Before you learn how to in California, you need to get a Federal Firearms License (FFL) from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). California has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States, so you might worry that getting a California FFL will require mountains of paperwork and numerous restrictions.
In many cases, getting an FFL in California doesn’t take much more effort than acquiring one in other states. The following sections address some of the most common questions people interested in firearms ask when they want to become gun FFL dealers in California.
You’ll also learn about some of the challenges FFL dealers face in California and throughout the country, such as finding high-risk merchant accounts willing to work with the industry without charging insane prices.
What FFL License Types Are There to Sell a Gun in California?
The ATF Federal Firearms Licensing Center has nine types of licenses you might consider. Most stores and sellers will choose the first Type 01 or Type 02. If you’re a collector, you’ll probably prefer Type 03.
The California FFL license types are as follows:
- Type 01 – Allows you to sell weapons other than those considered destructive devices. (See below for more information about destructive devices)
- Type 02 – Permits pawnbrokers and pawn shops to sell firearms
- Type 03 – Makes it easier for collectors to buy and own curious relics
- Type 06 – Qualifies you to manufacture ammunition for firearms considered destructive devices
- Type 07 – Allows you to manufacture firearms that aren’t on the National Firearms Act’s (NFA) destructive devices list
- Type 08 – Qualifies you as an importer (with restrictions on NFA destructive devices)
- Type 09 – Allows you to deal in destructive devices (this license won’t appeal to the average gun broker that wants to know how to sell a gun in California)
- Type 10 – Qualifies you to manufacture destructive devices
- Type 11 – You can import destructive devices and their ammo
Destructive devices are NFA items considered more dangerous than typical handguns, shotguns and rifles. They include devices like silencers, machine guns and explosives.
How Much Does a California FFL License Cost?
The type of FFL you choose will determine how much the license costs. Most licenses are relatively affordable. You can get a Type 01 or Type 02 for 300 USD. The licenses last three years. After three years, you can renew your FFL for 90 USD.
FFL Type 03 and Type 04 cost 30 USD. They last three years, but you don’t get a discounted rate when you renew. The price remains 30 USD.
FFL Type 07 and Type 08 cost 150 USD. If you choose this option, you’ll need to pay 150 USD every three years to maintain your license.
FFL Types 09, 10 and 11 have 3,000 USD application fees. License holders pay 3,000 USD to renew their licenses every three years.
Federal Requirements for FFL Dealers in California
The federal requirements to become an FFL dealer aren’t a significant concern for businesses operating in California. If you meet the for getting an FFL in California, you’ll also complete most of the steps needed to get your FFL. You simply need to submit your FFL application and pay your license fee.
California FFL State Requirements
FFL dealers in California must meet several requirements before selling guns or ammo.
First, you’ll need to contact the California Attorney General’s Office to get a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). To meet the COE requirements, you must:
- Create an account with the California Firearms Application Reporting System (CFARS) and complete its online application
- Submit your fingerprints to the Department of Justice (DOJ)
- Undergo a background check
- Pay a 71 USD fee to the DOJ (renewals cost 21 USD)
- Register with the Centralized List of Firearms Dealers
- Obtain a state business license
Once you complete these steps, you can apply for an FFL in California.
Assuming you want to sell ammunition and guns, you’ll need to get a California Ammunition Vendor License.
Local requirements for FFL dealers in California
Getting approval from the state of California and obtaining an FFL doesn’t necessarily mean you can operate in all areas. Local laws and zoning regulations could prevent you from setting up shop in some communities. For example, zoning requirements could make it impossible for you to operate a home-based FFL in some parts of Los Angeles.
Since the rules vary so much from community to community, you should talk to a local authority before starting your business. An attorney specializing in the firearms industry should have the answers you need. You can also communicate with your councilperson and other officials to ensure you follow every regulation.
The FFL application process is just the beginning of starting a firearms business in California. Considering how much effort it takes, you’ll want to set up your storefront or online business for success.
Zenti has high-risk merchant and credit card processing services that will streamline many of your business practices. Learn more about gun-friendly payment processors to understand the benefits of choosing Zenti.
When you partner with Zenti, you get a secure payment gateway that integrates with popular inventory and bookkeeping software. You can also grow your business online by integrating payment processing services with popular ecommerce platforms and gun auction websites.
What Are the Benefits of a License to Sell a Gun in California?
Unlike many states, California doesn’t allow private firearms sales. In most places, one person can sell a firearm to another person without getting an FFL. They must ensure they only sell to people at least 18 or 21 years of age (the specific age varies by state and type of weapon). Also, federal law prevents you from selling to anyone with a felony or domestic violence conviction.
