Do You Need an FFL in California?
The very simple answer is: yes. If you plan on running a business that deals with firearms, you need to have an FFL. This isn’t a state requirement, but rather a Federal requirement. Speaking of which…
The ATF has pretty basic requirements to get an FFL. So basic, in fact, we’ll only glance at them.
To get an FFL, the ATF requires that you be a law-abiding US citizen or a permanent resident over 21 years of age who can legally own a firearm. Pretty simple stuff, really. The paperwork is annoying, and you have to demonstrate you are planning to operate a business, but that’s not too hard.
Once you meet the federal requirements, it’s time to make sure you meet the state ones next.
Do I Need to Register as a Business for an FFL in California?
Yes, you must be registered with the state as some kind of business to get an FFL in California. You must be successfully licensed with the state and the local area in which you are doing business and you also have to operate in a correctly zoned area that matches the type of business you are doing.
First, you need to get a state business license. This is a pretty cut and dry process and even largely automatic as long as you pay the licensing fees. Now is a good time to decide if you are setting up as a corporation or not. We suggest doing business as an LLC or other corporation to limit personal liability.
Next, it’s time to get your local business licenses. Cities and counties may also require a business license. Again, this should be pretty cut and dry.
Make sure you are properly zoned for the kind of business you plan on doing. In California, home-based FFLs can be an uphill battle depending on the zoning, but it’s not impossible.
A California Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is a certification from the California Department of Justice (DOJ) that the recipient is not prohibited from acquiring or possessing firearms. The Certificate of Eligibility application process involves a criminal background check by the CA DOJ and is absolutely necessary if you plan on getting an FFL in that state.
To get a California COE, applicants must apply online and register annually. Additionally, employees of the gun dealer must also have their own COE.
The cost for the initial COE is $71, and renewals are $22.
Applicants for an FFL in California must also be listed on the CA DOJ Centralized List of Firearm Dealers. This allows CA FFLs to be listed when a shipping FFL uses the California Firearms Licensee Check (CFLC) system.
To be listed, you must fill out the Centralized List of Firearms Dealers Application and submit it to the CA DOJ Bureau of Firearms.
You need a special license to sell ammo in California, too. While you don’t have to be an FFL to sell ammo, you will need a special California Ammunition Vendor License. This is because you are required by law to perform a background check for every ammo purchase.
The ATF won’t care if you have this license or not during your application process, because having one isn’t required to do business unless you sell ammo. However, expect your ATF examiner to ask how you plan to comply with California law, including ammo. Demonstrating knowledge in this field is a good way to show your ATF examiner that you are familiar with the laws needed to sell guns in California.
California can seem like an uphill battle when it comes to getting an FFL there, but as we said at the beginning, there are more than 8,800 of them, so it’s definitely not impossible.
If for some reason, you encounter a snag, FFL123 is here to help. Our members are provided access to private forums with other FFL dealers just like you, as well as members-only resources to help you navigate these waters.
How Much Does a California FFL Cost?
On the Federal level, it costs between $30-$200 to get an FFL for the first three years. Each license type’s cost varies due to the different responsibilities they allow the licensee to perform. There are different kinds of licenses for selling a few handguns versus handling or making NFA items.
There are also other costs associated with California state and local licenses. Because of the wide variety of localities and their different policies and procedures, it’s best to check directly with your local government to find out how much they charge for business licenses, etc.
Additional Business Resources
California FFL Listings: This database keeps a listing of all current FFL dealers in the state of California.
Starting a Business in California: The State of California walks you through the complex laws of starting a business in their state.
Certificate of Eligibility: This document outlines what the COE in California is used for and why it is required.
Application for Centralized List of Firearms Dealers: You will need to complete this application to join California’s Centralized List of Firearms Dealers.
How to Become a Federal Firearms Licensee in 10 Easy Steps: This is the ATF’s own guide to getting your FFL.
US Code § 923: Federal US Code § 923 covers regulations for the import, manufacture, and dealing of firearms and ammunition. This is the law that requires firearms businesses to get an FFL.
US CFR § 478.47 – Issuance of License: This explains how a Federal Firearms License is issued, including who must assign the license number. It requires the ATF to qualify applicants based on a predetermined list of requirements and to issue Federal Firearms Licenses. If a correct FFL application has been submitted, the Chief of the Federal Firearms Licensing Center must issue the license and assign a serial number to the licensee.
Gun Control Act (GCA): The GCA of 1968 established stricter laws on the firearms industry than were already present in the NFA of 1934. This included new regulations regarding firearms offenses, firearms/ammunition sales to “prohibited persons,” and federal jurisdiction for “destructive devices” (bombs, grenades, mines, etc.) These are just some of the things that were created with the GCA.
The FFL123 Advantage
Truth be told, we’d like a world where any law-abiding American could easily get into the gun business. But we don’t live in that world. We know this, and so does our staff of industry insiders and legal experts. FFL123 has assembled a staff that is dedicated to helping our customers cut through the red tape of getting an FFL.
When you purchase an FFL123 guide, you aren’t just buying a comprehensive step-by-step guide to applying for an FFL. You are also getting decades of combined industry and legal experience that is there when you need it the most.
Every FFL123 customer is entitled to direct, one-on-one customer support for their specific problems in getting an FFL. We specialize in helping people understand and navigate complex local zoning issues, as this is where most problems with getting your California FFL will occur.
In other words, when you do business with FFL123, we back you up until you get your FFL. In fact, we go beyond that, and keep backing you up for as long as you are in business! Our customers get ongoing support for everything from finding suppliers to keeping abreast with the latest changes in gun laws and regulations.
With just a couple of easy clicks, you can start your journey to your California FFL today. Rest easy knowing that you aren’t cast adrift with confusing federal and state paperwork, or left alone to figure out how to fill out and file seemingly conflicting forms. FFL123 is here for you along your entire journey from choosing the FFL that’s right for you, to your first day of business and everything in between.
Are you ready to get your California FFL? Choose the guide that is right for you. Not sure which one you need? No problem! Just ask and we’ll help you with that too. What are you waiting for? The sooner you start, the sooner you can enjoy all the benefits of an FFL!