California is a "may issue" state for concealed carry
. A license to carry a concealed firearm may be issued or denied to qualified applicants at the discretion of the County Counsels or City Attorneys in their place of residence. In practice, the attitudes of different sheriffs and police chiefs toward the issuance of permits vary widely and, consequentially, different jurisdictions in California can vary anywhere from de facto
shall-issue to de facto
no-issue. A permit may be issued, by a county Sheriff or city Chief or head of municipal police, in one of two formats:
- A license to carry concealed a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.
- Where the population of the county is less than 200,000 persons according to the most recent federal decennial census, a license to carry loaded and exposed in that county a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.
California does not recognize any concealed carry permits issued by other states or their political subdivisions. With exceptions for nonresident Active Duty military members permanently stationed within California, state law generally forbids nonresidents from obtaining a California CCW permit.
California law provides that the Sheriff of a county or a city Police Chief may issue a license to carry a concealed weapon upon proof that the person applying is of good moral character and that good cause exists for the issuance. While it is generally believed to be extremely difficult to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon (CCW) in California, the difficulty varies greatly by city and county of residence. In some rural counties, qualified applicants are usually successful in obtaining a license, while some cities and counties, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, are extremely restrictive in what they perceive to be "good cause".