Firearm Safety Certificate: A Helpful Guide

When it comes to owning and operating firearms, safety is paramount, and a firearm safety certificate can give you the tools to properly handle guns and ammunition. Across the U.S., there are various firearms regulations that differ by state. However, in California, you need to obtain a firearm safety certificate before you can buy or sell any firearms. This certificate shows that you have taken the safety training necessary for handling a firearm. Read on for more information on the handgun safety certificate and training in the golden state.

What is the Firearm Safety Certificate?

A firearm safety certificate (FSC) is something you receive to prove you completed the firearm safety training required by the state of California. You might say this certificate represents your ability to legally buy and own a firearm in California. Additionally, this handgun safety certificate applies to owners who have long guns. According to California law, every owner of a firearm must be fully aware of their responsibility to safely use a firearm. An FSC is a binding document that shows you accept this responsibility. Since this applies to California gun owners, make sure to stay up to date on your state’s gun laws so you know how its legislation affects gun ownership.

FSC exemptions

Under California law, each person who buys a firearm who lives in California must complete the firearm safety program and possess a firearm safety certificate. This legal mandate covers all firearm owners except those listed, by law, as being statutorily exempt. Some of the FSC exemptions include the following:

firearm safety certificate
  • Special weapons permit holders
  • People in the military – on active duty, in the reserve, or honorably retired
  • Active peace officers in California or peace officers who work for the federal government
  • Federal peace officers who have honorably retired and California reserve peace officers
  • Operation of law representatives
  • Those people holding a federal firearms license (FFL) who collect older guns
  • Particular and limited authority peace officers
  • Those who have long guns and a valid hunting license
  • Carry concealed weapon (CCW) permit, holders
  • Law enforcement service gun to family member holders

Benefits of the FSC

The firearm safety certificate provides two major safety benefits to holders and their family members. Since the certificate stresses and teaches proper firearm safety, the FSC reduces the potential of accidental death from the unsafe handling and storing of firearms. In addition, it also bolsters the safety precautions against death and harm to the children of a firearm owner. Without an FSC, first-time gun owners may not get proper safety handling or storing information, which could lead to especially dire consequences.

Testing for Your Firearm Safety Certificate

To take the firearm safety program test, you will need to know the location for testing and the material that will be covered on the exam. To do this, you can take a prep class or search for an online study guide. In addition, you will also need to find out how long your firearm safety certificate will be active after you pass the test. To take the test, you must be at least 18 years old. To show proof of age, you need to present your California state I.D. or driver’s license.

Where can I take the test?

There are many options across California for you to take the physical firearms safety test.

You can take a firearm safety certificate test at specified firearm dealerships throughout the state. Department of Justice (DOJ) certified instructors administer the exam. To pass the test, you need to obtain a score of at least 75% or answer 23 out of 30 questions correctly.

What will the test cover?

The test includes multiple-choice and true/false questions that cover the basics of the safe handling of firearms. Topics of questions include:

  • Rules for safe handling
  • The parts and operation of a firearm
  • Types of ammunition
  • Shooting fundamentals
  • Shooting positions
  • Clearing firearm malfunctions
  • Cleaning a firearm properly
  • The use of accessories
  • Skill development

In addition, the study guide for the firearms safety certificate covers firearm safety in-depth. When you review the study guide, you should read all the material, including the current firearm laws in California. Since most of the test’s answers can be found in the study guide, doing so will give you an edge when you take the test for a long gun or handgun safety certificate.

How long is the FSC valid?

The handgun safety certificate or an FSC is valid for five years from the date of issue. You will also need to pay $25.00 to take the test. The fee covers two tests, so if you do not pass the first time, you can retake the test one more time. After the expiration date, you will need to pay another fee and retake the test. The state of California requires renewal to remind gun owners and dealers of best practices for gun safety, as well as any updates in the legislature.

Do I Need a Handgun Safety Certificate to Buy or Sell Firearms?

handgun safety certificate

The firearms industry is booming. Fortunately, if you’re in this space, you have a lot of options on what and where to sell, whether that’s selling guns at tradeshows or selling accessories and ammunition online. So, where does this leave you with getting certified in California?

You must have a valid firearm safety certificate to buy or sell firearms in the state of California unless you have been exempted by law (see the above list regarding exemptions). If you do not conduct business in CA and your business does not ship there, you should not have to worry about this extra precaution.

What is the safe handling demonstration?

You must perform a safe handling demonstration on or after the Dealer Record of Sale (DROS) date of submittal to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and before the delivery of your firearm. It often helps to initiate the safe handling demonstration before the DROS to make sure you can take possession of the make and model of the firearm you choose. If you have any questions about the safe handling demo or firearm safety certificate, you should ask your local firearms dealership.

What to do if you have a physical disability

If you have a physical disability that prevents you from performing the safe handling demo, you can present a written and signed letter from a licensed physician that states why you cannot perform the safe handling demonstration. This exemption only applies to the safe handling demonstration – not to FSC testing.

Final Thoughts on Gun Safety

California has made this program into law to focus on gun safety when handling any type of firearm. As a result, selling, buying, and using firearms has become safer for the user, their family, and the public. Currently, only Washington and California require that gun buyers and dealers obtain a firearm safety certificate.

While this extra step may seem inconvenient, consider the reasoning behind the legislature. Gun safety benefits everyone involved. Because at the end of the day, you’ll be more acquainted with your firearm and how to keep your customers safe.

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