Private sales are illegal in California. You must obtain a Federal Firearms License and the required state licenses to sell firearms.
However, participating in the firearms industry isn’t the only advantage of getting an FFL in California. You might also want to get licensed to:
- Transfer firearms sold online to local consumers, which can earn you service fees
- Sell firearms to people living in other states, which expands your potential customer base
- Save money by purchasing firearms and ammunition directly from wholesalers and manufacturers
- Earn money by repairing or manufacturing firearms (depending on the type of license you get)
You can also benefit from California’s complicated licensing process. Many people interested in the industry never pursue their dreams because California’s laws intimidate them. If you go through the process, you stand out as one of the few merchants who can help California residents access guns legally.
Are There Disadvantages to Getting a California FFL?
You need an FFL to sell firearms in California. Getting a license means you must meet some obligations, though. Some people see these obligations as disadvantages. For example, you’ll need to:
- Renew your license with the state every year
- Renew your FFL license every three years
- Maintain well-organized records for 20 years
- Let the ATF audit your business randomly up to once per year
- Keep records of your inventory so authorities can account for every weapon
- Ensure that every customer meets California’s strict rules for gun ownership
You can simplify some of these obligations by using gun shop software that manages your inventory, performs background checks, alerts you when supplies run low and keeps you ahead of evolving trends.
Zenti integrates with many software options gun stores use to keep accurate records. For example, your payment gateway integrates with QuickBooks, so you don’t need to enter sales in two places. Zenti’s payment gateway streamlines the process for you and your customers.
What Steps Could Help Make Your Firearms Business Successful?
California doesn’t have as many firearms dealers per capita as most states. That’s because the state makes the licensing process difficult for sellers and consumers. Still, it’s a competitive market where only the best businesses thrive.
How can you position your gun store for success?
Find your niche
Some businesses succeed by appealing to as many customers as possible. It’s also possible to excel by finding a niche group of consumers and meeting their needs exceptionally well.
For example, you might want to focus on serving people with concealed carry licenses in California. Getting a concealed carry license in the state is very difficult. You could attract people interested in concealed carrying by helping them navigate the legal requirements. You can charge for these services or trust that customers will purchase guns from you once they get their permits.
That’s just one example. Talk to gun owners in the area to determine what items and services interest them. You could find a niche that makes your store more attractive than those that serve the general public.
Grow your online presence
Once you have an FFL, you can sell firearms to people in other states. That frees you from always following California’s strict requirements.
You have several options for growing your online presence. You could start a branded ecommerce site that only serves your store. Customers can then browse your inventory, select the items they want to buy and make their payments online.
Alternatively, you can post your guns on auction websites like Gunbroker. You’ll pay Gunbroker a percentage of each sale, but you can avoid the time and expense of maintaining a website.
You could also try both of these options. You might discover that one works better for you. You could also find that you get a mixture of sales from different sources. After a few months or years, you should have enough data to determine where your guns sell quickly at prices that earn you profits.
Connect with other gun stores
Your FFL license lets you complete purchases between consumers and other stores. For example, a California resident might purchase a handgun from a store located in Arizona. The Arizona store can’t send a gun directly to the consumer. It can only send the gun to someone with an FFL.
Connecting with other gun stores makes you the obvious choice for completing interstate transfers. You’ll need to do the same background and licensing checks you perform for your in-store customers. While you don’t earn money from the sale, you can charge a fee for your services.
Lower your operating costs
You already have to spend quite a bit just getting the licenses needed to sell firearms and ammo in California. Lowering your operating costs should make your business profit easier even after you pay the required fees.
You might find that you can reduce your operating costs by:
- Choosing a retail location with inexpensive rent
- Selling firearms online from your home
- Focusing on products that sell quickly
- Partnering with wholesalers and manufacturers that offer low prices
You can also lower the cost of your payment processing services.
Zenti gives you upfront pricing that lets you take control of your payment processing costs. Zenti’s high-risk payment gateway integrates with over 200 processors and 125 online shopping carts. You also get a free EVM or mobile card reader when you partner with Zenti. The mobile card reader lets you accept payments at gun shows. You might even go on the road to sell items in states with fewer restrictions.
Partner With Zenti
Now that you know how to sell a gun in California after getting an FFL, you need to find a payment processor that works with high-risk industries.
Zenti specializes in giving high-risk merchants access to affordable, secure payment processing services. Contact Zenti today to learn more about how it can help your California firearms business succeed.