a CCW for self-protection, protection of others, or protection of large sums of money/valuables.Simply saying you want a CCW for self-defense isn’t enough. You need credible evidence of a clear and present threat to your safety. For example, restraining orders, a violent stalker, routine transport of valuables, or working in a risky occupation.The sheriff or police chief decides what constitutes “good cause.” Some are very strict while others are more lenient. Do your research to find a CCW-friendly county before applying.

Completing the CCW Application Process

Here are the typical steps to apply for a CCW in California:1. Take a CCW firearms safety courseYou must complete an approved firearms safety course no more than 12 months before applying for your CCW. This course covers gun safety, shooting proficiency, laws about deadly force, etc.Many trainers offer courses specifically designed to meet the CCW training requirements. Shop around to find one near you. Expect to pay $150 or more.You’ll receive a certificate of completion to include with your CCW application. Some counties may require you to demonstrate shooting proficiency as well.2. Get your paperwork readyGather all the required documents for your CCW application, including:

  • Certificate of firearms safety training completion
  • Valid California ID with your current address
  • 2 recent passport photos
  • Documents supporting your “good cause”
  • Cash, check or money order to pay the application fees

3. Submit your applicationGo to the sheriff’s office or police department in the county where you reside. Ask for the CCW application materials. Fill out the application fully and submit it along with your supporting documents.Many counties now allow you to download and fill out the CCW application online too. Just search “[county name] CCW application.”4. Get fingerprintedAs part of the application process, you’ll need to complete a Live Scan fingerprinting appointment. This digitally captures your prints to run a thorough background check.Follow the instructions from the sheriff’s office on where to get fingerprinted. There will likely be an additional fee for this.5. Interview with licensing staffIf your background check comes back clean, the sheriff’s licensing staff will schedule an in-person interview with you. This is your chance to present your case for “good cause” and respond to any concerns.Dress appropriately, be polite, and bring any additional documents that may help prove your need for a CCW. The interviewer will go through your application with you and may ask for clarifications or more details.6. await the final decisionAfter the interview, the licensing authority will make their final decision on whether or not to issue you a CCW. This can take anywhere from 30 days to a year depending on the county. You may need to follow up periodically to check the status.If approved, you’ll receive your new CCW license in the mail. Make sure to review all the conditions and restrictions that apply to your specific permit.If denied, you will receive a letter stating the reason for denial. At that point, you can either appeal the decision or apply in a different county. Getting legal help from a firearm attorney is advisable if you want to appeal a CCW denial.

Maintaining and Renewing Your California CCW

If you are approved and issued a CCW, remember these points to stay legal:

  • Your CCW is valid for 2 years then must be renewed. Start the renewal process well in advance.
  • Carry only the firearms listed on your permit card. To add or change guns, request an amendment from the issuing agency.
  • Always carry your permit card plus valid ID when you have a concealed weapon on you.
  • Report any changes in your permanent address within 10 days.
  • Familiarize yourself with all California laws regarding where and when you can legally carry a concealed gun.
  • Take a refresher firearms training course before renewing your CCW.
  • Pay attention to restrictions your county places on CCW permits. These may limit where you can carry or require additional training.
  • If you move to a new county, you must apply for a new CCW within 90 days.
  • Never take your permitted concealed firearm anywhere prohibited by law. And only use it as a last resort for lawful self-defense.

Appealing a CCW Denial in California

If your CCW application gets denied, you have a few options:

  • Apply again in a year or so. Maybe you’ll get a different person reviewing your case. Or your good cause reason will be stronger.
  • Apply in another county that is known to be CCW-friendly. Their standards may be less strict.
  • File a lawsuit to appeal the denial. You’ll need a firearm rights lawyer. The courts can order the sheriff to issue your CCW if they find the denial unreasonable. But lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming.
  • Apply for a separate CCW endorsement on your driver’s license. Currently, it’s shall-issue for judges, reserve peace officers, and some others.
  • Ask the sheriff if they offer an alternative like a 90-day CCW permit. Some issue temporary permits while your application is being processed.
  • Petition your sheriff to relax their CCW policies. Get local gun owners and 2nd Amendment groups involved. Electing a new sheriff can help in restrictive counties too.
  • Ask your sheriff if there are any exceptions or special circumstances where they would issue a CCW. For example, if you have an active threat against you.

Don’t lose hope if you get denied. With persistence, many average citizens are ultimately able to get CCWs even in strict California counties. An experienced firearm rights lawyer can help immensely as well.

Resources for Getting a CCW in California

Here are some helpful resources for learning more about getting a CCW in California:CalGuns Foundation – Legal resources and CCW assistanceNRA CCW Reciprocity Map – See which states accept a California CCWUC Davis CCW Research – Data on CCW issuance by countyCalifornia BOF Firearm Laws Summary – Official CA laws FAQGet It Legal – CA CCW – Legal services for CCW applicationUSCCA CCW Reciprocity Map – Interactive map with CA CCW guidanceNRA-ILA California Gun Laws – Overview of all CA firearm lawsCalCCW Forums – Discuss CA CCW experiences by county


The process to get a concealed carry permit in California can be frustrating. But with the right county, a solid good cause reason, and a clean background, it is possible for law-abiding citizens.Do thorough research, be patient through the process, and consider getting legal assistance. With commitment and effort, you can exercise your right to self-defense in this restrictive state.Let me know if you have any other questions! I’m happy to help explain anything related to getting a CCW in California.

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