Two of the most cringeworthy questions we get at Stage Stop Gun Shop, and likely at all California gun stores, start with “So, I almost always know what those questions will be, hence the title of this tome.
California laws and restrictions on firearms are confusing, draconian, and seldom make much sense. Although involving different processes, buying guns, and buying firearm ammunition are equally irritating adventures.
Buying a firearm requires the purchaser to take a 30-question test.
The Firearms Safety Certification test is pretty much written by the same guy who wrote the DMV test – mostly about safety, some reading comprehension questions and some random agenda-driven non-safety related questions. Unless you have an exemption like retired military ID, law enforcement ID or a CCW, you will probably have to take a test. A valid hunting license will exempt you from the test for the purchase of a long gun, however.
The certificate is good for five years and only good to purchase a gun. We are prohibited from doing a background check without it. Pretty clever way for the state to grab 25 of your hard-earned dollars.
Now it might get confusing. Everything I need to sell you a firearm is on your driver’s license. Do you have a bear in the upper right-hand corner of your license? That’s the Real California ID.
If so, good. Does it have your actual physical address on it? Really good! Do you have a vehicle registration with the same address as on your license? Congratulations. You can buy a gun. You need nothing else. Pay for your purchase; patiently wait ten days, then pick up your gun.
Let’s say you have a Real ID, and it has a post office box address on it. Do you have a Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permit? Fantastic. The CCW overrides any address issues on a real ID. It will also work on a Federal Limits Apply ID for the address. But it doesn’t fix the restriction on your license. I’ll address that shortly.
A CCW or car registration can be your friend when buying a firearm, but neither will help you buy ammo. Keep reading.
The Real ID is supposed to prove citizenship, which is generally required to purchase a firearm. During Covid and unless you make a point of getting a Real ID you’ve got what I define as the illegal alien driver’s license.
Instead of the bear in the upper right-hand corner, it has the words “Federal Limits Apply.” If you have this license, look at the microscopic verbiage on the back. It says something like, “This is just a license and isn’t valid for any federal activity.”
A Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL), by definition, is an extension of the federal government and jumps through its hoops and those of our state.
So, the illegal alien driver’s license alone isn’t valid identification for purchasing a gun or ammunition.
To fix it, you need a birth certificate or passport along with your license. A married woman with this license will need a birth certificate or passport, PLUS a marriage certificate proving the reason for her name as it appears on her license and proving her citizenship.
All of this consternation was caused because the State of California gave driver’s licenses to non-citizens, and now citizens have to prove their citizenship.
Here is maybe the worst-case scenario for the new person wanting to buy a gun, (and for us too trying to make it happen): Customer needs to take the test, doesn’t have a Real ID, has the wrong address on it, says everything goes to a post office box, doesn’t have a birth certificate or passport.
Actually, this happens quite often, but it can be fixed. First take the test, get it over with.
Go to your birth county’s recorder and order a birth certificate (or order it online). This usually takes about 10 days. (You can still buy the gun and start the paperwork without almost anything except the test BUT, we are forbidden to give you the gun until we have all the pieces of required paperwork.)
Your address is wrong? Well, if your car registration is correct, we can use that. “But it goes to a PO Box.” We can accept that and will require one or two documents depending on the type of gun you want whether handgun or long gun.
For a handgun you can provide us with a property tax bill, W-2, voter’s registration, or jury summons. For the really tough customers, you may have to suck it up and go to the DMV and get your car registration updated with your address. If you have one of the above but no registration, get a fishing license at the gas station with your address on it. We’re not kidding. We can accept that as secondary proof for a handgun.
Confused yet? Maybe more frustrated than bored? We can accept all kinds of government documents, but absolutely cannot take others. You can always give us a call, and we can figure it out.
So, how do I buy ammo? Do you have a Real ID? What was your address on your last gun purchase, exactly? When did you buy your last gun, and was it a handgun or long gun?
1. Real ID, or alien ID with birth certificate or passport is required.
2. Where did you live when you bought your last gun? (If you bought a long gun since 2014 or a handgun since maybe 2005 – and you remember what your address was, you probably can buy ammo.)
3. “I’ve never bought a gun; I inherited all my guns,” or I bought a rifle in 2013. You probably won’t be walking out with any ammo any time soon.
A couple years ago our governor, Gavin Newsom, apparently was in a contest with another constitution-denying state legislator to come up with this onerous system where law-abiding citizens have to have one registered firearm in the Department of Justice (DOJ) system in order to buy ammunition. Once you have a gun registered there you can buy any quantity or caliber you want.
Let’s say you don’t have a gun in the DOJ database; you still have a few cumbersome options. None I consider very functional, much less rewarding. You can register one gun in the state’s California Firearms Registrations System (CFARS) system. It’s an incredibly awkward online registration system that confuses most everyone visiting or trying to navigate it. Generally, this process has been taking two months or more to get approval. Once you’ve achieved that registration, you can buy ammo.
Another way is to give us $19 for a ONE-TIME background check that will turn that $16 dollar box of 22 caliber ammo into a $35 box before taxes. This process can take up to several weeks.
The quickest and easiest way to avoid the ammunition purchasing nightmare is to buy a new gun. We’ve had many frustrated customers do just that.
It is illegal to have your neighbor or offspring buy ammo for you, just as it is illegal to purchase out of state and return with the firearm. Just saying.
If this is the most boring read you’ve had today, I’m sorry.
I’m even more sorry that we have to go through this, while people in other constitutional states do not.
Swing by Stage Stop Gun Shop sometime, we’d be happy to help you out.